A career as long as successful as the one had by Mark Cueto isn’t short of memorable moments but it was his first time in a Sale Sharks shirt the winger will remember forever.
Cueto was inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame during a gala evening at London’s Honourable Artillery Company, alongside Richard Hill, Mike Tindall, Hugh Vyvyan and Neil Back.
The 36-year-old, who is Premiership Rugby’s leading try scorer, hasn’t left the game since his retirement after agreeing to be commercial director at the Sharks.
He made over 300 appearances for his club during his career and can still recall his first like it was yesterday, but is certain he chose the right time to retire.
“I’ll never forget my debut for the club, 2001 away at Bristol,” he said.
“We won and I scored a try. Obviously winning a Premiership title with Sale in 2005-06, will always stay with me.
“I don’t miss it. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the time I had in the game. I played for 15 years and it was the right time to finish.
“I don’t miss being battered and bruised on a Monday and Tuesday morning. But there’s a huge amount that I will always miss.
“Being realistic you can’t do it forever. I was lucky to have a good shot at it and now I’m lucky to have a good career still in the game.”
The five new inductees helped raise thousands of pounds at the fourth Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame Ball for Wooden Spoon, Movember Foundation, Sport Relief and Restart Rugby, the official charity of the Rugby Players Association.
The event also celebrated two decades of Premiership Rugby as it continues its 20th season.
Cueto leads Tom Varndell, who is now at newly promoted Bristol Rugby, by four tries in the all-time try scoring list with Chris Ashton and Christian Wade close behind.
And the Sharks man expects his record of 90 Premiership Rugby tries to be overhauled sooner rather than later.
“It’s great to be the top try scorer in the Premiership, but it’s not something that I’ve built my game and career on,” he added.
“Tom [Varndell] is a fantastic try scorer. It’s going to be difficult [for him[ this season, although he did score a try in his first game of the Premiership season.
“But I think Christian Wade, although he is probably 20 or 30 behind, so he is a long way back, but considering his age and the rate at which he is scoring, then he’ll be someone on the radar very soon.”
In addition to his incredibly successful club career, Cueto was also highly regarded at international level scoring 20 tries in 55 appearances for England.
The winger was also selected by Sir Clive Woodward to tour New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in 2005, but now enjoys viewing the international rugby scene from the comfort of his sofa.
“Pushing on and playing for England, playing for the Lions, I’m massively proud to play in two World Cups for my country,” he added.
“And a Lions Tour to New Zealand is very special
“But I almost feel like I’ve never played rugby. I’ll watch England on the TV and I’ll watch Sale in the Premiership and I’ll feel like I’ve never been there.
“It’s really weird to be honest. But the game just keeps giving, and this is another one of those moments.”