Ospreys Head Coach Lyn Jones has paid tribute to hooker Barry Williams after he announced his retirement from professional rugby today.
The 34 year old British Lion, who captained the region to their first silverware when they were crowned Celtic League champions in 2005, has been forced to hang up his boots after enduring an injury hit twelve months that has seen him go under the surgeon's knife on three separate occasions. Lyn Jones today hailed Williams contribution to the region's cause, calling him the "first Ospreys legend".
Williams underwent corrective surgery on his shoulder last summer, returning to action in the early stages of the current campaign, only to suffer a hip injury that required keyhole surgery in January, ruling him out of action for the season. He suffered a further blow earlier this month when he was forced to undergo a second shoulder operation after his old problem flared up again due to pressure on the shoulder caused by the use of crutches following his hip operation.
He has a further year remaining on his career but has opted to call time on his playing career now, rather than putting his body through any further trauma.
Although he will never pull on the Ospreys jersey again, he will not be turning his back on the Liberty Stadium for good, as he has accepted an invitation from bosses at the region to become the first Ospreys Ambassador, and will be a regular presence on a match day where he will entertain corporate guests. He commented:
"It's a very sad day for me, it's one that all professional sportsmen dread but unfortunately it seems that now is the appropriate time for me to hang up my boots. My body has been through a hell of a lot during my playing career and the wear and tear is finally catching up with me, I simply can't do another season. I have another year left on my career so I could have just sat on that and taken the wages for another twelve months but that goes against everything I believe in. I don't think I would be able to look people in the eye if I was doing that so I went to speak to Mike Cuddy and was honest about the whole situation.
I've enjoyed a fantastic career with plenty of highs that I'll be able to look back on, but undoubtedly, it's been an honour to have led the Ospreys during the early days. The future for the region looks very positive and the next generation of Ospreys is already coming through so I don't think the old man will be missed! I'd like to thank everybody at the Ospreys for everything that they have done for me, and wish them all the best for the future."
Williams has enjoyed a long and eventful career, playing for Llandovery, Llanelli, Neath, Richmond, Bristol, Swansea and the Ospreys. Capped 24 times Wales between 1996 and 2002, he scored 5 tries for his country and was also part of the 1997 British Lions squad that came back from South Africa victorious. Part of the first ever Ospreys squad in 2003, he took over the captaincy of the region midway through the first season following the retirement of Scott Gibbs and went on to become the first (and to date only) player to make 100 appearances for the region. In November 2006 he was part of the side that claimed a historic victory over Australia at the Liberty Stadium, scoring the Ospreys first try in a famous 24-16 win. His final record for the Ospreys is 8 tries in 101 appearances.
Ospreys Head Coach Lyn Jones said:
"Barry's retirement is a sad loss to the Ospreys and to Welsh rugby in general. In the short history of the region, Barry Williams thoroughly deserves to be recognised as the first Ospreys legend, not only as the first player to reach 100 appearances, but also for the inspirational way that he captained the Ospreys when we were in our embryonic stage. When things were getting tough and we weren't faring too well, Barry stood up to be counted and led by example, on and off the pitch.
As coaches, both myself and Sean Holley will forever be thankful for the way he carried out his duties, which helped to lay the foundations for what we have grown into since those tough early days."
Ospreys Managing Director Mike Cuddy added:
"Barry was a giant on the rugby pitch, and is no less of a leader away from it, so we are sad to see him having to retire. Now is the time to thank him for his sterling efforts for the region and to wish him and his family all the best for the future. We are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to become the first Ospreys Ambassador and look forward to his company on match days for a long time to come. As time goes by, he will joined by other ex-Ospreys as they reach the end of their playing days, but it seems particularly apt that Barry should receive the honour of becoming the first."
After calling time on his playing days, Barry will shortly be taking up the position of Key Accounts Manager with Parker Plant Hire in Llanelli.