How Boyd made biggest decision of career
LIKE so many fine moments in Darius Boyd's career, the decision was made in a split-second. No second-guessing. No hesitation. Just backing his gut instinct to make the right call at the right time.
Boyd planned to shed tears when he walked into Broncos HQ yesterday to announce his retirement from rugby league at season's end.
Ultimately, just as he did on countless occasions for the Broncos, Dragons, Newcastle, Queensland and Australia, he held his nerve, staying stoic, an honest conversation over dinner crystallising the biggest decision of his glittering career.
"I do remember the time I decided that my NRL career would end," Boyd said, flanked by Broncos CEO Paul White and coach Anthony Seibold.
"I was at a dinner last month when a friend asked me if this would be my last season. It had been in the back of my mind but that one question made it feel urgent.
"I knew right then that this would be it. It was just that light-bulb decision."
The turbulence of the past 12 months, which included Boyd being replaced as captain just six weeks ago, should not taint the highlights reel of a man who compiled one of the finest footballing portfolios of his generation.
The 32-year-old will retire as State of Origin's greatest try-scoring winger with 17 from 28 games. In 2016, he was Queensland and Australia's No. 1 fullback. There were 23 Tests for the Kangaroos and two premiership wins, first in his rookie year with the Broncos in 2006, before he won the Clive Churchill Medal when he inspired the Dragons to the 2010 title.
In that 2010 season, Boyd was as untouchable at fullback as Roosters star James Tedesco is today. Full of pop, crackle and energy. Tap-dancing past defenders with the feet of Fred Astaire.
Next Friday night against the Cowboys, Boyd will play his 318th first-grade game. That he is set to surpass Billy Slater (319) and Johnathan Thurston (323) - two future NRL Immortals - is compelling evidence of the legacy Boyd will leave when he says farewell this October.
Not that Boyd envisaged any legacy. As a kid growing up on the Gold Coast, raised mainly by his late grandmother Delphine, Boyd yearned for just one game in Broncos colours.
"I don't think about legacies," he said. "I was just a kid who had a dream of wanting to play for the Broncos, so to captain the club and play so many games is a dream. I have always tried my best. I will miss competing. I will miss the victories. I will miss sharing the journey with my teammates but most of all I will miss the good wishes of the fans who make rugby league possible.''
Indeed, Boyd found his own bedrock. At yesterday's press conference, with his Broncos teammates filling the back of the room, it was fitting that his wife Kayla sat down in the first row, front and centre. Boyd gave her a quick glance and reassuring nod before announcing the end was nigh.
Holding their five-month-old daughter Romi Yves, Kayla has ridden the NRL rollercoaster. She has been there through the premierships and the pain, notably in 2014, when Boyd checked into rehab to address some mental-health issues.
"I met my incredible wife Kayla while I was playing rugby league. What a journey we have had together," he said.
"We now have two beautiful daughters (including four-year-old Willow). My family brings me happiness I can't describe and I am so grateful for that.
"I have met some incredible people along the way, people who have helped me grow from a shy, introverted kid to a very happy, proud and compassionate man."
Kayla has detected his growth. There was a time when Boyd couldn't imagine leading an NRL team. In 2017, he was named captain of the Broncos.
"I'm extremely proud of him," Kayla said. "Most can only dream of achieving what he has on the field, though for me it's his off-field achievements and the man he's grown into that I am most proud of. He is a selfless leader, highly respected by his teammates and the club as a whole. Those are attributes that will get him far in life. The way he carries himself is a testament to his character and the resilience he encompasses, a role model to many, and I feel so blessed that our daughters have someone like him to look up to.
"I'm excited for the next chapter. He has so much more to give than just football.''
When Boyd walks away at season's end, he will remain with the Broncos as a mental-health ambassador.
"All the things I have achieved I wouldn't have if I didn't put my hand up and ask for some help with my mental health and wellbeing and that is why I am so passionate about it. It changed my life and turned me around for the better.''