'I want to play rep footy as long as I'm around'
GREG Inglis was still in his teens when he debuted for Australia at the 2006 Tri-Nations tournament. Since then he's donned the green and gold in 39 Tests for his country.
He's also pulled on the coveted maroon guernsey of Queensland on 30 occasions, and has been an institution in the all-conquering Maroons outfit of the past decade.
But all good things must come to an end. That reality probably hit home for a few of the NRL's older players when champion Johnathan Thurston revealed to Fox Sports earlier this month he would quit representative football after the 2017 World Cup.
Thurston - arguably rugby league's greatest ever player - will walk away from rep footy to focus on a 2018 swansong with North Queensland.
The news wasn't a revelation to Inglis, who said many of the star playmaker's teammates already knew of his decision, but admitted it was an odd feeling knowing one of the game's greats had put an expiry date on his career.
"You know yourself when it's time to hang them up, whether it's from rep footy or from normal footy," Inglis said.
"It's one of those things a player has to come to, once he's made that decision he's dealt with it."
But Inglis isn't prepared to make the same call on his own career. He says he hasn't thought about walking away from representative football at all.
"Not at all. The way I look at it is I want to play my best footy for the club first and then rep footy always comes around," he said.
"I want to play rep footy as long as I'm around, as long as I'm still playing footy."
While Inglis holds a mortgage on a centre spot for Queensland and Australia as long as he wants it, his role at club level has been a topic for debate over the past 12 months.
Equally adept at playing in the centres, at fullback or in the halves, Inglis has been thrown around the paddock by coaches throughout his career.
Last year he played the majority of South Sydney's season in the No.1, but also played four games at five-eighth and two at centre for his club.
He is unequivocal when asked where he will line up for the Rabbitohs this season.
"I want to be a fullback," Inglis said.
"I told Madge (coach Michael Maguire) towards the end of last year I want to be fullback for as long as I can. Whether it be a year, two or three, I don't know what's going to be around the corner."
As South Sydney's captain, Inglis said Maguire was always prepared to discuss where the superstar player is best suited for the team's needs, and generally it's a 50-50 input from both men.
"He just comes to me, we sit there and we have a good conversation about it," he said.
"There's no disagreeing, it's just a good discussion we have."
It seems whenever Inglis is spoken about nowadays, the words "troublesome knee" are unavoidable. It's no secret he's had knee problems over the past couple of years.
But the man at the centre of discussion is sick of hearing about it.
"I haven't had it strapped for one session this year," Inglis replied as soon as his knee was mentioned.
Often described as "chronic", Inglis has previously admitted his battered knee is something he will have to manage for the rest of his career.
Due to the long grind of an NRL season it has been suggested that for this reason Inglis would be better served in a role that requires less running than what's asked of a modern fullback.
Now 30 years old, Inglis will be 33 when his current NRL contract expires but is adamant his body is as healthy as it's ever been.
"I think a couple of people out there thought I was already 30. It's just a number," Inglis said.
"My body is feeling fine, I've come back to pre-season in good shape and I'm back to full-time training now with the squad.
"I think it's just a number. I still feel the drive and still want to perform for my team."