Former Junior Springbok and Wallabies wing Clyde Rathbone says an injury-ravaged career took a toll on him mentally.
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Rathbone was the Junior Springboks' captain when they won the 2002 Junior World Championship with Jake White as coach.
He was poised to become a Springbok but then decided to join the Brumbies and went on to play 26 Tests for the Wallabies, before injuries forced him into early retirement in 2009 at the age of 27.
He would make a return to the game in 2013 when White coached the Brumbies but never played international rugby again.
In an exclusive interview with Sport24, Rathbone opened up on how the injuries took their toll on him personally.
"Athletes who have had severe, potentially career-ending injuries will be able to relate to the fact that it’s not just that you stop playing but that you aren't able to improve. You reach a ceiling and then plateau.
"Before I was getting injured, every year I was able to improve as a player. You pick up skills, experience and add a few strings to your bow. You are constantly refining yourself as an athlete. But when you pick up a bunch of serious injuries, you aren't starting from a better position than when you left and really have to rebuild. I had surgeries on my ankles, groin and knees. I also broke my arm, leg, eye socket and cheekbone. It's all part of contact sport, but they weren’t spaced out and that’s why the first time I retired was at the age of 27 in 2009.
"Thereafter, I suffered from depression. When your life has been dedicated to something and it gets taken away from you and you don't know what to do next, it can be extremely depressing. I felt unable to climb out of the hole I sunk into. For me, it was a case of my life not going the way I wanted it to go. Things got progressively worse and I felt powerless to change my situation."
Matters did, however, improve for the now 38-year-old.
"As soon as I started to recognise I had more control than I realised over my mental state, health and well-being, I found I could turn things around relatively quickly."
Rathbone played two more seasons for the Brumbies in 2013-14.
READ | Clyde Rathbone's full Q&A interview with Sport24
- Compiled by Sport24 staff