By Alan Dymock
A CURSORY glance at the list of retiring rugby players during this break in competition could make the stoniest of supporters a little misty with nostalgia.
Names like Andrea Lo Cicero, John Smit, Lee Mears and Chris Budgen would have your bulls mooing in reverence. The fallen Gavin Thomas and Johnny O’Connor would get a nod from the gnarled ball-stealers. Richard Baxter is a stalwart that appeals to the sensibilities of those madly in love with the family aspect of rugby. There are classy footballers bowing out in a classy manner, too with Felipe Contepomi, Yannick Jauzion and Geordan Murphy bidding us adieu.
However, the thing that is the most terrifying is looking at the players who have bowed out because they just cannot pull themselves together to play, due to horrific injury. In fact there is enough to fill a team.
1. Tim Payne
After an impressive career, winning the Heineken Cup and Premiership titles, trotting out for England and touring with the Lions. He is one of the players who has had to call it a day, though, because of a neck injury.
2. Huw Bennett
At 30 years old, most front-rowers are coming into their prime. However, Bennett has had to call it a day due to Achilles tendon problems. He has reached the half-ton in caps for Wales, playing 51 times.
3. Deon Carstens
After moving to Stormers from Saracens, prop Carstens only managed five games for the franchise before calling time on his career due to a back injury. The 33 year old had amassed 10 caps for the Springboks in his time.
4. Olly Kohn
Last season could be regarded as a landmark one for Kohn, having been capped for the first time for Wales. A bomb was dropped on the Harlequin at the end of the season, however, when exploratory surgery showed that his shoulder could not withstand any more rugby. He has been replaced now by Nick Kennedy, but that does not fully dampen the blow.
5. Alex Brown
At 33, Brown is no spring chicken, but his lineout play will be sorely missed by Gloucester. A strong presence who had played for England, let down by his own shoulder right at the start of last season.
6. Juan Smith
A springbok known for his tenacious play, Smith was laid low by a recurring Achilles problem. There have been whispers of an attempted comeback, but it is unlikely. A big loss to the international game.
7. Will Skinner
Another retiree from Quins, back-rower Skinner had been struggling to make it back for most of the season. Another leader gone.
8. Angus MacDonald
The one-cap All Black and former Auckland Blue barely got his foot in the door at Glasgow Warriors before a neck injury ended his career. He was halted just before he could make a comeback.
9. Shaun Perry
The veteran scrum-half could not end the game on his own terms, with a knee problem ending his career. He can still hobble around in the odd veterans match, but he’ll never be far from an ice pack again.
10. Kim Oliver
Fly-halves may be able to avoid contact, with Ronan O’Gara, Stephen Jones and Contepomi ending their careers their way. Yet for England Women’s playmaker Oliver, it was impossible to sidestep a knee injury. She hung up her boots at 29.
11. Rory Lamont
A broken leg eventually ground down the Scotland winger/full-back, who was a frightening broken field runner when fit.
12. Graeme Morrison
The third Glasgow Warrior on this list, Morrison was the dependable defensive marshal in theirs and Scotland’s barricades. One of many model pros on this list, hampered by bad luck.
13. Dan Hipkiss
He never quite reached the heights with Bath that he had promised after leaving Leicester Tigers, but Hipkiss had international quality and is the sort of player the West Country side would have preferred to have for this upcoming campaign. More shoulder issues on this list.
14. Doug Howlett
Guess what; his shoulder is knackered. The former All Black flyer turned Munster hero was a Thomond favourite but has had to end it all. His legacy is secure, though.
15. Joe Ansbro
Another high-profile neck injury has ended the versatile Scot’s career. A good man to have around, London Irish will certainly miss him next season.
Worrying, eh? As the professional game moves on and heavier players have more collisions, perhaps we will see this at the end of every season as players are forced to stop with knee, neck and shoulder injuries.