10 Apr 2015

Afeaki retires over concussion issues

6:01 pm on 10 April 2015

The Chiefs prop Ben Afeaki has decided to retire from all rugby due to concussion.

Afeaki was injured during the Chiefs Super Rugby match against the Crusaders in February 2014 and has not played since.

The Chiefs and North Harbour prop Ben Afeaki.

The Chiefs and North Harbour prop Ben Afeaki. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Afeaki has been plagued by symptoms such as headaches, nausea and moodiness since he and his Chiefs team-mate Brodie Retallick were concussed when they clashed heads in that match against the Crusaders.

While Retallick went on to recently pick up the title of international rugby player of the year, Afeaki has decided to call time on his career.

The 27-year-old prop played 36 matches for the Chiefs, one Test for the All Blacks in 2013, and played eight matches for the Maori All Blacks.

Afeaki said retirement was the best decision for his long term health and he continued to make good progress in his recovery.

"I am very fortunate that I have achieved some awesome things in rugby. I have been part of a team that has won back-to-back Super Rugby Championships," he said.

"I have lived out a boyhood dream of playing for the All Blacks, played for a very special team in the Maori All Blacks and captained my provincial union, North Harbour.

"During that time I have built some life-long friendships, had some awesome experiences and received amazing support and care from the Chiefs, North Harbour and New Zealand Rugby.

"But it is now time that I make a decision that is best for my health long term and that is to retire from all rugby."

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said Afeaki would leave a big hole in the Chiefs' family.

"Ben is an outstanding man who is highly respected and loved by all at the Chiefs. When he informed the team that he was retiring from rugby, it was very emotional. The haka they honoured him with was the most passionate and heartfelt I've ever witnessed," he said,

"His phenomenal work rate and physicality played a massive part in our success in 2012-13 and he will be sorely missed. He has our full support in this decision and has used the past 14 months since his injury to clarify his future beyond his playing days."

"We are totally committed to assisting him in transitioning into the workforce."

New Zealand Rugby said Afeaki had been fully supported by the Chiefs and New Zealand Rugby medical staff as he dealt with his injury.

"Ben has put his health first and that is the right call," said Rugby General Manager Neil Sorensen.

"He has been a great ambassador for the game and we will be doing all we can to help him with his career off the field."

Sorensen said Ben would remain on full pay for the remainder of the year, his rehabilitation would continue to be overseen by NZR and Chiefs medical staff, and he would continue to receive vocational support.

"Rugby is a contact sport and injuries happen. Thankfully career-ending injuries like the one Ben suffered are rare as most players recover quickly from concussion injuries with appropriate care."