Cannon hangs up his boots on medical advice
April 17, 2007

Wallabies and Western Force hooker Brendan Cannon has announced his retirement from professional rugby after being advised he risked permanent damage to his spinal cord if he continued to play.

The decision brings to an end an illustrious career of representative football which began more than a decade ago with Queensland, and saw him move to New South Wales before becoming the inaugural signing of the Emirates Western Force.

The 34 year old also played 42 Tests for the Wallabies, his first against the British Lions in 2001 and his final cap against Italy in November last year.

Cannon said that once he received the final medical report from his specialist, Dr Quentin Malone, the decision to retire had been an easy one.

"I really didn't have any option," he said. "As much as I wanted to play on and represent the Emirates Western Force and the Wallabies, I really couldn't," Cannon said.

"It would have been very silly of me to tempt fate again, particularly with a much greater risk of permanent injury," he said.

"And, to be honest, I didn't want to jeopardize my future as a good husband and father, so the decision was really driven by my commitment to my family."

On Saturday 7 April, Cannon was stretchered from the ground and spent the night in Christchurch Public Hospital after a scrum collapse, in the match between the Force and the Crusaders at Jade Stadium, left him with weakness and numbness in his left arm.

The incident came almost a year to the day after a scrum malfunction in the match between the Force and the Highlanders in Dunedin left Cannon with a neck injury which required surgery, and kept him out of the game for more than four months.

Dr Malone said his advice against returning to the game followed a detailed study of his recent injury and an examination of Cannon's upper limb function and post-injury radiology.

"After recovering from a serious neck condition in 2006, Brendan sustained a new and serious injury to his neck and brachial plexus whilst playing in Christchurch earlier this month," Dr Malone said.

"The sudden forced flexion and rotation of his neck in combination with backward distraction of his left arm and shoulder resulted in a number of his spinal nerves and brachial plexus being injured," he said,

"Whilst I think it is likely that Brendan will fully recover from his most recent injury, he may not be so fortunate with the next."

"After careful deliberation, I advised Brendan that a return to rugby would have put his spinal function at risk and exposed him to further and possibly permanent spinal cord or nerve injury."

"Brendan appreciated the seriousness of his injury and the risks if he returned to the pitch."

Cannon said that while had recently committed to another year with the Emirates Western Force and had hoped to represent Australia at the 2007 World Cup, he had no regrets about the decision to retire.

"I feel very privileged to have competed at the elite level for so many years, and to have met and played with so many wonderful people," he said.

"I never really expected to play one Super game of rugby never mind 100, and the honour of wearing the Wallabies jersey will always stay with me," he said.

"I consider myself pretty lucky to have had so many amazing experiences, so it's not really a moment of sadness but one of celebration - of being grateful for the opportunities that came my way."

"Of course, I will miss the camaraderie and the mateship. I will miss the thrill of game day and singing the anthem before representing my country."

"And while I am sad that they will now become just memories, they will always be special moments that I can reflect on and, indeed, was privileged to have."

Cannon said being an inaugural Emirates Western Force squad member was also one of the highlights of his career and he hoped to stay involved with the club for at least the remainder of this year.

"Peter O'Meara, John Mitchell and the boys, we've all been building something pretty special there and I would like to continue to help in whatever way I can in the foreseeable future, at least," he said.

Cannon played for the Australian U19s and 21s, and made his debut for Queensland against La Plata in Argentina in 1994.

He made his Super 12 debut for the Reds in 1996 against the Blues at Ballymore, and notched up 19 caps for Queensland before joining the Waratahs, where he played 69 Super games.

Cannon became the first player to sign with the Emirates Western Force in April 2005, and in round three this year, against the Bulls, became just the 14th player in the competition's history to reach the milestone of 100 Super games. The match against the Crusaders was his 106th Super cap.

RugbyWA Chairman Geoff Stooke expressed disappointment that Cannon had decided to retire but believed it was the right decision for his family and future welfare.

"Brendan has been an outstanding ambassador for the game, at the national level and particularly in WA with the Emirates Western Force" he said.

"He has shown younger players how you can successfully mix rugby, family and a career. He will certainly be missed, as will Fiona and the family, and we wish them all the best."

RugbyWA Chief Executive Peter O'Meara applauded Cannon for his long and loyal service to the game, and thanked him on behalf of rugby fans across Australia.

"Brendan was a key signing for us in getting the Force off the ground and helped us put together a competitive squad of players. But he has been a wonderful rugby role model, both on and off the field," he said.

"He will be missed. But then, he's had a career others can only dream of."

Emirates Western Force Head Coach John Mitchell described Cannon as a leader whose direction and experience would be difficult to replace, but he praised him for his hard and uncompromising approach to the game.

"It would have been a tough call drawing the curtain on such a fine career. But Brendan has always been there for Australia and the Force, giving it his best. And if there was a way forward, Canno would have found it," he said.

"I hope he continues to have a role in rugby because I believe the game needs people like Brendan who have experience in both the professional and amateur eras."

"I wish him the very best in retirement. He's certainly earned it. But I believe it's the right decision."

"Of course, like everyone who has been with the team, he will always be a Force Man."

ARU Chief Executive and Managing Director Gary Flowers said he had spoken to Cannon last night and fully understood his decision.

"Nevertheless, it is a sad day for Australian Rugby because he has served it so well over the years," he said.

"I wish him well in the next phase of his life and hope he continues to play a contributing role in Australian Rugby."

ARU General Manager Rugby Pat Wilson said Cannon had been a terrific servant for not only the Wallabies but three Australian provinces - the Reds, Waratahs and as a foundation player for the Emirates Western Force.

"He has been an integral part of the Wallabies operations over the years and has consistently demonstrated both on and off the field the passion, drive and character it takes to be a Wallaby," he said.

Wallabies Head Coach John Connolly described Cannon as an inspirational player for not only the Wallabies but the Super rugby clubs he had served.

"His many years of experience and his undeniable talent brought a lot to the table," he said

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