Wilson to take a break from rugby
May 21, 2000

Star All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson announced today he was taking a break from all levels of rugby because he was no longer able to dedicate himself to the sport.

"I'm not saying I'm retiring, all I'm saying is that I want a bit of space and time to myself to pursue other things in my life," Wilson, 26, said in a statement. "Rugby has been a big part of my life and I'm grateful for the opportunities I have been given.

"It has been a privilege to play for New Zealand. There is no higher honour and I have the utmost respect for the All Black jersey. But at this stage, I do not want to be considered for selection for the All Blacks," Wilson said.

His decision rules him out of the forthcoming Tri-Nations series against Australia and South Africa in July. Wilson said the death of his father Bill two years ago had affected his game and was one of the reasons he would now mothball his career.

"I need the time to come to terms with that and with what I want to do with the rest of my life. My father always advised me that I had to totally commit myself to whatever sport I was playing and that I had to enjoy it. I feel I can't fully follow that advice at the moment."

Wilson said he had no plans to leave his southern home town of Dunedin, nor had he decided to resume his cricket career.

"All I want is to be away from the limelight for a while and I hope people can understand my personal position and respect my privacy."

The double international last played cricket for New Zealand in a 1993 four-match series against Australia. The then 19-year-old stole the hearts of New Zealand sports fans with a match-winning innings of 44 not out in the third match of the series.

But nine months later he was picked for the All Blacks and the advent of professional rugby, with its much longer playing season, forced him to choose between the sports.
He has played 54 Tests for the All Blacks, scoring 39 tries, and has been rated by former All Blacks coach John Hart as the best rugby player in the world.

Wilson announced his move after a disappointing Super 12 performance on Saturday by his side the Otago Highlanders, a game marked by his own indecisive play and a lack of discipline from the team as a whole which saw them concede six penalties. The Highlanders bowed out of the tournament, losing 37-15 to the Canterbury Crusaders who will now defend their title against the ACT Brumbies at Bruce Stadium in Canberra next weekend.

New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) chief executive David Rutherford wished Wilson well for his break from the game and said his enormous contribution would be missed.

"Jeff has been a great servant of the game and his on and off field contributions will be missed," Rutherford said. "He always wore the All Black jersey with pride and accepted unquestioningly the responsibilities involved in representing his country. His decision to take a break at this time is consistent with those values.

"Naturally we hope that he decides at some stage to return to the game, but accept that is a personal decision for Jeff."

Brought to you by AAP

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