I just had to say the words: ‘I’m retiring. This will be my last season’. Immediately I knew everything was going to be OK.

Once I physically said those words a massive weight came off my shoulders and every day that passes I feel even more comfortable with that decision.

Coming back to the Storm this year, from the New Zealand Warriors, it may have appeared that I had already decided 2018 would be my farewell season. But that wasn’t the case. I wanted to keep my options open.

Maybe, in the back of my mind I knew, but just couldn’t say the words.

Ryan Hoffman exclusive insight

I am a person who needs a sign to point to what I should do when I am about to make a major decision.

At the start of the year I wasn’t playing bad footy and thought that I could keep going. And even now I know it’s not about the actual playing – I feel like I could play on for a number of seasons.

But it is all the stuff that you do to get to game time. For instance, I don’t think I could cope with another pre-season. Before last Christmas I really struggled with the pre-season, I was just hanging on. But then I worked hard through Christmas and came back feeling a lot better.

No doubt a big part of my decision to retire was to do it on my terms – to not play a season too long.

I don’t want to put the coach into a position where he may have to put me in reserve grade. I want to always be playing at a level where I am contributing to the team and feeling proud of my performance.

I get the chance to retire while playing for the best club, I believe, in the world and at the club that I believe will give me the best chance winning the premiership.

Obviously the ultimate aim of any player is to finish the season with a premiership ring.

Ryan Hoffman exclusive insight 6

However, having said that I haven’t given any thought to the ‘fairytale finish’ in 2018. Sure, I would love that to happen, but just two teams make it to the grand final and for a player to finish his career with a premiership is extremely rare.

I know the chances are slim. So instead of looking too far ahead, I know that right now I have a finite number of minutes left on a footy field and so I want to enjoy and do my best during every one of those minutes.

Without this sounding like a retirement speech … when I do step away from the game, I guess the one message that is true for me, and I believe for all players, is that this game owes me nothing.

In fact, I owe the game of rugby league.

A number of people have said some really nice things about me since I announced that this would be my last season.

What I cherish more than anything are the comments about me being a good clubman because they align with my beliefs that it is up to me to give back.

The NRL, the Melbourne Storm and rugby league in general have given me the opportunity to turn the game that I loved as a kid into a career and a lifestyle.

Ryan Hoffman exclusive insight 3

The game has given me and my family so much. I can still recall when I was a relatively young player, when it dawned on me that ‘this game owes me nothing’.

It was then that I decided to transition – to give back to my club and the game. I wanted to make sure the game that I love is actually better for me playing it.

The more players understand and adopt this mentality the more they will be successful at rugby league.

Of course, there will be players who have a chip on their shoulder, who want to just take from the game.

But take it from someone who has been around for a while, if you try to put yourself above the team, above the game, trust me, the club and the game will soon find someone else.

There is a new group of players always coming through and the next superstar is just around the corner.

But if you put into the game, the game will give back, 10-fold.

Ryan Hoffman exclusive insight 1.0

Retiring can be a scary experience. I have attended a number of seminars where it has been explained that many ex-players really struggle with retirement.

There can be serious mental health issues. The flow-on effects from that will not only be detrimental to the player but also to those who are close to him/her.

That’s why, to a degree, I am cheating a bit when I say I am retiring from the game. I actually have prepared myself as much as possible for life after footy.

I have a degree and I have also been working part time within the Melbourne Storm’s Football Department. When I hang up the boots I will be engaged full-time in that role.

So, in a way I am weaning myself off the game. I will still have an active role with the club within the Football Department. I will still be travelling with them and be around the boys, just not playing.

I am often asked: ‘Why have the Storm been so successful for so long?’ Well, I don’t think I will be giving up any of Bellyache’s (Craig Bellamy) major secrets when I say the answer is painfully simple – hard work and high accountability.

I was very fortunate that as a young 18-year-old, just out of high school and away from home for the first time I had Craig Bellamy as head coach.

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Hard work and high accountability were his values. In his 16 years as coach of the Storm those values have flowed through the whole organisation.

When I joined with other young players such as Billy (Slater), Cooper (Cronk) and Cameron (Smith) the-then senior players, such Matty Geyer, Stephen Kearney and Robbie Kearns were good examples of those values.

They passed them on to us and we have also passed them on to the next group. So those values no longer belong to anyone. They are ingrained in the club.

Ryan Hoffman exclusive insight 4

I am also glad that I had experiences away from the Storm (with the Wigan Warriors 2011 and NZ Warriors 2015-17).

I have played for three clubs in three different countries. I played in the UK and won a Challenge Cup.

I also loved the time I spent in New Zealand and got to better understand the Polynesian culture, especially now that we have so many great Polynesian players in the NRL.

But now, I am back with the best club in the world.