With Richie McCaw, the most capped player in international rugby announcing his retirement after the World Cup, and world renown fly-half Dan Carter following suit, we look back on some of the most memorable retirements over the past few years. From those who left us with a bang, to the damn-right shameful.
Really no more for Carter and McCaw?
If ever a team deserved a premature coronation it would have been the 2015 New Zealand rugby union squad. Let’s be frank, there was only ever one team winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and it was the only fitting way to send-off two all-time All Black greats.
Captain Richie McCaw holds the record for the most appearances in a New Zealand shirt and fly-half Dan Carter is the highest points scorer in international rugby history. The significance of the All Black team as a collective cannot be doubted, but these individuals have been a constant over the years. They’ve obliterated almost every opponent standing in their path, and ensured they settled the score with any nation daring enough to challenge their reign. Carter’s drop goals in the closing minutes of both the semi and the final are prime examples of what he’s done for over a decade, and the captain raising the Webb Ellis trophy on the 2nd consecutive occasion provides only a snapshot of his greatness. If they honestly have performed their final Haka, they depart leaving us all wondering whether we will ever see such a dominant pair again.
“The significance of the All Black team as a collective cannot be doubted, but these individuals have been a constant over the years.”
Alas, all may not be lost. After a minute long standing ovation in his last game, McCaw, speaking to the Guardian, hinted that his future as a rugby player may not be over: “If you get moments like this, why would you ever call it a day?” We must all be asking ourselves the same question.
The Italian Stallion
The real-life Rocky Marciano wasn’t only the inspiration for one of the most iconic films of all time. In fact, The Brockton Blockbuster is the only undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, with 43 of his 49 wins by KO. His style was much like that of Homer Simpson, going toe-to-toe taking punches, and then capitalising when his opponent faded. His championship bout with Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952 is considered one of the greatest in history, primarily for the display of his famous ‘Susie Q’ knockout punch in the 13th round.
“His style was much like that of Homer Simpson, going toe-to-toe taking punches, and then capitalising when his opponent faded.”
When it came to his final match against Archie Moore in September 1955, Rocky was defending his World Heavyweight title for the sixth time. In front of a crowd of 61,574 in the Yankee Stadium, and another 320,000 watching on their television sets, he was knocked down to the canvas in the second round. But in true Marciano fashion, he recovered to win by knockout in round nine. He retired unbeaten and a champion.
Unlike many other boxers, Rocky didn’t spend his money or disappear off the face of the earth. Up until his untimely death in 1969, he’d mastered business, commentary and refereeing. Undoubtedly the most underrated boxer of all time, for his success from his first fight to his last, Rocky Marciano remains a true legend of the sport.
Zidane, what a nutter
There are few more ironic images, than that of Zinedine Zidane walking past the World Cup trophy while making his way down the tunnel after being sent off. The Frenchman’s irreprehensible action was more a bitter pill than a swan song, as it cost his nation the biggest prize in world football.
“A malicious headbutt against Marco Materazzi sealed his fate, and that of his nation.”
Zidane wasn’t originally meant to play in the world cup, having supposedly hung up his boots after his last campaign with Real Madrid in the summer of ’06. With players retiring en masse, Zidane was brought out of retirement and immediately made captain. The then 34 year old carried his team, sometimes single-handedly, to a place in the showpiece final.
The final itself exemplified Zidane. A chipped penalty against Buffon gave France a vital lead, before a moment of utter madness destroyed everything the Frenchman had worked for. A malicious headbutt against Marco Materazzi sealed his fate, and that of his nation.
Graeme swans home
Graeme Swann was the best English spin bowler in generations, as well as a highly entertaining persona on and off the field. Very few cricketers amused spectators like Swann managed to; fewer still have bid a more controversial retreat at the end of their career.
England were in shambles after the 3rd Test of the 2013/14 Ashes Series. Having already lost Jonathan Trott, and with Australia taking an unassailable 3-0 lead, England were showing signs of complete surrender to the Aussies. Amidst this, Swann, England’s only truly world-class spinner, decided enough was enough. With a lack of success in the first three tests (taking 7-560) he decided that he could no longer continue and promptly gave up, announcing his retirement four days before the 4th Test.
People will talk about the lack of unity within that England camp; however, this doesn’t provide sufficient explanation for taking the first plane home, with your back to your country, as the rest of your team suffer on. This was a series that needed the big names to show bottle; Swann, for all his ability, didn’t even stick around to carry the bottles.
Schools out for the class of ’92
The so-called ‘class of 92’ consisted of, arguably, five (or six if you can actually call Nicky Butt a footballer) of the greatest English footballers of all time, most certainly of their generation.
There is only one way to start, David Beckham. He is the standard globally, a standard none of us will ever hit, but the standard nonetheless. When possessed with a cannonball of a right foot like his, the other team may as well not turn up. Having played for Manchester United, Preston, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and later PSG, Beckham broke down in tears in his final game with most of the world crying with him.
The Neville brothers we won’t even mention because they don’t even come close to the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. Giggs was clearly designed to spread his wings and fly. Still, at coaching he’s technically not done but he was still loved by the United faithful when he finished to take up his coaching role. Also in the DNA is Paul Scholes, the ginger magician. Zinedine Zidane once saluted Scholes saying, “I don’t know how it feels to be the best midfielder in the world, ask Paul Scholes”.
“Beckham broke down in tears in his final game with most of the world crying with him.”
Finally comes the supreme leader and man who made them in his own image, Sir Alex Ferguson. Rumours have circulated that he used black magic to be as good as he was. Over the course of 25 years he steered Manchester United to a number of titles and still the stench of Sir Alex lingers over Old Trafford.