Pat McCabe will announce his retirement from rugby on Thursday following a third break to his C1 vertebrae. McCabe suffered the injury while playing against the All Blacks for the Qantas Wallabies in Auckland on Saturday night.
The University of Canberra Brumbies back has been a part of the fulltime squad since 2010, having arrived in Canberra a year earlier through the Brumbies Academy.
Since then he has gone on to claim 66 caps for the UC Brumbies and 24 for the Wallabies, including the 2013 British & Irish Lions Series, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2014 Super Rugby Finals Series and Spring Tours in 2010 and 2012.
McCabe was part of the Tri-Nations winning Wallabies team in 2011 and made seven appearances for the UC Brumbies one their way to the Australian Championship and Super Rugby Final in 2013.
But over the last four years injuries have cruelled his chances to string together consistent playing time. McCabe spent more than six months wearing a neck brace in the last two years, part of a rehabilitation program which tail-ended his shoulder reconstruction at the end of 2011.
For a player who will be remembered for his toughness and ability to overcome the pain barrier, a third break to his neck this week put the writing on the wall and doctor’s recommendations confirmed his own feelings that enough was enough.
Head Coach Stephen Larkham lamented losing a player of McCabe’s quality.
“Patty’s is the most respected player here from both staff and players. He’s very good at listening, at learning and most importantly improving,” Larkham said.
“Over the last five years he’s had set backs, including a number of injuries. But through all of that he has maintained an improvement in his game.
“This pre-season was the best he’s had and it led into one of the best seasons he’s had. With Patty you pretty much knew exactly what you were going to get. He was 100 per cent into everything. Tackles clean outs – every contest, it gave the guys around him and the coaches confidence.
“What makes a guy brave? That’s the million dollar question but I think Pat answers it.
“You want players like Patty, you want everyone of your team members to be a bit like Patty. You’d like them to be tough, both mentally and physically and there is no-one braver than Patty, both in terms of injuries that he’s gone through and the way that he plays the game.”
A full statement from Pat McCabe can be found below.
“It has truly been an honour to represent the Brumbies and the Wallabies over the past 5 years.
While my playing career has not ended the way I would have liked, I consider myself extremely fortunate.
Fortunate to have met and shared experiences with special players and coaches.
Fortunate to have played against opposition from around the world representing my country and province.
And fortunate to walk away from the game with life changing friendships and memories.
While the next chapter of my life is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure, I know that the lessons I have learnt in rugby will serve me well.
It is an incredible game, has given me so much more than I could have ever dreamed and I will miss it immensely.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has made it such a special journey.”