07 March 2006Â
By TONY SMITH
Former All Blacks lock Norm Maxwell has confirmed he has retired from all rugby after returning from a stint in Japan.
The Crusaders original â€“ who turned 30 on Sunday â€“ said in Christchurch yesterday that retirement was "inevitable" after a spate of injuries had taken a toll on his body "for the last few years".
"It gets a lot harder when you can't give as much as you want to, so it's time to give up."
Maxwell, who visited his former Crusaders team-mates before last Saturday's 39-10 Super 14 win over the Blues, said he decided "around Christmas" not to return for a second season at the Ricoh club in Japan. But he had "pretty much decided before I went over there that it would be my last season".
The 1.98m, 108kg lock's commitment to the cause was unquestioned and at his peak he was one of the best lineout locks in the world.
Maxwell won the first of his 36 All Black caps in 1999 and bowed out on a high with a commanding performance in the side which beat France, 43-5 in Paris in 2004.
One of the modern game's great characters, Maxwell would probably have played many more but for a spate of leg injuries which led to muscle imbalance problems and forced him to reluctantly take off chunks of time in a couple of campaigns to rehabilitate in the gym.
AdvertisementAdvertisementAsked to name the highlight of his 11-year first-class career, Maxwell said: "All of it was an awesome experience ... four Super 12 victories, the Ranfurly Shield, going up to the first division with Northland.
"And the test matches are always going to be stand out in the mind. It was always a good buzz to run out there for your country."
Maxwell said 2004 â€“ when he and ex-All Black captain Anton Oliver were recalled to beef up a young pack â€“ was a special moment.
In a sense it was a form of closure because he had lost his All Black place through injury under former coach John Mitchell. Maxwell was not selected for the 2003 World Cup after being a virtual first-choice since the 1999 tournament.
"I wasn't in the frame and that was a frustrating way to leave (test rugby). It was nice to be able to get into it one more time and to play and enjoy it for what it was without the stress I felt when I was younger."
Born in Rawene in the Bay of Islands, Maxwell grew up in Whangarei and made his debut for Northland as a 19-year-old in 1995. "I started early and I guess I've finished early, by the sound of it.
"You really learn a lot about yourself from when you start. I've grown up doing it."
Maxwell came to Christchurch as a draft player at the start of the Super 12 in 1996 and then completed a transfer to play NPC for Canterbury from 1998.
Maxwell, who formed some superb locking partnerships over the years with fellow All Blacks Reuben Thorne, Todd Blackadder, Brad Thorn and Chris Jack, won every honour in the domestic game. He was a starter in four Super 12 final victories and was a non-playing reserve when the Crusaders completed a fifth last year.
He helped Canterbury win the 2001 and 2004 NPC titles and the Ranfurly Shield in 2000.
Maxwell was one of five former All Blacks who left the Crusaders after the 2005 triumph. He joined the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan, playing alongside former All Blacks Glen Osborne and Nathan Mauger. " I only played a couple of games in the end," he said. "I was out for three months with that cut arm (sustained in an accident after the Crusaders' Super 12 victory) and missed the first part of the season."
Maxwell said he would "spend this year travelling and doing a bit more self-discovery" before deciding his immediate future.
He could not guarantee he would not get the rugby bug again "watching the boys train or play". It was unlikely he would take up coaching soon and was unsure where he would settle, "although I really like the South Island". [/b]
in my opinion a great lock, never gave up and always put his body on the line. his career cut short by injuries but its his own fault for doing the r2k6 dive tackle every time