Nathan Fien’s finale: halfback off to Thirroul
By ADAM PENGILLYcourtesy of the Illawarra Mercury
Veteran St George Illawarra halfback Nathan Fien will retire from the NRL at the end of the season to take up a captain-coach role in the Illawarra Coal League.
The 34-year-old was weighing up whether to prolong his first-grade career into a 15th season but now is set to take charge of the Thirroul Butchers next year. He will confirm the move at a press conference today.
The former World Cup-winning No 7 had been briefly linked with a return to his first club North Queensland, but has opted to remain settled in Wollongong with his wife and four children. He also has business interests in the region.
Fien’s future has been the subject of much discussion, both before and after he was forced to shoulder the play-making load following Jamie Soward’s departure to UK Super League.
But the Dragons showed their hand with a strong push to recruit a long-term halfback option, eventually settling on out-of-favour Canberra halfback Sam Williams.
The prospect of a return to hooker was also limited, with the Dragons boasting a glut of rakes including Mitch Rein, Cameron King and Craig Garvey.
Fien said the prospect of testing himself in the coaching ranks while still being able to have an on-field presence was exciting.
“I guess, after such a long career, it would be hard to walk away totally and go cold turkey so to speak,” Fien said. “It [coaching] is something I’m definitely interested getting into and the Butchers have provided an opportunity getting me on board.
“I guess it’s a pathway through the coaching ranks. Who knows where we’ll end up? I’m really excited about the opportunity and am looking forward to next year.”
Fien’s transition to a Coal League clipboard carrier will see him oppose former Dragons Jason Ryles and Reece Simmonds next year, who have signed on to mentor Wests and Collegians respectively.
Thirroul president Aidan Beath said the Butchers hoped Fien would also be able to attract other players to the seaside club.
“It’s a big thing for us as a club and if you go back a long way you always see we had local [coaches],” he said. “He is a local now, he lives 100 metres down from Gibson Park and his boys are in our junior league.”
Wayne Bennett lured Fien to Wollongong mid-way through the 2009 season to provide depth in the hooking position.
The very next season Fien played an integral role in helping the Red V snap their 31-year title drought.
Fien will end his NRL career, barring injury, when the Dragons host one of his former clubs, the Warriors, in a final-round clash at WIN Stadium on September 7.
His 272 games have included five years at the Cowboys (91 games) and Warriors (105 games), while he helped steer the Kiwis to their shock 2008 World Cup win over the Kangaroos.
His sole State of Origin appearance for Queensland came in the 2001 series.
Fien’s retirement is another step in the changing of the guard for the Dragons, who farewell prop Michael Weyman at the end of the year when he begins a two-year deal with Hull KR.
Another member of the 2010 grand final-winning squad, Matt Cooper, who has endured a torrid season with long-term toe and pectoral injuries, is yet to announce a decision about his future. He is believed to be leaning towards retirement.