Hayden Triggs laments rugby's lost soul as he retires amid personal tragedy

Retiring Kiwi rugby veteran Hayden Triggs, left, says the game is not the same, with social media pressures a scourge.
Hannah Peters

Retiring Kiwi rugby veteran Hayden Triggs, left, says the game is not the same, with social media pressures a scourge.

Hayden Triggs, an "old school" rugby man retiring amid personal tragedy, says the professional game takes too heavy a mental toll.

The 35-year-old lock is returning home to New Zealand after two seasons with top Irish province Leinster following three years in Japan.

Triggs' rugby retirement comes after a stressful season where he had to cope with losing his 3-week old baby daughter Stella.

Hayden Triggs says he is an 'old school' rugby player.
Kerry Marshall

Hayden Triggs says he is an 'old school' rugby player.

The Lower Hutt-born former army mechanic, who played for four New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, told The Irish Times rugby had "changed beyond identity" during his career.

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"I started when it was semi-pro, and just starting professionally," said Triggs, who made his Manawatu debut as a 20-year-old in 2002 before going on to play for Otago and North Harbour.

"The game is different [now], and it's almost like I don't like it any more. As professionals, we're paid to do this, that's kind of our product. The game is what I love, I've said that before, but all the s... around it is hard.

"I see the guys who have just retired, sadly passing away, or having heart complications or, the worst-case scenario, committing suicide."

Triggs said "the people of rugby don't change" but social media had brought extra pressures.

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"Look what social media has done to society in general, and the light is even brighter on rugby and sportspeople in general. They're under the spotlight even when they're not in a Leinster shirt.

"In New Zealand, and it's a bit different here [in Ireland], but a sportsman runs a red light and there's a dude with a camera giving out to him and going to report it to the cops.

"There's so much pressure and stress and that's what these young kids are coming into. They don't know the beers after a Thursday night, they don't know the bus trips to away matches. They know none of that and I do, that's what I grew up in.

"I'm an old-school guy, I've done well to keep going in this game. I've been able to adapt, that's just my personality. Body-wise, physically, I could keep going for another two years, but mentally, I'm done."

Triggs is part of the Leinster squad competing against Welsh club Ospreys in the Pro 12 semifinals this weekend.

"It's not a case of wanting to win, a bit of silverware, but I need to," Triggs told The Irish Times

"I'd love to leave my mark, my name, on this club with something positive. That would mean the world to me. I'm not getting ahead of myself; we need to deal with a good team coming to [Dublin]. I don't want to sound like we're going to be there, but me personally, I'd love nothing more."

 - Stuff

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