A regular guy who plays suburban park football on Saturdays and attends training on Thursday nights after work has made the gut-wrenchingly difficult decision to walk away from the game.
James Raffell informed his Knox Old Boys rugby union teammates that he would hang up the boots for the final time after suffering a broken collar bone last weekend. The 25-year-old Castlecrag resident says the shooting pain down the left-side of his body was a hardly gentle reminder that rugby “was a young man’s game now.”
“As I sat in the waiting room at the Royal North Shore hospital on Saturday afternoon, I realised that it was time for the new boys to step up and for me to look forward to a future sinking cans and heckling players and unpaid referees from the sideline,” he says.
And it appears Raffell might be using that golf bag a bit more once that collarbone heals, with the winger flagging a possible return to the links. “I think this incident is a chance for me to use my golf membership a bit more – something I really haven’t utilised since I started playing footy on Saturdays many years ago – and work on reducing my handicap into the high teens.”
Many athletes – amateur and professional – have retired prematurely, only to return to the field for “one last crack.” And it appears Raffell is not different, refusing to entirely rule out a “possible cameo here and there should the boys need me.”
“I’m only 25 and the offseason is a long time to mull things over – so I’ll never say never,” he says. “That said, there are a lot of colties [younger players] coming through the ranks, so I think it’s their time now.”
But Raffell adds that should he ever get that frantic phone call from the coach or a mate on game day, asking him to fill in for a late drop-out, it would be terribly hard to say no.
“It’s in my blood – and I’m always happy to help out if they’re a man short. I’ll be waiting for that call.”
By Dave Edwards