Halifax Panthers have announced that fullback Joe Martin has decided to call time on his rugby league career with immediate effect.
The 27-year-old re-joined the Panthers ahead of the 2022 Betfred Championship season after spells with Siddal, Dewsbury Rams and Oldham – having originally made his first team debut for the club during the 2015 Qualifiers against Salford Red Devils.
Halifax-born Martin came through the club’s reserve grade system, but has now decided to retire from the game to focus on life outside the sport – notably family and business.
“I’ve made the tough decision to retire”, said Martin. “It’s not been an easy decision by any means but I feel like it’s the right one for me and my soon to be little family going forward.
“Playing for a club like Halifax, it takes your full commitment and it’s not something that I feel like I can give at the minute.
“It’s a bitter disappointment to be honest, but I’ve got to juggle between being a businessman or a rugby player and my business is the priority with a young family on the way.
“It wasn’t a decision I’ve taken lightly, it’s been a few weeks in the making, stewing over it and weighing up what can and can’t be done.
“And I didn’t want to be half there and half not because you just let your teammates down, your coaches down and the fans down and it’s not something that would’ve sat right with me.
“I could’ve stuck it out and taken a wage from the club every month but my moral compass would’ve been slightly off with that so I made my decision.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow but it comes in every players career so it’s bittersweet. I get a lot of time back, my baby is due early next year so I get to be a dad and that will be my spare time gone loving my baby.
“So like I say, it’s bittersweet but I’d like to say thank you to the club for giving my the opportunity to come back last year, putting a lot of time into developing me as a player and as a person.
“And obviously, to all the boys, I’ve made some mates for life, partly because most of them are from Halifax and I knew them anyway (laughs). But there’s been some good lads over the years.”
“I’m grateful for all the backroom staff, the media lads, who’ve all done their part making me feel really welcome but all good things come to an end eventually.
“I’m glad I’m leaving on my terms, leaving happy and healthy so I’ll be down The Shay cheering the boys on in the future. I certainly won’t be a stranger but that’s my chapter over, BNAT out!”
Halifax Panthers head coach Simon Grix admitted he was surprised by the news, but can see why the decision was made.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing but I certainly understand the reasoning behind it. Joe works for himself, he’s got his own business that’s 12/18 months in and he feels that he just can’t commit to us properly but by trying to do so, he’s not committing to his business properly.
“So he’s done the honourable thing and got in touch, put his cards on the table and that’s what is best for him. Ultimately, that’s also what is best for us if he’s not all in and it’s probably not going to work anyway.
“We’ll miss him. He’s a good character is Joey and adds a lot to the group but yeah, kind of thankful for his honesty really and ability to lay it all out there and admit where he’s at with it all rather than just go through the motions or whatever. So yeah, it’s one of those things, a bit disappointed but we move on. It is what it is.”
On how the announcement affects his squad building efforts for 2023, Grix added: “It leaves us one number lighter but knowing so soon, it puts a bit of money back into the pot, and puts a squad position up for grabs.
“And we’ll have a look around in the new year I would imagine as it can be pretty slim pickings this time of year. Although it would’ve been nice to have Joe, we have to most on and we’ll probably look at finding someone in the new year.
“Who that is and what that looks like, I’m not 100% sure just yet. We’ll have a good looks at things, as there’s not that many players around with that much versatility, and see where we really could do with adding a body and what positional group. That’s something to worry about post Christmas.”
Director of Rugby, Richard Durgan, added: “We want to thank Joe for his efforts during his time at Halifax. He’s been a really good addition in the dressing room and a well liked character around the club.
“It’s really good of Joe to let us know this now as he could’ve come training, sat and taken the money next season as a squad player but it shows the class of the individual in that he hasn’t done that.
“We wish him all the best in his future with his business and family life and he will always be welcome back at The Shay.”