Six-time Grand Final hero Bailey announces retirement
Former Leeds Rhinos star Ryan Bailey, a six-time Grand Final winner, has announced his retirement from the game with immediate effect.
The former Leeds, England and Great Britain forward has hung up the boots after a 17-year career that saw him make 362 career appearances.
Starting his career with Leeds in 2002, Bailey became one of the sport’s greatest love to hate characters following his tough, uncompromising performances down the middle in blue and amber.
During 13 years with Leeds, Bailey won six Grand Finals, two League Leaders Shields, the Challenge Cup and three World Club Challenges during his 307 appearances.
Spells with Hull KR, Castleford and Warrington followed, the latter of which he played for in the 2016 Grand Final, before ending his career outside of Super League with Toronto, Workington and Leigh.
“I just wanted to retire on my terms,” he said. “I don’t want to carry on playing for the wrong reasons, I’ve had a good career and want to finish with those happy memories, not on a low.
“I set some goals when I was 18 to play five Super League games. I ended up with around 300 and a lot of trophies. I’ve been lucky with injuries and maintained my fitness. Off the pitch, I’ve had ups and downs but I’ve come through it stronger.
“Playing for Great Britain was probably the biggest one for me, playing the Kiwis and beating the Aussies. I played against and with some great players and made a lot of friends. There have been some great coaches as well who have given me a shot and allowed me to prove people wrong. I think I’m proof that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
“I’ve got a family to think about, I’m putting them first now as I start a new chapter.”
Bailey has three children, Rio, an aspiring footballer, along with Ezra and Chyna, who all have their own talents, with Ezra set to become a Rugby League player and Chyna dancing as part of the Leeds Rhinos junior group.
“I think Ezra is going to have a big career in rugby,” he said.
“He’s got the build for it, he’s only five months old but I think he could be the next me! I won’t put pressure on him to play but I think he’s got a big future.
“I want to thank my mum Julie, my number one fan also for standing out in the cold when it was winter rugby back in my amateur years and then as a professional.”
Despite representing a number of clubs during his career, it’s his time at Leeds that he will cherish the most.
“Leeds will always be in my heart. I supported them as a kid and sang all the songs in the South Stand and Adrian Morley was my hero. Leeds have been my second family, they’ve helped me through a lot of things and given me the best chance to play for the city I was born in. I have no regrets, I look back on my career and I’ll reflect now and show all my kids the photos with all the memories.
“I live in Lancashire now with my partner, Katie, so I’m in the dark side, but when I get chance I’ll be going to Headingley, catching up with Brett (Delaney) who works there now.”
Bailey has already put plans together for life after rugby, having joined the fire service. “I still feel fresh and that’s why I’ve joined the fire service. It’s a team environment with a good bond and will help keep my fitness while contributing to the community. I start training in March and hopefully get out on the road in June time.”
Leeds Rhinos Director of Rugby and Bailey’s former team mate Kevin Sinfield commented, “Ryan has enjoyed a brilliant career and achieved everything possible. I know how much it meant to him every time he pulled on a Leeds Rhinos shirt and I think fans could see that. He was the player opposition teams loved to hate but his own fans loved him. His team mates knew his true value to the side and what he did for the team during the most successful era in the club’s history. On behalf everyone at the Rhinos, I would like to say thank you and wish him all the best with his new career.”