Morgan forced to retire after his knee problem
OLLY Morgan has been forced to admit defeat in his 21-month fitness battle, retiring in his 10th season at Kingsholm.
The 27-year-old full-back has found it hard to accept he will never play again, after long-standing and complex knee trouble.
Conceding his "body wasn't built for rugby", Morgan said his enforced retirement has been all-but inevitable for some time.
Morgan will assume a role in Gloucester's backroom staff, assisting Alex Brown with recruitment and Pete Buxton with academy coaching.
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The RFU level three-qualified coach will also start a two-year Open University leadership and management degree.
"Immensely proud" of his relentless fight to make a playing return, Morgan believes the mental strength he has gained through injury hardship will stand him in fine stead for the future.
Morgan tore knee ligaments in Gloucester's 21-15 Premiership defeat at Worcester on Saturday, January 7, 2012.
Lateral collateral and anterior cruciate ligament tears were serious enough, but Morgan had also ruptured the popliteus – the muscle that locks and unlocks the knee joint – the posterolateral chamber and the biceps tendon. The two-cap England full-back had hardly recovered from a freak shoulder dislocation in Gloucester's 41-41 draw at Leicester Tigers in April 2011 when long-term injury struck again.
His initial recovery prognosis after knee surgery was six months – but three-quarters of the way through that rehabilitation an infection and two further operations left him starting from scratch. Not even a trip to renowned knee rehabilitation expert Bill Knowles in Vermont could help Morgan make a playing return.
When operating surgeon Andy Williams gave his professional opinion that Morgan could not play again, the former Millfield School pupil admitted it was effectively inevitable – but still a shock.
Fearless under the high ball and in contact, Morgan knows he threw himself into trouble at times – but would not have it any other way.
He explained: "I could probably say my body wasn't built for rugby, and sometimes the way I played the game wasn't the most sensible, but that's me, that's how I am, that's how I've always been.
"And I wouldn't change a thing. In whatever you do you've got to have that competitive edge, whether in training or in matches.
"I'm ridiculously competitive, and you've got to be to be successful.
"Hopefully I can take that forward and channel it into what I do next.
"It's been a gradual thing, the infection really did hit home thinking, 'actually it's not just about rugby, it's about health, after rugby, being able to walk'.
"That was my primary goal.
"When you get through your rehab and you work hard, and you start to jog and do some strength exercises you then think you're not a million miles away.
"There were so many ups and downs, and when I was still getting discomfort, going to see Andy Williams, that was the time I realised.
"Him saying 'in my opinion I don't feel you can continue to play professional rugby', that's where it hit home.
"It's been gradual, but there's still a clear point where you think you can't cope any more.
"Every operation you go into you're told there is a risk of infection.
"I was three-quarters of the way through my rehab, and then to start from scratch, that was probably the toughest part.
"It was basically having the operation done again, exact details aside.
"Mentally that was extremely tough. Those closest to me know how hard it's been.
"And that's where you realise it's agonisingly difficult to take to retire, but I feel I've come out of it a better person, so you've got to take the positives out of it."
Relieved to have made a final decision on his future and to be able to move forward, Morgan still lamented the fact he will never again experience that Kingsholm atmosphere from centre-field. He continued: "Gloucester is such a passionate, traditional club that you sometimes can't escape rugby.
"So you want to have an answer to the questions, you want to say everything's alright, but actually now the fact I've had that closure and can't continue, and retirement is here, it's easier. I can speak openly now, and it's no longer something I want to put off, because it's all resolved.
"I'm immensely proud of how hard I've worked to try to get back.
"I'm coming to terms with it, but it's still hard, I run the water at the weekends, being part of that atmosphere, in front of that amazing crowd, it's still hard to realise you'll never do that again.
"Even though I have known for a little while this day would come, you still think to yourself 'what next', and it is daunting. Every player has to make that decision at some point; mine has just come sooner than some others.
"Rugby is getting way more brutal, retirements are being announced more and more frequently. It was inevitable, but ultimately I've got to look forward to what comes next and focus on the fut- ure.
"When I came back from seeing Bill, he had pictured out how many weaknesses there were.
"I had got a great amount of work done, but there was still a lot to improve.
"And that was all in a controlled environment, and when you go out of control, in matches, that's when your knee has to react to things you're not used to.
"I know that's something I wouldn't have been able to do, and the week on week intensity of games and training, there's just no way it would have worked.
"While this has been gutting, this is a new start and I'm really looking forward to the next chapter."