After playing top-flight rugby league for more than the past decade, Justin Carney is heading home.
In one of the biggest signings in Group 11 in some time, the Nyngan Tigers have confirmed the former Canberra Raiders and Sydney Roosters outside back will be captain-coach of the club in 2019.
Carney, now 30, played with the Hull Kingston Rovers this year but during an honest talk to club’s official website, confirmed he was heading home to “give back” to bush footy and also be closer to his family.
“I’ve had enough now and I need to be back near my kids,” he told hullkr.co.uk.
“At this point in time, that’s the best thing for me mentally. It’s been a hard decision but a decision I made off my own back and following a lot of discussion with the people around me.”
“It’s a tough situation to be away from my kids for so long. I’ve always put my best foot forward but I think it’s time for me to quit now.
“Being closer to my kids is the biggest thing for me and being a good role model for them where they can physically see me a lot more than now.”
Tigers president Glen Neill confirmed the deal, stating the first discussion he had with Carney was close to two years ago.
“He mentioned then he’d like come home one day and coach and play at Nyngan and the day is here,” Neill said.
“It’s probably come a bit quicker than I thought it would but we heard from him about three weeks ago and he said he was well and truly interested and it all went from there.”
The signing is one the Tigers craved, after failing to replace former high-profile captain-coach Stewart Mills following his departure after the 2016 season.
That year finished with a loss in the grand final, while this season saw the Tigers fail to make the finals.
Neill confessed this is the type of signing he imagined unveiling a year ago.
He added he was particularly pleased to clinch the deal so early, while he also nabbed the barnstorming outside back despite reported interest from clubs in Group 9.
It marks the long-awaited return of Carney, who was a Tigers junior and played first grade for the first time with the club in 2006.
“We’re all excited,” Neill said.
“The Carneys are a great family two and it will be fantastic to have him around and we’re looking forward to seeing his dad back around.”
After leaving the Tigers, Carney went on to carve out a hugely successful career and has the eye-catching strike-rate of 103 tries from 152 top-flight matches.
Most of those came during a four-year stint with the Castleford Tigers, where he scored a stunning 72 tries in 67 appearances and became a cult hero with the fans.
“I’ve had a good time here in the UK, I’ve enjoyed most of it but I think it’s the right time to step down from professional rugby league,” he said.
“I want to give back to where I’ve come from, country rugby league somewhere in New South Wales where it all started for me. I’ll go back there and give back to those country communities, I think that’s important.”
Adding to the excitement is the news Carney is keen to bring two young front-rowers with him to the club while Neill said Josh Merritt has re-signed with the club and his younger brother Jai is also expected to join the Tigers.