Injury cursed Robinson calls it quits
October 30, 2007

As Keith Robinson sat on the sidelines of Cardiff's rugby citadel he sensed the end was nigh from both a personal and team perspective.

Thirty minutes after he was subbed for Chris Jack, the All Blacks' World Cup campaign duly ended in painful circumstances inside the Millennium Stadium.

And soon after his arrival home to Te Aroha the abrasive second rower realised his time was up as well.

A knee specialist, one with intimate knowledge of the injury-cursed Waikato enforcer, conveyed the dreaded, though not entirely unexpected "career-ending injury" diagnosis.

This time it was connected to his left knee, not the surgically enhanced back, the persistent calf muscle strain ...

Robinson, 30, announced his retirement from all levels of rugby today, ending an injury-jinxed career which enabled him to play just a dozen tests since his debut at Twickenham in November 2002.

He may have intimidated on the paddock with his rugged, rural persona but there was no keeping the surgeon at bay when the prospect of another Super rugby campaign was broached.

The prognosis was accepted graciously, hardly surprising given Robinson, the All Blacks management and his province all realised he had been playing on one leg since coming back from successive back surgeries in 2004.

"The knee has been managed for a little while now. I just had to think was it going to get through another campaign. I can't, the knee decided it for me recently," he said.

"I've seen a specialist and he's called it career-ending."

The quarterfinal exit to France was a sad note to end his career on but even before the Tricolores conjured up more sudden death heartache for the All Blacks, Robinson realised the Cup was probably the end of the road.

"I thought about it while I was over there," said Robinson, who had plenty of time for contemplation given his calf muscle strain.

"At the end of the Super 14 last year the knee was at a stage where I could have stopped then. But I wanted to stick around for the World Cup."

Ironically the controversial reconditioning period was mana from heaven for Robinson while the calf strain which surfaced during the warm-ups for the second French test in Wellington on June 9 was also a blessing of sorts.

"That break let the knee settle down but it was pretty evident after playing two games (against Romania and France) that there was no way I'd get through another campaign."

Robinson's injury woes in the capital neatly summed up his wretched experience with injury, though at least he got to the ground.

First selected by John Mitchell for the end of year tour in 2002, a largely second string squad before the "rotation" was in vogue, Robinson's intimidation factor and lineout expertise then caught Graham Henry's eye in 2004.

He played in the first tests of Henry's tenure against England and also the Pacific Islanders before his chronic back problems sidelined him for more than two years.

Robinson made a surprise comeback September last year, stunning all when he ran on to his beloved Waikato Stadium and he survived the remainder of the provincial season, celebrating the inaugural Air NZ Cup win the following month.

The morning after a tearful Robinson was back in black for the end of season tour to the Northern Hemisphere and despite his injury history Henry always had him in the frame for his World Cup squad.

Typically, given his medical case notes, Robinson featured in just four of a possible 14 tests this season -- a ratio that appropriately summed up his career in the top flight.

Still, as he retires to his gym in Te Aroha, Robinson expressed few regrets.

"I'm lucky to have had the career I've had. There's certainly some great memories. It's not the note I'd have wanted to finish on but I'll look back on more highs than lows."

And although rugby got the better of him in the end he'll still be walking tall, stalking the fringes of Waikato Stadium -- possibly in an official capacity.

The man responsible for making the All Blacks lineout calls when he was able expressed an desire to add impact from the sidelines.

"Coaching does appeal. I think I have a bit to offer a lineout," he said.

"It's something I'd like to get involved in at some stage."

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