Injury forces Witcombe into retirement
August 13, 2007
Another neck injury has forced former All Blacks hooker Derren Witcombe to retire from rugby at the age of 28.
A recurrence suffered two weeks ago in Auckland's opening round of the Air NZ Cup and subsequent scans have left specialists and Witcombe in no doubt it is time to hang up his boots.
It was the second neck injury for Witcombe after a serious incident nearly two years kept him out of rugby for 12 months.
Having played all his five All Blacks test matches in 2005, Witcombe worked hard on his rehabilitation and returned to the Auckland side at the end of 2006.
He enjoyed an excellent Super 14 season for the Blues this year, coming through the competition relatively unscathed.
However, concern after the Counties-Manukau match three weeks ago prompted Witcombe and the Auckland medical staff to take a closer look.
"Things weren't right and we felt it best to check out what had happened," Witcombe said today.
"The end result was not really what I wanted to hear. However, I'm philosophical, there is life after rugby."
Witcombe is due to get married later this year.
The decision, though extremely disappointing, was a simple one for Witcombe, who made his debut against Fiji in 2005 and made four more test appearances off the reserve bench.
"I have been so fortunate to have played the rugby I have. I am grateful to the people who helped me get to the level I achieved, the coaches and players I have worked alongside and the support from family, especially my partner Lenska, who has been such a major support for me," he said.
"But I have a long future ahead of me and we plan to have a family so there really is only one decision to make."
Blues chief executive Andy Dalton said Witcombe was one of the most passionate and hardest working players in the Auckland and Blues squads and his contribution had been outstanding.
"Derren is valuable member of the Auckland rugby and Blues family," Dalton said.
"I'm very disappointed for him, but he finishes his playing career on a high with an impressive Super 14 season and run in the Junior All Blacks."
All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen also noted Witcombe's courage in his first comeback.
"The quality of his rugby reflected the quality of the man. He's a top bloke," Hansen said.
Witcombe made his provincial debut for Northland in 2001, transferring to Auckland two years later.
He made his Blues debut in 2002, playing 53 times for the franchise.
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