Simon Whatling has announced he is to retire from competitive rugby from the end of the current season.
After four years with Blackheath, and a career that has seen the fly-half and inside-centre grace both Premiership and Championship, the 32-year old has decided to step away from the field of play.
‘It’s been a fantastic fourteen years that many can only dream about,’ said Simon who has been a mainstay of the Blackheath side for 55 consecutive appearances.
‘If I pushed myself I’ve no doubt I’ve another season in me, but rugby at this level calls for a lot of sacrifice, not just from me but from those close to me. You get to a point a point when you need to start putting family and friends first and the time feels right.’
Growing up in Devizes, Simon excelled at numerous sports, including tennis and football which he played at county level, and in particular cricket. As a promising wicket-keeper/batsman he played minor county cricket for Wiltshire, had trials for Hampshire and Somerset, and represented West of England alongside the likes of Samit Patel, James Hildreth and Alastair Cook.
Nevertheless, despite remaining passionate about the summer game, and continuing to follow the fortunes of his former teammates, it was his time spent at Bath Rugby Academy, during which he represented England at U16 and again at U21 level, that shaped his career towards the oval ball.
Signing for Premiership side Worcester Warriors in 2004, Simon remained in the West Midlands for three years before moving to Cornish Pirates for two seasons. He then progressed to London Welsh with whom he won promotion in 2012, enjoying a further season in English rugby’s top flight, before accepting an offer to join Blackheath as a semi-professional in tandem with roles as assistant backs coach and heading up the Club’s new Academy.
His first campaign in National League One saw him make 27 appearances, mainly in the pivotal fly-half role, collecting 123 points as the Club’s highest scorer, including two tries, along the way, and although a shoulder operation limited him to just seven games in the 2014/15 season, he has since remained ever-present, playing either outside-half or inside-centre (and more recently at scrum-half!), but always in the thick of the action, orchestrating the back-line, and assuming goal-kicking duties when required.
Now though, just short of 100 Club appearances, he has decided to draw stumps, at least on his playing days.
‘It’s been a rollercoaster with some great highs,’ continued Simon.
‘I’ve made some great friends along the way and had terrific support from many people, especially my parents who used to ferry me to and from Chippenham RFC when I first started out, and more latterly from Emily,’ (Simon’s wife whose own job as a physiotherapist frequently takes her out of the country with numerous sporting sides – when she is not looking after the couple’s three-year old son Henry).
‘But I’d like thank everyone who’s played a part along the way, not only the players, coaches and physios, but also all the unsung volunteers who make such a huge effort, just to get a team out on the pitch.’
‘The Club’s been through a transitional period, but thanks to a lot of hard work it’s in good shape and I’m looking forward to spending my Saturday’s watching from the stands and sharing a few drinks with everyone.’