Thomas announces rugby retirement
October 25, 2011
Thomas turned out for the Crusaders in rugby league © PA Photos
Former Wales dual-code international Gareth Thomas has called time on his rugby career with immediate effect.
The former British Lion and Wales' grand slam-winning captain brought an abrupt halt to his playing career on Tuesday, just four days before he was due to make his debut in rugby league's Four Nations Series.
Thomas's remarkable career had also been expected to take another strange twist with a move to Challenge Cup holders Wigan, but he decided to quit after coming to the conclusion that, at the age of 37, he could no longer give his all.
"I have listened to and discussed this decision with many of my family and close friends," he said. "My mind has told me that the time to retire is now. If you can't give 100% to rugby then you can't do it justice.
"This is a sad day but I know that my time has come to an end as a player. My passion for the amazing game will never end or leave me however."
Emanuele Palladino, from Thomas' management company Distinct, said: "This marks the end of what has been a remarkable career for a remarkable person. Gareth hopes that, through his achievements both on and off the field, he has left a lasting legacy within the game."
Thomas switched codes with Wrexham-based Super League club Crusaders two years ago with his last game of rugby coming for Crusaders on July 9.
Born in Sarn, Bridgend, Thomas spent most of his rugby union career with Cardiff, although he won the Heineken Cup in 2005 during a stint with Toulouse. After making his Test debut against Japan in 1995, Thomas became the first man to win 100 caps for Wales, a record tally that was recently surpassed by Stephen Jones.
He made three appearances on the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and was appointed captain for the second and third Tests following an injury to Brian O'Driscoll. Thomas hit the headlines in December 2009 by announcing he was gay and three months later switched codes to play rugby league.
He made just 13 appearances during a difficult first season with Crusaders but decided to take up the option of a second year and made another 18 appearances before breaking his arm against Hull KR. Thomas became a dual-code international when he made his debut for Wales' rugby league side against Italy a year ago and, in the absence of Lee Briers, captained them to a 12-11 win over France in Albi which enabled them to win the European Cup and earn promotion to the Four Nations.
Thomas' life is set to be portrayed in a film by American actor Mickey Rourke, who was fascinated by the player's bravery in revealing his homosexuality. "I do not know what lies ahead but I feel the challenge of something different excites me more than another year of rugby," Thomas said. "I would like to thank everyone I have been involved with in the sport. I could not have achieved it without any of them. I have great memories and great friends that I will keep for the rest of my life.
"I leave knowing I have done everything in my power to be the best person and player I could have ever been. And finally, I thank my parents for all their support and help throughout my career."
Thomas, nicknamed "Alfie", was among a host of players left without a club when Crusaders withdrew from Super League in July but he was expected to link up with Harris at Wigan, although there was never any official confirmation from the Warriors. Harris, who was recently appointed as Wigan assistant coach, helped Thomas make the switch of codes after playing alongside him in the 15-man game and had named him in his 24-strong Four Nations squad.
Harris said: "I've worked with Gareth for just under two years and the work and desire that he put into his transition from union to league was a testament to his supreme professionalism. Even though he switched at a mature age, his enthusiasm for information made his switch a huge success.
"Gareth's honesty and reasoning behind his decision were unselfish. It would have been easy for him to play the Wales internationals for his personal gain but he didn't want to take an opportunity off somebody else in our squad. I'm sure Alfie will be a huge success in whatever comes next in his life's journey. He certainly has the best wishes of myself and everybody involved in Wales rugby league."
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