LUKE Walsh remains unsure if, or indeed where, he'll play a swansong season in 2023 but the former NRL halfback does have a "burning" desire to make amends for this year's finals exit.
Walsh, named Newcastle Rugby League player of the year for a second time during Saturday's presentation at the races, admits "I don't want to go out like that" after Central were eliminated in straight sets having finished one win away from the minor premiership.
The 35-year-old continues to weigh up his playing future with the Butcher Boys and Northern Hawks, if promoted to first grade, both presenting options if he doesn't opt to hang up the boots.
"I haven't made a decision on whether I'm going to play or not," Walsh told the Newcastle Herald.
"The body feels good, but if do play it will be my last year 1000 percent."
Central, still searching for the club's first title since 1949, opened their 2022 campaign with back-to-back losses before winning 14 of their next 16 games.
This run of form featured an unbeaten streak of 10, kicked off by a draw and followed by nine victories, to round out the regular season.
But the Butchers Boys missed out in the play-offs, going down to Macquarie 36-18 at home and Cessnock 22-16 at Townson Oval.
"That's what's burning me," Walsh said.
"I'm ready to get the boots back on already. I can't finish like that and it just left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
"Obviously there's a long time until we play again and anything can happen, but to be honest I've got that drive and motivation to play. We'll just see what happens."
After retiring from the professional ranks, which included 251 games between the NRL and English Super League, Walsh joined his junior club Wests towards the end of 2018.
He steered the Rosellas to a minor-major double in 2019 and was named Newcastle RL player of the year.
Having undergone off-season surgery on an ankle injury suffered in the grand final, Walsh sat out a COVID-impacted 2020 before signing at Central and playing the last two campaigns.
Some of his former teammates are now part of the pending promotion bid at the Northern Hawks.
"That's definitely an option, I'm not going to lie," Walsh said.
"Obviously I get on well with Tighsey [Brad Tighe] and if they get in the comp, if they get accepted, we'll have to sit down and have a chat.
"But I'd love to stay at Central obviously and keep the majority of the team together. With a couple of new additions I think we could definitely give it a shake."
Walsh said he was "quite surprised" but "humbled" to again pick up the top individual gong for Newcastle RL.
He's poised to line-up for Bourke alongside his two brothers in the 50th anniversary Koori Knockout which is being held between Nowra and Bomaderry over the October long weekend.