After a career spanning more than a decade in sky blue, NSW Waratahs Hooker, Damien Fitzpatrick has officially announced his retirement from professional rugby.
Contracted until the end of the original 2020 Super Rugby season, Fitzpatrick has decided that the time is right for him to step aside and begin the transition into life post rugby, calling time on a career that began in at the Waratahs in 2008.
NSWRU General Manager of Rugby, Tim Rapp said that Fitzpatrick’s selfless decision would allow the next generation of Waratah to begin their transition into professional rugby.
“There’s no doubting Fitzy has the ability to compete at this level and continuing playing, we’ve seen the contribution he’s made over the last few seasons since returning from France,” Rapp said.
“The positive influence he’s had on his teammates and the way he’s led and encouraged our younger players has been invaluable to the collective growth of our group”
“He’s an impressive character who has overcome plenty of adversity to forge a fantastic career, and I know he excited to sink his teeth into life post rugby and develop his health business, which we’re already proud to have an association with here at NSW Rugby.”
Fitzpatrick will focus his immediate attention toward his own venture, Bondi Vite – a vitamin and wellness company – that already well-established in Australia and Asia, coming on board as an official supplier of NSW Rugby’s Super Rugby, Super W and Academy programs in early-2020.
The 73-cap Waratah said that while it was an emotional decision to bring an end to his career now, the timing was right and in the best interest of the Waratahs and the young hookers within the squad.
“Entering into this Super Rugby season, I was treating it as though there was a high possibility it would be my last. Ideally, it would have been nice to play out a regular season and sign off that way before finishing but that’s life.” Fitzpatrick said.
“With all that has transpired with this pandemic [COVID-19] and the nature of my contract period, I felt it was appropriate to call stumps on my playing time. I am excited about what lies ahead for me personally and I think the timing will benefit the team and organisation. It will give an opportunity to our younger hookers to show off their talents and allow the Waratahs to prepare for the future.
“Throughout the backend of my career, I have been balancing a number of things outside of rugby. This COVID period has provided me with a semi soft landing as to what life after rugby might look like. While obviously a little scared, I am also really excited to focus all my energy into what lies ahead.”
“There is no doubt I am going miss playing rugby, the constant competing, being around team mates, great staff, touring, the list is endless. I owe so much to this organisation and this sport.
“Having the opportunity to be a Waratah and represent my home state of New South Wales is one of the great privileges of my life. I have shared the field with some of the greatest Waratahs in history and learnt and forged friendships with so many great people along the way.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank the NSW Waratahs and our supporters wholeheartedly.”
Fitzpatrick will continue in his role at President of the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) until the end of July when he’ll officially step down from the role he began in early-2018.
NSW Waratahs Head Coach, Rob Penney was full of praise for the departing Hooker.
“I’ve only been here for a short period, but Damien has been such an excellent contributor to our squad,” Penney said.
“He’s been an active part of our leadership group, imparting his experience and knowledge to our younger guys, and his ability to bring people together in a team environment is first class.”
Making his Super Rugby debut for his home state in 2009, Fitzpatrick was captain of the Australian schoolboys in 2007 and also captain of the Australian U20s for their Junior World Cup campaign in 2009.
A product of St Joseph’s College, Fitzpatrick spent five years at the NSW Waratahs – a stint that was punctuated by a run of season-ending injuries – before heading to Lyon in France for 3 years.
He helped the French-outfit win the Rugby Pro D2 competition twice – in 2014 and 2016 – to gain promotion to the country's Top 14 premier division.
Throughout his career Fitzpatrick grappled with injury on several occasions, ultimately undergoing a tibial osteotomy + knee reconstruction towards the end of his time in France – the only player in the world to return to play after the lengthy and complex surgery.
Fitzpatrick returned to the NSW Waratahs in 2017, playing out the remainder of his career whilst running his own business and serving as President of RUPA – a position he was voted into by his fellow players in Australia in 2018.
Debut: Round 6, 2009 v Crusaders