Proud to be a one-club man: Ulster hero Chris Henry announces retirement from rugby
Ulster and Ireland back row Chris Henry has written an open letter to announce that he is retiring from rugby with immediate effect.
The 34-year-old is currently celebrating his Testimonial Year in recognition of ten seasons of service to Ulster Rugby, having made his debut against Harlequins in January 2009. He went on to represent Ulster on 184 occasions.
He made his debut for Ireland in a Test against Australia in June 2010 and earned 24 caps. Henry played for Malone RFC, Wallace HS and Ballymena RFC before earning his provincial and international honours.
Henry said that he has taken the decision for the 'wellbeing' of himself and his family after the sport has 'taken its toll physically'.
He has played only 25 competitive senior minutes this season, featuring as a replacement in the victory over Scarlets at the start of September. He did start in his own testimonial match against Gloucester in August.
Henry suffered a mini-stroke in 2014 on the morning of an Ireland Test against South Africa, spending four days in hospital, where it was discovered he had a hole in his heart. He underwent a procedure to correct the hole and within just four months was back on the rugby pitch.
- Read more: How Ulster rugby star Chris Henry overcame mini-stroke to play again, marry and campaign about condition
Henry has already taken steps towards rugby involvement on the other side of the white line, assisting Malone head coach Paddy Armstrong.
On his way back from a calf injury picked up while playing for Ulster A, Henry even played for his home club for the first time in around 13 years last month. It was a successful outing as Malone beat St Mary's College 18-10, Henry involved in the moves which led to Malone's first two tries.
- Read more: Henry in winning return to home club Malone
In full: Chris Henry's open letter
After a great deal of thought and in-depth discussions with family and friends, I believe that now is the right time to retire from the game I love. No matter how much I would love to finish the season with this talented group, my career has taken its toll physically, and so for the wellbeing of myself, my loving wife and my family, I will be retiring immediately.
It’s impossible to thank everyone who has contributed to my career in this short letter, but allow me to make a start.
I am incredibly proud to be a one-club man, and I want to thank Ulster for giving me the chance to achieve my dream. The honour of putting on the white and green jerseys is something I will always cherish. I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have travelled all around the world doing what I love.
Like any rugby career, there has been setbacks and knocks, however the incredible highs will forever outweigh the lows. Thank you to all the coaches, players, physiotherapists, doctors, back-room staff and fans that kept the faith in me.
The heart and soul of rugby is teamwork, and I have had some incredible teammates over the years. To have lost Nevin Spence at such a young age had a huge impact on me and so many others. He was a source of inspiration and I have always tried to do the club proud as he did. Ulster and Irish Rugby will always remember his legacy. It has been a privilege to witness the new generation of young Ulster players come through the ranks with bucket-loads of talent and an incredible work ethic. I truly believe success is not far away.
I want to thank every team I have been part of along the way - from Malone minis, to my school boy rugby at Wallace, senior rugby at both Ballymena and Malone, to Ulster and Ireland. I take joy in the fact my first and last game of rugby has been for Malone - 29 years apart!
A huge thank you to my family for always being there for me. To my mum - this could never have happened without you. You and dad couldn’t have given me a better start in life and you have travelled across the world supporting me. To my brothers John and Daniel - thank you for always being my biggest fans and believing in me. We sadly lost our father William one month before my first Irish Cap but every time I put on the jersey I felt him with me. I take great happiness that he saw me lead Ulster out on many occasions and no doubt he would have enjoyed this incredible journey just as much as me. He was my best friend and we still miss him dearly.
To my beautiful wife and soul-mate, Jade. Thank you for always supporting me during the ups and downs. I’m so excited to see what the future holds. Our family is soon to get slightly bigger and I can’t wait for this new adventure to begin!
Finally, to the Ulster fans. Thank you for making the journey so special, and if you see me in the terraces on a Friday night, please come say hi!
Yours in rugby,
Belfast Telegraph Digital