Redcliffe Dolphins captain Cameron Cullen says the time is right to call time on his playing career so he can concentrate on his family and business.
His retirement doesn’t, however, spell the end of his connection with the club he loves – he’ll be helping nurture the next generation of players as an assistant to new Colts Head Coach Scott Murray.
Moreton Daily caught up with Cullen the day after the 29-year-old announced his playing career was over on social media.
He was relaxed and happy with his decision, made so he could spend more time with his daughters, Coast, 6, and Charli, 3.
“I put together a list of pros and cons and for me and my family right now … one of the big drivers is my kids. My daughter just started Little Athletics and I know how much it means to her for dad to be there on a Friday night,” he explains.
“They’re big things. I want to be a father that’s there for them for all their stuff and they’re at that age now that they need me there.”
He says the decision is not related to neck surgery earlier this year, from which he has made a full recovery.
“I’ve pretty much trained every day and got myself now to a physical position where I knew that I could play for an extended period of time. For me, it wasn’t the body. I still feel like I could play for another five years,” he explains.
“I’m expanding my business in real estate. I’m putting two people on, merging with another agent and Sheldon Pitama, who’s one of our players, is joining me full-time next year as well. There’s going to be a lot going on businesswise.
“I just felt with everything that’s going on at the club, the NRL coming in, I just felt that it was the right time for me to step back from the footy side of things. It was a hard thing for me personally.”
Club connection remains
Still having a role with the Redcliffe Dolphins will make the transition easier and Cullen is grateful for the opportunity to nurture emerging talent.
“Once I announced I was retiring, I had a call in about two seconds … an assistant coaching job with Scotty Murray in the under-20s. I had a really good chat with Crusher and they want me to be a part of the club,” Cullen says.
“Sticksy wants me to do some development stuff. Once I realised that I was still going to be a really big part of the club and be able to do a lot of stuff with juniors and young talent they’ve got coming through, it made it an easier decision for me to step aside.
“When I did have a really big think about making the decision, the biggest thing for me was the club and all the boys and all the people around the club … I didn’t want to let that go, but when I realised I didn’t have to, it made it easier for me to stop playing.”
Cullen debuted with the Dolphins in 2013, while on contract with the Brisbane Broncos.
There has been much change since then and many highlights.
“Definitely the 2018 Grand Final. It was just such a special year. I was talking to Crusher about it the other day … the whole year was just so enjoyable,” he says.
“Watching the progression of the club … I remember Tony Murphy telling me in 2013 that ‘we’re going to the NRL and anyone who stuffs up, won’t be part of this club because we can’t ruin our reputation’.
“It’s been (almost) 10 years since I debuted out here … to watch the growth of the club and to able to sit in the stands with a beer next year and watch them play in the NRL … to me, it will be pretty cool because I was a part of that 10-year period.
“I know I went to clubs in between but winning the comp in 2018 and getting to the Grand Final again this year … all those things were stepping stones in the club’s history and getting our club to the NRL. For me, to be a part of that for the past 10 years has been pretty cool.”
Passing on knowledge
He has also learnt plenty in his playing career he’s keen to pass onto the next generation.
“If I can pass on some of the information that I learnt from blokes like Daly Cherry-Evans, Johnathan Thursten … quality halves that I spent time with in my career. If I can pass on some information, that’s perfect,” Cullen says.
“When I went to Manly, Blake Green grabbed me and he walked me around the field and taught me what type of kick he would do in which situation. He taught me a lot about game management.
“By then, I was about 24 years old so for me as a young half I never knew any of that stuff. Just getting grabbed by someone as experienced as him and taught exactly what to do in what situation … for me, passing on that knowledge would be massive for young kids.
“Hopefully, I can see them play in the Dolphins’ jersey. That would be pretty cool.”
So, who has had the most influence during his time at the Dolphins?
“The club in general. Crusher has always been someone that’s moved mountains to help me and my family whenever I needed. Him bringing me back to the club and obviously Moggy. I did a lot under Moggy. I’d say the most influential person is probably Crusher.
“The biggest thing for me is setting myself up now, leaving the game with a business on the peninsula, we live here and my family’s pretty much grown up here.
He is expanding his business, formerly Cameron Cullen Image Property, and it is now Cullen and Brown Property.
Cullen has even helped some of the new Dolphins NRL players find places to live in the area.
“I’ve helped a lot of them. Obviously, they’re from out of the area so a lot of them don’t know much about it. I’ve helped a fair few of them find properties – Jesse Bromwich, (Head of Performance) Jeremy Hickmans … Some of it is as easy as a phone call, telling them about the area and which places I love,” he says.
How is he feeling about calling time on his playing career?
“I definitely felt relieved when I made the decision. If you ask anyone who spends time with me, I’ve been on the fence and I’ve changed my mind about one million times. When I finally came to make the decision, I knew it was final and that was a relief,” he says.
“I think it’s easier now that it’s preseason because I know they’re all getting flogged. I think I’ll miss it more once they start playing footy,” he says laughing.
“I’m really grateful for everything the club’s given me since I started here in 2013 – I’ve had two kids, I’ve started my own real estate business. Everything I’ve done, my business especially, it’s grown significantly and the Redcliffe Dolphins have been a massive part of that. I’m grateful for everything the club’s done for me and I really want to give back to the club and that’s why I want to work with the juniors and do some coaching stuff.”
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