All sporting careers end, but only in so many ways. Some are forced out by injury or sacking. The lucky ones hit a sad realisation their bodies – or minds – can no longer hack it. Rarely, a star pulls the plug at their peak to leave us wondering, why?

Casey Stoner is a turbo-charged version of the latter. At 27, the Aussie is a two-time MotoGP world champion, most recently last year, and last week he won his sixth consecutive Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

This weekend in Valencia, he retires.

Stoner made the announcement in May, after winning the season’s first two races in Jerez and Estoril, saying, “I don’t have the passion for it… it’s better if I retire now.”

He said alterations to MotoGP rules had “changed to the point where I am not enjoying it”.

Stoner noted sacrifices made up to this point. A skinny kid from Kurri Kurri in NSW, his first race was at age four.

At 12, he won 32 of 35 races at the Australian Long Track Titles, taking home the five national titles on offer.

At 14, too young to race road bikes in Australia, his parents Colin and Bronwyn sold up to live out of a caravan while Casey raced in the UK and Spain. S

ometimes living without power or water, it’s just as well their boy delivered. He won plenty, but he was fearless, too, and got nicknamed ‘Crash King’.

It seems fitting, then, that his career wraps with an ankle injury after a fall in the US (he rode on it afterwards before getting surgery) and then an inspirational home GP win.

Although never truly embraced by fans like his flamboyant rival Valentino Rossi is, Stoner bows out of racing hugely respected. Honda offered him AU$15m to stay on one more year – clearly no amount was enough, they conceded.

Stoner would have been the richest in the Honda company and in any motorsport, but his mind was made up.

It’s corniness of the highest order, but before he announces his next move (V8 Supercars, perhaps?) his only certainties are wife Adriana, daughter Alessandra and a fishing rod. With all the crap sportsmen go on with, it’s heartening that Casey Stoners exist.

Agree or disagree? Is Casey a champ or has he bowed out too early?


Ref-gate: They better be right

Regardless of what happens to referee Mark Clattenburg, guilty or not, it’s hard not to think his career is kaput and forever stained by the scandal.

The 37-year-old, among the top officials in England, was stood down as the FA and police investigate allegations he made racist comments towards two Chelsea players.

There’s nothing to be said about that until the facts are found – if he did say something stupid, he should be reprimanded. But if not, it’s not like he’s a player.

He can’t cop a four-match suspension and sit in the stands with an anti-racism badge on and pretend all is equality in the world. He’s done for. I love to bag a ref as much as anyone, but they’ve got it tough in this country.

Everyone from ignorant pundits to even more ignorant fans keep kicking the boot in.

At least when you do it, be right – just like Clattenburg was when he gave Torres a second yellow (he was touched, but dived).


Photo: Getty