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By Waratahs Media Unit
HSBC Waratahs and Qantas Wallabies lock Dan Vickerman today announced his retirement from rugby.
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 HSBC Waratahs on 53 occasions between 2004 and 2011, most recently against the Brumbies, 14 months ago.
Despite making an iconic 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 HSBC 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 today. “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, HSBC 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.”
Among those leading the tributes to Vickerman was his former HSBC Waratahs and Wallaby team mate Al Baxter.
“It was a pleasure, a privilege and an honour to play alongside Dan,” said Baxter, of the team mate he first played with in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and went on to play alongside every year until 2008.
The two also shared what would later turn out to be both players’ final appearance for NSW, lining up alongside each other in the HSBC Waratahs’ final regular season match of the 2011 season. The 41-7 win over the Brumbies earned their team a place in the qualifying finals that, ironically, neither were able to play in, Baxter through injury and Vickerman because of insufficient game time to secure his eligibility.
“It is hard to overestimate the impact he had on the game, both for his state and for his country,” added Baxter.
“Dan was one of the guys you knew treasured every time he put on the jersey. He gave it his all every time he stepped on the field and made an enormous difference to every team he played in, both with his physicality and with the intelligence he brought to the game, particularly in relation to the lineout but also in general play.
“To come back as he did was a testament to his incredible determination, dedication and work ethic. He leaves massive shoes to fill.”
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 HSBC 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 Guinness 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 Qantas 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, reasserting his standing as one of Australia’s best second rowers in the process.
Widely known for the physicality and abrasive edge he brought to both the Australian and NSW forward units, he is hugely regarded by his team-mates. He represented South Africa at the IRB Under 21 World Cup tournament in 1999, before settling in Australia following that event, opting to join the famous Sydney University Rugby Club and earning selection for the Australian U21 side the following year. His Super Rugby debut, for the Brumbies in 2001, was followed a year later by a Test debut, when he teamed with Sharpe in a second-row combination that was recommissioned by Australia last year.
RaboDirect Rebels flanker Jordy Reid has extended his contract at the Club and will remain a Rebel until at least the end of the 2017.