Alex's parting gift to the Waikato
Bradley bows out a Ranfurly winnerEVAN PEGDEN
Waikato's Ranfurly Shield winning captain Alex Bradley has retired from representative rugby.
Bradley, who is not playing at any level this year but may return to club rugby at some level next season, has cited a number of reasons for his decision to step away from the game at the age of 31.
While the big No8's family and his Matamata plumbing business were key reasons, with both his wife and kids as well as his business partner having made a lot of sacrifices in recent years, he said he had also lost some of the hunger to make the commitment to another year of training and the travel required to do it.
''I started questioning myself whether I was up to all the travelling and pre-season training that's involved in ITM Cup rugby.
''The boys are into training now before and after work. I've done that for a long time now and travelling from Matamata means getting up early, not seeing the family, getting over there in the mornings and having to get back for work and then getting back over there in the afternoons for training.
''I was doubting whether I was up to it and I could sort of sense if I was doing it I wouldn't be putting 100 per cent into it.''
His body was also telling him it needed a break with ''a couple of crook knees and a hip that's giving me a bit of grief'' so he felt a year off from all rugby would do him some good.
''I'm at the top of my game and I'm not going to go any further. The Chiefs didn't want me for another season so that sort of helped the decision as well.''
Bradley also feels he is going out on a high note after a season most players would dream of being part of - a member of the Chiefs who won the Super Rugby title for the first time and then captaining Waikato to win the Ranfurly Shield off Taranaki and successfully defend it.
''My wife wanted me to keep playing and I've still got rugby left in me but I just felt I was ready for a change and needed to put time into my business and my family.''
The 1.89 metre, 117 kilogram Bradley was born and educated in Morrinsville and has played most of his club football for the Morrinsville Sports club, but these days he lives in Matamata and would likely link up with a Matamata club if he returns to club rugby next year.
''I think I'll just get away from travelling altogether, but I guess at the end of the day if I felt like I was still up to it and got back into it next season and got fit enough perhaps I could say to [Waikato coach Chris Gibbes] I'm available, but at this stage I just want to have a year off and spend time with the kids, follow their sport and maybe get into a bit of coaching with them.''
Bradley said he was already revelling in having the time to spend weekends with his family and more time during the week both at work and sharing the load with his wife in terms of picking up children from school and cooking meals.
''She's the one struggling to do it all herself and she's busy with her own work. It gives her a chance to do things she wants to do as well and she's going to coach a couple of netball teams and bits and pieces like that.''
He has been playing club rugby since he left Morrinsville College and said he was still expecting some testing times once the club season kicks off on March 23.
''My knees shake now when I watch the boys on TV from the Chiefs play because I'm good mates with most of them and to think I was amongst them all last year.
''It would be nice to still be out on the field and if I could click my fingers and be ready to go that would be perfect but that's not the way of it - you've got to put the hard yards in and do what everyone else does. It's a huge commitment.''
Waikato have also lost hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone to an ongoing neck injury and first five-eighths Sam Christie (Western Force) and Piers Francis (Edinburgh) to overseas contracts.
- © Fairfax NZ News