Mike Haywood retires at 31 after offer that 'felt too good to turn down'
Northampton Saints veteran Mike Haywood will retire at the end of the season following an offer that ‘felt too good to turn down’.
The 31-year-old made 269 appearances, scoring 34 tries over 13 seasons at Franklin’s Gardens. Haywood leaves for a coaching role at St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, a school that produced a number of current Saints players.
He says he departs with fond memories from the club.
“It’s been an amazing journey for me with Saints – starting from playing locally in Colchester, going through the Academy system, and then into the first team,” said Haywood. “It’s hard to put into words how lucky I feel and how grateful I am to have had this experience at the Club.
“The standout season of course was when we won the Premiership and Challenge Cup in 2014, and winning the semi-final at the Gardens – that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“But throughout the 13 seasons in Northampton, the support from the fans has been amazing and the staff at the Club are incredible. In recent years, I’ve been unlucky with a few injuries, but the physios and S&C staff have been amazing getting me back to playing. I’m grateful to all the coaches for giving me the opportunity to wear the jersey.
“I always wanted ultimately to move back home at the end of my playing career, and the opportunity arose for me at St Joseph’s which felt too good to turn down. I’m really excited to teach there and hopefully develop some great rugby players who enjoy the game as much as I did.
“Phil Dowson was fantastic in giving me time to make my decision, and I want to stay involved with the Club and the Academy as much as I can, still being within our catchment area in East Anglia. I came through the system there, so to be able to give some lads the opportunity to go on the same journey I did with Saints is something I also want to be a part of.”
Haywood joined Saints’ Academy and Colchester RFC, signing his first full-time contract in 2010/11. He became a first-team regular the following season, playing 18 games a season for seven years until injury struck in 2018. He started in the 2014 Premiership and European Challenge Cup finals, as well as in the Premiership semi-final. In 2016, he was named in the Premiership Dream Team.
He scored eight tries in 29 appearances in the following campaign and played almost every game in 2017/18, scoring a Try of the Season contender. Despite a serious knee injury in 2018, he helped Saints win the Premiership Rugby Cup in 2018/19. He scored the last-minute winning try against Bath to take Saints to the Premiership playoffs in 2021/22, and made his 250th Club cap against Bristol Bears that season.
“Mikey’s always been a high energy and highly skilled player, but he’s also tenacious, a battler, and tough,” said Saints DoR Phil Dowson. “He’s always had the ‘Saints First’ mentality that we talk about, and contributed massively to the group both on and off the field.
“He’s now completely focused on becoming the best coach he can be – he’s already been in the offices, picking the brains of our coaching group when he can. He’s very keen to stay involved with our Saints Academy process out in East Anglia, and to have a Northampton legend doing that out there is a very good outcome for the Club.”
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G'day, Nick. Sorry to see you've gone from the other place. It will be a poorer experience for many because of it. As others mentioned, your detailed analysis and commitment to engaging with every person commenting on your articles stood out and was the main reason I ended up joining 5 years ago. I'll be spending a bit more time over here now I think.Go to comments
Think you boys forgot that Graham Henry coached the 2011 All Blacks and that Hansen/ Smith were assistants. The cross was shouldered by Henry. Erasmus' point here is that he and Nienaber are looking to win back to back WC's as head coaching combos. A bit of a reach because he is now the DoR and not the coach with the title anymore, but we all know who the real brain behind this Bok squad/strategy is.Go to comments