Derren Witcombe retires



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Former All Black and current Blues and Auckland hooker Derren Witcombe is retiring from playing rugby.

A neck injury suffered two weeks ago in Auckland’s opening round of the Air New Zealand Cup, and subsequent scans have left specialists and Witcombe in no doubt it is time to hang up his boots.

This is the second neck injury for Witcombe after a serious incident in 2005 kept him out of rugby for well over a year.

Having played five All Black test matches in 2005, Witcombe worked extremely hard on his rehabilitation and returned to the Auckland side at the end of 2006. He played an outstanding Rebel Sport Super 14 season for the Blues this year and came through the competition relatively unscathed.

But 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. The end result was not really what I wanted to hear. However, I’m philosophical ‘ there is life after rugby,’ says Witcombe, who is getting married later this year.

The decision, though extremely disappointing, was a simple one for the former All Black.

‘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.

‘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 CEO Andy Dalton says Witcombe is one of the most passionate and hardest working players in the Auckland and Blues squads and his contribution on and off the field has been outstanding.

‘Derren is valuable member of the Auckland rugby and Blues family. I’m very disappointed for him, but he finishes his playing career on a high with an impressive Rebel Sport Super 14 season and run in the Junior All Blacks.’

New Zealand Rugby Union Deputy Chief Executive Steve Tew said the thoughts of the New Zealand rugby community as well as his fans would be with Witcombe.

‘It’s sad news for Derren. It is a real testament to his character that he was able to come back from his injury in 2005 and helped the resurgent Blues with their campaign this year as well as the Junior All Blacks.

‘We wish him all the best as he moves onto the next phase of his life.’

All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen also noted Witcombe’s courage in his first comeback and added: ‘The quality of his rugby reflected the quality of the man. He’s a top bloke.’

Twenty-eight-year-old Witcombe made his provincial debut for Northland (20 games) in 2001 transferring to Auckland in 2003 (30 games). He made his Blues debut in 2002 playing 53 times for the franchise. He became All Black number 1053 in 2005 making his debut against Fiji in the first Test of the year. He played five times for the All Blacks in 2005, including the first and second Tests against the touring British and Irish Lions.

Witcombe’s retirement is effective immediately.

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