Waratahs and former Wallabies lock Dan Vickerman has announced that he will retire from rugby with immediate effect.
A veteran of three Rugby World Cups, the 33-year-old, 203cm second row played 63 Tests for Australia since making his debut against France in 2002 and represented the Waratahs on 53 occasions between 2004 and 2011, most recently against the Brumbies, 14 months ago.
Despite making a return to international rugby in 2011, his first since the 2008 Tri-Nations campaign, Vickerman has since been unable to recover from a lower leg injury suffered earlier in his career.
His injury, a stress fracture to the anterior cortex of his right tibia, is known as one of the most difficult stress fractures to manage and forced him to miss the entire 2012 Super Rugby season.
His decision to retire from all forms of the game comes after a lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful rehabilitation period that has seen him, working with the Waratahs and Wallabies' medical teams, exhaust all possible surgical and non-surgical treatment options, including the insertion and removal of a metal rod from his lower leg.
"Having battled injury for the last while, it is disappointing that I have to call it a day on my playing days," Vickerman said.
"But in saying that I have been extremely fortunate throughout my career to have played for the teams I have.
"To have had the privilege to represent my country is something I have never taken for granted and each game I have played in has been special," he added.
"I would like to thank all involved at Sydney University Rugby Club where it started for me in 1999, and those at the Brumbies, Waratahs and Wallabies. Rugby is a game in which you never stop learning and all the coaches and strength and conditioning team members I have had throughout my career have been fantastic to work with, so for that I would like to thank them all.
"The medical staff that have helped me over the years, in particular this year with the injury I have had, are owed a massive thank you. I would also like to thank all of the management and media staff for all their help off the field which certainly makes the job of preparing to play a lot easier.
"Finally and most of all, I would like to thank all of my team mates I have had the privilege of playing with over the years. Rugby is a great team game and the mates you play with are the ones that make the journey so special. That is part of the game I will really miss."
Born in Cape Town, the former South African Under 21 representative made his NSW debut against the Crusaders in February 2004, earning all but one of his 53 state caps in the four years that followed.
His 53rd and final appearance, and the only one of his NSW career to be earned from the replacements bench, came against his former side in the final round of the regular 2011 Super Rugby season, when he came on for Pat O'Connor in the 41-7 victory over the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium.
A former Sydney University player and member of Canberra's title-winning 2001 squad in his first season, Vickerman spent three seasons with the Brumbies, representing them on 34 occasions before joining the Waratahs in 2004. Amassing 11 caps in his first season, he went on to help NSW to the 2005 Super Rugby finals the following year.
Forced to miss the entire 2007 season following a shoulder reconstruction, Vickerman returned the following year to help NSW to another Super Rugby finals series. With 51 Super Rugby caps under his belt, all in the starting XV, and 55 Tests including two Rugby World Cups, Vickerman opted to take a study sabbatical at Cambridge University in England after the 2008 Tri Nations.
He twice played in the annual Oxford-Cambridge Varsity match, on the second occasion leading Cambridge to a 31-27 victory over their eternal rivals. After a two-and-a-half year absence, which also saw him represent Premiership side Northampton Saints on five occasions, at the completion of his business studies Vickerman returned to Sydney to resume his Super Rugby and Test careers, playing the final round of the 2011 Super Rugby competition.
After making his Test return against Samoa in July 2011, he featured in the Wallabies' first Tri-Nations title for 10 years, making his first two starts in the Tests against New Zealand, with the experience, hard-nosed attitude and uncompromising work ethic he brought to a young side being judged an invaluable asset.
While a second shoulder injury, which also required surgery, ultimately ended his Test season after the Rugby World Cup, Vickerman wound up playing eight of the 12 games for which he was available, including starting in four of his five World Cup appearances.