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Former Crusader forced to retire at 29 due to neck injury - 'Decision is out of my hands'

Former Canterbury and Crusaders player Tyler Bleyendaal has been forced to retire at 29 due to a neck injury.

Tyler Bleyendaal in action for the Crusaders in 2012. Source: Photosport

Bleyendaal, who left the Crusaders after the 2014 season to join Irish heavyweights Munster, announced this morning he was hanging up his playing boots on medical advice.

“It has been very tough to admit the fact that I’m retiring from rugby,” Bleyendaal said in a statement.

“But the decision is out of my hands now. It’s a medical decision, and it’s the right decision.

“It doesn’t make it any easier because rugby is a massive part of my life, but I do know that I gave it absolutely everything.

“It’s the reason Laura and myself moved over to Ireland, literally the other side of the world, and I know I’ve been privileged to play for 10 years in professional rugby.”

The former Baby Blacks representative hadn’t played rugby since last November and had a history of neck injuries. He said the extended break due to the Covid-19 pandemic helped him put things in perspective.

“It has to end at some point and unfortunately it wasn’t on my terms, but I’ve had the ability over lockdown to plan for the future and spend a lot of time with my family at home so there have been some pros to the timing,” he said.

“The cons are that I’m away from my teammates and the guys that I’ve spent a lot of time with. I definitely miss those guys and the in-person relationships but at the same time, there is a lot to look forward to. It might just require a bit of patience until we find out what that is and when it can happen.

“I’m very grateful for all the experiences that I’ve had, the friendships and the relationships that I’ve made over my time.”

The Christchurch native said it had been a privilege to play at a club with such passion.

“My wife Laura and I have been set up here in Limerick for over five years. We have a son, Bodhi, who just turned two, and we’ve another one on the way in a few months. We plan on being around for the coming period and once rugby resumes, I’d love to be around to go watch a game as a spectator and say my goodbyes in person.”

Bleyendaal played at first-five and second-five for Munster in his five years at the club, captaining them 11 times.

Before that, he made 33 appearances for Canterbury from 2011-2014 and earned 20 Super Rugby caps with the Crusaders.