New rugby retiree Drew Mitchell is looking forward to a bit of freedom.
After 71 Tests and 15 seasons as a professional rugby player, Sunday’s Top 14 final was his swansong, a nailbiting 22-16 loss to Clermont in Paris.
Though the atmosphere in France was already somewhat of a loosening compared to Australian rugby scenes, the 33-year-old is looking forward to being able to plan trips independent of when rugby season is and take advantage of not having training sessions and meetings locked in every day.
“A lot of our life in rugby is governed by the season – you get your four weeks off in the back end, around Christmas time,” he said.
“That’s all you get to really do, so whether it’s a summer holiday in Australia or close by or you have to go pretty far to get snow or anything.
“I think having a lot more freedom around being able to do things, experience different things other than the same time of the year every year, is also pretty exciting.
“All the training and travel and always having to be conscious of how it’s going to affect your preparation and your recovery and all that type of thing – being more mindful about everything you do impacting your performance
“It’s going to be nice to be able to relax the mind a little bit and enjoy different things.”
Mitchell announced his retirement earlier this season, a decision that gave him the chance to appreciate things for the last time, or grin and bear those elements that he’s never been too fond of.
“Knowing I was wrapping up, all the meetings and all the training and that sort of stuff starts to wear a little thin,” he said.
“(I’ll miss) all that stuff around the locker room, the banter and the jokes and stuff, when you’re involved in the inner sanctum that you just don’t have the opportunity of having when you’re not involved in a side."
It was the global lure of rugby that kept Mitchell in the 15-man game as a teen and he is a walking endorsement of that international nature of the sport, having played in Australia and France, as well as for the Wallabies
“I’ve been very fortunate with the career I’ve had and the places I’ve played and the people I’ve played along with,” he said.
“Towards the back end of school I was having to make a decision whether I was having to play league or union and one thing that stood out to me was rugby being a global game and you have the opportunity to play all around the world.
“Now, I know exactly what they’re speaking about because I’ve been able to go through and live my career exactly like that, whether it be Test matches or living or playing abroad over the last four years over here in France.
“The places it’s taken me and the opportunities it’s given me, I’ll be forever thankful to the game of rugby.”
His retirement marks a transition of one of Australian rugby’s most high-profile ‘bromances’, with close friend Matt Giteau headed to Japan for the 2017-18 season.
The pair have been almost inseparable since Mitchell moved over to France, spending much of his time at the Giteau household.
“We’re going to have to up our Skype membership or something,” he laughed.
“That’s the other good thing, I’ll be able to jump on a plane if I miss him too much and go and visit him.
“It gives me a good excuse to go to Japan but not have to worry about the commitment of training and all that type of thing.”
Though he’s looking at potentially moving into the media with FOX SPORTS, his immediate focus is on spending some time with his immediate family in Brisbane, a rare luxury in recent times having lived in Perth, Sydney and then in France.