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New Blues signing forced into early retirement

By Online Editors
Bay of Plenty's Baden Wardlaw signed for the Blues for 2020 but has been forced into an early retirement. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

NZ Herald

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Bay of Plenty lock Baden Wardlaw has announced his immediate retirement from rugby because of an historic medical condition.

The 29-year-old had realised his lifelong dream when he was named in the Blues team for the upcoming Investec Super Rugby season.

However, medical checks showed that he has three fused vertebrae in his neck, and after further tests and extensive expert opinions, the advice was that he should not to play rugby again.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald said he was “gutted” for Wardlaw, who was set to become the oldest rookie in the team.

“Baden has worked so hard and impressed us with his work ethic and quality of play. We are bitterly disappointed for him but at the same time this is a very serious condition which have been life-threatening,” he said.

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Wardlaw said he was born with the condition but had always played sport and been active throughout his life, playing rugby for Bay of Plenty through the age grades before then focussing on his family and career.

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He returned to rugby four years ago, putting his career on-hold to give the sport his full attention and playing a key role in the success in Clayton McMillan’s Bay of Plenty Steamers side.

“I thought I had finally made it. This was my dream to play for the Blues,” Wardlaw said.

“I have had the fused vertebrae since birth and it has not stopped me doing anything. But to then receive this news that I should give up rugby for the rest of my life is hard to come to grips with.

“The medical people have gone to a number of specialists and they have all said the same thing. That is that if I got a knock in the wrong position I could end up as a tetraplegic or worse, I could die.

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“I need to be thankful that this was found out, although right now I am still gutted because this was my dream.”

Wardlaw, a competitive cross-fit athlete, said that fitness has always been an interest, and he will look to move into strength and conditioning training as a way of remaining in the sport.

The Blues are expected to announce a replacement in the coming days.

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

One of the Blues’ most experienced players from 2019, Sonny Bill Williams, won’t be back for next year:

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finn 6 hours ago
Mick Cleary: 'England fans are entitled to be grumpy and weary'

“no stand-out talent that would trouble the selectors of a world XV. Until that status changes, then they will be confined to this mid-table (at best) mediocrity.” I really think this is nonsense analysis. Finn Russell isn’t better than George Ford. Jamie George is the third best hooker in the world after Marx and Sheehan. Ben Earl would probably start for any team in the world bar Ireland, and the same goes for Ollie Lawrence when he’s in form. The problem England have is (1) people hate their style of play, so will always overlook players like Ford and George when comparing them with more flashy alternatives; (2) that people expect England to be one of the best teams in the world, so when they fall short it is held against them. Finn Russell has far more poor games than George Ford, but because Scotland aren’t expected to be consistently winning trophies it isn’t a scandal when he does play badly. Conversely if Ben Earl was playing for scotland, or wales, or italy, everyone would be blown away by his performances, but because he’s only playing slightly better than we expect english back row players to play then he’s not given the plaudits he arguably deserves. I say “arguably” because ultimately I don’t think it matters whether we value individual players accurately or not. I’m not aggrieved that english players don’t get selected in world XVs, I just don’t think its a good explanation of a nation’s performances!

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