Rash of retirements; some forced by injuries
NEWS: There was a rash of retirements from players in Europe on Tuesday – two of those very young players forced by injury to end their careers.
Alex Dunbar, Scott Otten and Stephen Fitzgerald all confirmed their departure from the game.
‘Gut-wrenching and cruel’
Ospreys hooker Scott Otten has announced his retirement with immediate effect at the age of 26, after suffering a neck injury at Dragons last January.
A product of the region’s pathway system, the former Wales Under-20 forward made his 100th Ospreys appearance in December 2019 but his decade-long attachment with the club has now ended.
“As a young kid it was always my dream to represent the Ospreys,” said Otten on the club website. “I used to have a season ticket with my old man when I was playing for Waunarlwydd and through college, so it’s meant a lot to me.
“It’s been a dream come true and it’s just gut-wrenching and cruel to have it cut short. To say I’ve represented the jersey not just once but 110 times is something I will always be proud of and be able to show my kids one day. It’s not only made me a better player but a better person too.
“I’ve always had unbelievable support here both as a player and a person which was always important for me. The supporters make a rugby team and I just want to say a big thank you to them for everything over the years.
“For me, retirement from rugby has come way too early. There is a lot of hard work to come. My coffee business SO Coffee is growing nicely at the moment and our coffee shop Humble down in Llanelli is re-opening soon so we’re excited about them.
“I’ve just finished my level two coaching course and looking ahead to my level three then seeing what opportunities are out there for me to become a coach. There’s a lot to think about as a family and seeing what’s best for us.”
Ospreys coach Toby Booth added: “It’s hugely sad when a player’s career is curtailed by injury, but if there is a silver lining, it is that Scott has planned an alternative career, which will no doubt see him flourish. He is currently still with us and he is still contributing to our environment which is great and reflects what the Ospreys mean to him.”
— Scott Otten (@ScottOtten) May 18, 2021
‘I’m devastated and heartbroken’
Three operations on a serious knee injury have failed to save the career of Connacht back three player Stephen Fitzgerald, the 25-year-old who has announced his retirement after getting struck down while playing for the province at Irish rivals Leinster in January 2020.
His contract expires at the end of this season and having been advised to retire on medical grounds, he had decided to call it quits. It was December 2018 when Fitzgerald first linked up with Connacht, joining on a loan deal that resulted in a two-year contract in summer 2019.
Fitzgerald made 18 appearances in total, scoring two tries, and he has outlined his devastation at losing his battle to regain fitness after so long on the Connacht sidelines.
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“I’m devastated and heartbroken to be finishing my career at the end of the season,” he said on the Connacht website. “The last two years have been extremely tough with three operations on my knee and unfortunately this is a battle that I’m going to lose.
“The one thing I’m massively proud of and gives me peace of mind moving forward is knowing I have worked the hardest I ever have in my life trying to get back. I’ve been lucky to have the amazing medical staff in Connacht looking after me, who all went above and beyond anything I ever expected. They always had my best interests at heart and I will always be grateful for their efforts.
“Growing up I dreamed of playing rugby at the highest level. I have been lucky to experience this with both Munster and Connacht. I’m extremely grateful to all my coaches and teammates for the amazing memories from my school days with Ard Scoil, with my club Shannon, to representing my country underage and finally to playing for both Munster and Connacht.
“The thrill I got from playing in front of family, friends and fans in a packed Thomond Park or The Sportsground is like nothing I have experienced before. I want to thank all the fans who have supported me and welcomed me with open arms along the way. Being fortunate enough to play for you and have your support is something that will always make me proud.
“Lastly, I just want to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. I’m extremely lucky to have amazing friends and family who have supported me. My family and girlfriend have been there for me more than they will ever realise and I just hope I’ve made them proud of what I’ve done. I look forward to being a fan and enjoying getting back in the stands with ye all soon.”
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Announcing TWENTY-ONE player contract extensions…
…by the people who matter most ??#GrassrootsToGreenShirts
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) March 11, 2021
‘First week back on the farm complete’
Former Scotland midfielder Alex Dunbar has confirmed his retirement from playing, the 31-year-old taking to Instagram to explain it is all over 30 months after he was last capped for his country against Argentina at Murrayfield.
Having spent most of his club career at Glasgow Warriors where he was a 2015 PRO12 title winner, 31-cap Scotland centre Dunbar moved to Brive in France in 2019 having had a short loan stint south of the border at Newcastle after falling out of favour under Dave Rennie. “The non-selection thing was the hardest to take because when I did play, I didn’t think I played badly,” Dunbar told RugbyPass at the time.
It emerged in May last year that he was being released by Brive after just a single season and after waiting out the lockdown with an unspecified injury, he has announced he is now finished with the game as a player and is working on the family farm near Lockerbie.
Writing on social media he said: “First week back on the farm complete. Feel extremely grateful to have had such an amazing journey with my rugby career. As a teenager growing up on the farm and playing rugby for fun I’d never have imagined what it would lead to.
“I’ve been honoured to represent my country, play with and learn from legends of the game, travel to places I’d never of had the opportunity to before and most importantly make friendships that will last a lifetime.
“Unfortunately my career has had to come to an end sooner than hoped due to injury but I’m happy and ready to move onto the next chapter of life with my family. Time to hang up the boots and pull on the wellies!”
The Scottish Rugby Union have been among the well-wishers who have reacted to Dunbar’s news, tweeting: “Congratulations on a fantastic career and all the very best for the future, Alex Dunbar. Enjoy your retirement.”