YOU would be hard-pressed to find a rugby league player more respected than Orange CYMS prop Kiel Vardanega.
Vardanega has bled green and gold since he was eight, has been the cornerstone of countless CYMS packs since and is undeniably one of the toughest front-rowers to ever wear a CYMS jersey.
Unfortunately, now he is set to never play rugby league again.
Vardanega was left with a fractured skull and nerve damage after a nasty head clash in CYMS’ Group 10 game against Cowra three weeks ago, and has been forced into retirement as a result.
In a fitting tribute to the blockbusting front-rower, CYMS will retire their premier league and first division No.8 jerseys for the rest of the 2014 season.
“The respect everyone has for Kiel and his family, and what they’ve done for the club, made it a very easy decision for us,” CYMS committee member Matt King said.
“It didn’t need to be discussed. He’s been with CYMS since he started, but unfortunately it seems very unlikely he’ll ever play again.
“Testament to the bloke, I think he’s a bit embarrassed about this whole thing but it’s the least we can do.”
King said the barnstorming prop had earned his club’s respect, and outlined Vardanega’s history with the green and golds.
“In the early 2000s CYMS really struggled, but Kiel was always there, always the rock,” King explained.
“He was only 18 or 19, straight from under 18s into first grade but he was continually taking it up and getting whacked, getting back up and going again.
“CYMS’ packs from then on were built around him.”
King said Vardanega’s injury would play a role in CYMS’ performance over the finals series, undoubtedly providing extra motivation for the green and golds.
“It will give the boys motivation, particularly reserve grade,” King said. “He played in a lot of grand finals but he never won one. They’ll definitely want to win one for him this year.”