Clarke to hang up boots
Widnes Vikings captain Jon Clarke is to bring his 18-year playing career to a close at the end of the season, the former Great Britain hooker has announced.
The 35-year-old is one of the game's longest-serving players, having begun his career with his home-town club Wigan Warriors in 1997, but has decided to hang up his boots in October.
"I've decided this is going to be my last season," Clarke said.
"I've been thinking about it for a little while now and, having made the decision, I thought it was the right time to get it out there so that I can concentrate on rugby between now and the end of the season.
"I feel like the time is right, with the little injuries here and there and the psychological impact that that has. The way the body feels after playing, you are constantly trying to recover, it all just tells you the time is right to pack it in at the end of the year."
Clarke, who also played for London Broncos and Warrington Wolves, with whom he lifted the Tetley's Challenge Cup in 2009 and 2010, still has unfinished business after helping the Vikings make their best-ever start to a First Utility Super League campaign and the last-eight of the Cup.
He will miss Thursday's quarter-final against Keighley Cougars with the calf injury that forced him to sit out his club's last two league games but is hoping to return a week later and would love to bow out with another major trophy.
"We were looking to make some good progression this year and making the semi-final and hopefully the final would definitely be a good progression," said Clarke, who won his two Test caps in 2007 against France and New Zealand.
"If we can push into the play-offs as well come the end of the year, it would be something to look back on. I would be proud to achieve that with Widnes."
Clarke has already identified the strength and conditioning side of rugby as a potential next-career move.
"I'm just trying to work a few things out at the minute," he said. "I haven't given that too much thought yet. I just want to get back fit again and play some good rugby before the end of the year."
Widnes have already recruited a replacement in Hull FC hooker or half-back Aaron Heremaia, while coach Denis Betts has other options for the hooking role in Lloyd White and Grant Gore.