FORMER Scotland and Edinburgh flanker John Hardie says he plans to move back to the Scottish capital with his partner after he hangs up his boots at Newcastle Falcons at the end of this season.
The 32-year-old, who was born and raised in Southland, New Zealand, qualified to wear the thistle through his grandmother from Fife. He played Super Rugby for the Highlanders before moving north to win the first of 16 Scotland caps against Italy during a 2015 World Cup warm-up match. His last international appearance was against Fiji during the summer of 2017, although he did train with the national squad ahead of the 2019 Six Nations..
Hardie joined Edinburgh straight from the World Cup in 2015 and spent three seasons at the capital club before being released in the summer of 2018, having served a three-month suspension imposed by Scottish Rugby the previous November for “gross misconduct” linked to alleged cocaine use.
He spent a period without a club before joining Newcastle Falcons in October 2018, initially as injury cover until the end of that season, before earning a two year deal the following summer.
“I think I could play for another year or two, but with the way the body is and the time it takes to recover between games – I just think it’s the right time to move on to a different career path,” said Hardie.
“It has to happen sometime, so it’s better that I decide it on my own terms. I feel like I’m playing good rugby, and I just don’t want to be hanging around or holding on for too long.
“With the way I play the game you have to throw everything into it, and whereas it used to be one or two days to get over a game, now it’s pretty much the full week until it’s time to play again on the weekend.
“I won’t miss waking up feeling like roadkill on a Sunday morning, but I’ve enjoyed my career and I’ve got nothing but gratitude for what rugby has given me.
“The plan is to stay with my partner in Edinburgh because she’s from the UK and I’ve loved my time here, and I’m just grateful to have had a career which has allowed me to travel around the world and have so many amazing experiences,” he continued.
“I’m just finishing my studies in strength and conditioning, which is the sort of line I’m looking to go down in terms of my future career. Hopefully that can be in a sports or high-performance setting, but as always I’ll just work hard and keep an open mind.”
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Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said: “I’d like to congratulate John on a fantastic career, and personally thank him for his contribution during his three seasons with us.
“He has been an outstanding professional during that period, and as well as his exploits on the field he has passed on his knowledge and contributed towards a really positive culture among the squad.
“I know I speak for everybody at Kingston Park in thanking John and wishing him well for the future, and I’m sure he’ll be a success in whichever field he chooses to go.”
Hardie added: “Professional rugby has been my life ever since the age of 17 or 18 when I signed my first contract, and it’s given me so much.
“I owe an incredible amount to my family for the way they’ve supported me throughout, and it’s taken me to some awesome places. I’ve made incredible friends who I’ll stay in touch with, and I’ve done so many cool things as a result of being involved with the sport.
“As a rugby player you’re in such a privileged position, and I’ve had 14 years of that, so I know I’m incredibly lucky. I’ve had a lot of real highlights, starting with my local province of Southland, then Super Rugby with the Highlanders, coming over to Scotland and playing in a Rugby World Cup, and then my club rugby with Edinburgh and Newcastle Falcons.
“I’ve loved my time at Newcastle and it’s great to be able to end my career with such an awesome set of boys. I’ve had a great journey, and can honestly say I’ve not left any stones unturned. Knowing that I can retire on those terms is actually a pretty cool thing.”