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Gareth Williams forced to retire

Guinness PRO12 Editor

30 Sep 2011

Cardiff Blues hooker Gareth Williams has been forced to retire from the game due to neck injury.

“Basically, the neck was damaged during the pre season friendly against Bath,” explained Gareth.

“I damaged some more discs in the neck close to where I had the operation last year, which are now fused together.”

“If I were to have the operation, it would be quite a big procedure and the doctors said that if I did come back playing, I would be opening myself up to maybe some permanent damage and there is no guarantee it would work.”

“So it’s too much of a risk, especially in the position that I play in the front row.”

“His advice was to retire and so I’m hanging up my boots –

“It still hasn’t sunk in, but the surgeon has made the choice for me.”

Gareth Williams signed for Cardiff Blues from Bridgend in the summer of 2003, having previously played for UWIC and Pontypridd and also the Sydney club, Gordon.

In 1998 he had captained Wales Youth and quickly progressed to a full season with Wales under-21 in 1999. His progression to full internationals honours continued with two appearances for Wales A in 2001-02 and then his full cap in the 2003 Six Nations’ fixture in Italy. With the realisation that he has played his last game of rugby Williams is now looking to his future away from professional sport.

“Obviously I’m going to miss the game and the boys here, but life goes on after rugby and I have to think about my future now.”

“I have a young family and that has helped put things into perspective.”

“I have to find a real job now!” laughed Gareth. “It’s every rugby player’s nightmare, but it has to come to an end sometime. I’m hoping I’ve done enough the last few years to be successful in the future away from rugby.”

“I’ve set up a company called Sportable Challenge, which is already proving to be very popular with schools in Wales.”

“It’s basically a health and education initiative for primary schools where Sportable Challenge provides national curriculum lessons through years 3, 4, 5 and 6, which is primary school age.”

“We put them through their paces on a fitness circuit with a fun kicking challenge followed by a health education lesson tailored specifically for each age group.”

“Obesity is a serious issue throughout Britain, so we are looking to educate the children whilst helping to raise money for the schools.

“So, for all you teachers out there, check out our website www.sportablechallenge.com

“I also have a building company, Build 4 U Ltd, so when these youngsters at the Blues want some nice big houses built, hopefully they will call me…… Ha ha!”

“I definitely want to keep in touch with the Blues as well. There is a vacancy for a Director of Rugby at the moment, so that would be good. There’s an office there with my name on it!!!” joked Williams.

“I’ve previously coached youngsters and enjoyed it, but I don’t think coaching is for me. I want to do something else with my life now away from rugby, a new challenge.”

“Although some boys would say I’m getting on, I still felt I had a good few years left in me, so I’m still really shocked about being told I can’t play again.”

Reflecting on his time with the Blues, Williams added,

“I joined the Blues in 2003 and always knew I was really lucky to be paid for playing rugby.”

“I see how hard it is for a lot of my friends back home to get regular jobs, which makes you appreciate your position even more. We are very lucky to do what we do, and I have always appreciated that.”

“I had a great career in Bridgend and enjoyed playing there, but the game went regional in 2003 and that’s when I joined the Blues.”

“It was actually where I started, having signed for Cardiff when I was 18. I then went to University whilst training with Cardiff. I’ve actually been involved with the club for 10 years now, so I will miss it a lot. It’s been a massive part of me.”

“The first few years with the Blues were tough. We were a new region and there were some dark times but we came through it.”

“Towards the end of my career, we won the EDF Cup and Amlin Cup, which was amazing.”

“Playing for Wales has been a great honour, something every Welsh boy dreams of.”

“Maybe I didn’t play as much as I would have liked but considering some injuries I’ve had and the timing of them, they didn’t help matters.”

“I’ve always told Robin McBryde, no matter how hard I work I would never be 6ft 3 and 18 st and he wasn’t fussed on that. Ha! Ha! But you can’t please everyone.”

“At the Blues I’m up there in the top 5 appearances, which I’m really proud of, when considering the operations I’ve had along the way.”

“I’ve had two shoulder reconstructions, two lower back operations, a neck operation last year and a torn bicep repair. So I suppose this is my chance to thank all those people I have met and been influenced by during my rugby career.”

“I’d like to first say a big thank you to Peter Thomas, Bob Norster and David Young for sticking by me over the years and for showing loyalty towards me when I’ve had these operations.”

“It’s a tough call in rugby, where you are trying to run a business in one hand but along with that business comes injuries to your work force, which stops you doing that job.”

“So the company or rugby club need to look after you even when you are unable to do that job. I have to say that Peter and the Blues have always stuck by me through all those injuries, so thank you.”

"I'd also like to thank the fitness coaches, Chris Tombs, Trystan Bevan and Dan Baugh who have been patient with me over the years.”

“They have trained me whilst working around my injuries, which has been a huge bonus for me in getting me on the field to play. Sometimes it’s been quite demanding for them, so thanks, guys.”

“I’d especially like to thank my partner Rhiannon for all her support over the years. She has had to put up with the ups and downs through my career. She’s picked me up when I’ve been down if we lost or I’ve been injured. She also brought me back down if we won……. !!!”

“She has also had to put up with all my moaning and when I’ve been sore after a game, which takes some doing.”

“My parents have supported me since I started playing at 10 and it’s because of them, I am the person I am today. Everything I’ve achieved in rugby is because of their support and belief in me for all those years.”

“Having recently had a little one myself, it has made me appreciate all that my parents have done for me through the years, not just in rugby but in everyday life too.”

“They have always been there for me, so thank you, both.”

“There are so many other people I want to thank, but I could go on forever. To all the teachers at Tremains and Brynteg school, especially Keith Crockett, thank you. The coaches who have had an influence along the way since I was 10, there are so many of you, so thank you for everything.”

“To my friends for their continued support and their want for free tickets all the time, thank you. Also to my good friend Max Howells who has been a huge supporter of mine through my senior career.”

“Thank you for all your help in training and your support when I needed it and those good times we had when I needed them too.”

“I’ve enjoyed my time with the Blues because we’ve had such a great bunch of boys here and so finally I would like to thank them. I’ve been lucky enough to play with such amazing players and some great characters of the game and so I couldn’t have wished to be in a better side. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks, lads.”

“I’ve had a great competition with Rhys for the number 2 or 16 shirt, depending on who we were playing! That’s been massive in keeping us both going and we’ve become good friends through it, which has been a bonus.”

“The fans have also been great. We’ve always had strong and loyal support at the Blues”

“You realize when you look back there have been some huge changes here”

“When you talk to some of the older boys about what the facilities were like then and what they are now, there is no comparison.”

“The new stadium is awesome and seeing how the training has developed has been great.”

“We have some great youngsters in the squad. Seeing them coming through and how much better equipped for training they are now means it will be interesting to see what the next five years will bring,”

“Finally, I’d like to say good luck for the rest of the season to all the boys, Babs and Just, and hopefully this season or soon in the future we will see the Heineken Cup here at the Blues.”

“Thanks again and snowboarding here I come!!!”