Anthony Laffranchi of the Titans breaks the line during an NRL match against the Brisbane Broncos at Skilled Park last year.
Anthony Laffranchi of the Titans breaks the line during an NRL match against the Brisbane Broncos at Skilled Park last year. Matt Roberts

Farewell to the Titans

YOU might think this is a strange thing to say, but the most reassuring aspect of yesterday’s press conference announcing my imminent departure from the Titans was sitting beside the two men who made the decision on whether I stayed or went.

As you will be aware, I’m off to England at the end of this season to take up a two-year deal with leading English Super League club St Helens.

The Titans and I had been in negotiations for a fair few months about extending my contract, which expires at the end of 2011.

Unfortunately we have been unable to come to terms, despite both parties striving desperately to find a suitable resolution.

John Cartwright and Michael Searle wanted me to stay but because of playing rosters and finances they just couldn’t agree to a two-year deal.

It will be heart-wrenching leaving at the end of the season because this place has been etched into my heart ever since I joined the Titans’ first player roster in 2007.

I’ve given my all to the Titans and they’ve given it to me in return.

Cart and Searle said many kind words about me to the gathered media and I know that it wasn’t, as John Bjelke-Petersen used to say, just “feeding the chooks”.

Although I know that I earned their respect as a player and person, it still left me emotional when they told the big group of reporters and camera operators of their admiration for me.

But the good news to come out of all this is that I will not be lost to the Titans and this wonderful part of the world.

The club has offered me a role in coaching and development once my commitments have ended with St Helens.

I mentioned in an earlier column that I am a qualified metal fabricator and that occupation was an option once I finally hung up my boots.

With all respect to metal fabricators the world over, the prospect of returning to my old trade didn’t really have me doing hand stands.

This coaching and development offer with the Titans is wonderful news and takes away that little bit of doubt about your future once your playing days have ended.

I already have my Level I coaching certificate and will be sitting for my Level II in the next few weeks. I’ll be doing everything in my power to ensure I come back to the Titans qualified to do as good a job in coaching and development as I did for them on the playing field.

My wife, Peita-Lee and the two boys, young Fynn, 2, and his big brother, five-year-old Oscar, are all looking forward to our new venture in England.

St Helens are going terrific this year under the guidance of my old mate, Royce Simmons, who was Tim Sheens’ understudy when I was with Wests Tigers.

They have a strong playing roster, which Simmo is determined to further bolster for next season, which is played during the northern summer and runs concurrently with the NRL.

An added bonus for the Laffranchi clan is that Pat Richards, a close friend from my Tigers days, is playing for Wigan and he and his wife Kim and their two young children are only 20 minutes’ drive away.

We’ll be leaving behind many friends but with Simmo and the Richards over there to cushion the blow, we’ll soon settle in to our new surroundings.

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