Original Article – Bryan Kelly, Rugby Canada
Langford, BC – April 4, 2019: One of Canada’s all-time most inspirational players, Ray Barkwill is hanging up the boots. The 38-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ontario has defied the odds by playing some his best rugby late into his 30’s after winning his first cap at the age of 32. Since making his debut against Samoa in November 2012, Ray has played in an astounding 56 of Canada’s 61 test matches.
Barkwill has gladly stepped up as Captain of Canada when required, and has provided leadership for the entire men’s program on and off the field. Coaches and players alike will say that he’s one of the most dedicated and hardworking players
His career accolades include: three-time Canadian Rugby Championship winner with Ontario Blues, 5 test cap tries, Major League Rugby title with the Seattle Seawolves and winner of the 2017 Shield Award as Most Inspirational Player as awarded by members of Canada’s Men’s Team.
On behalf of Canadian Rugby, Rugby Canada would like to thank Ray for all that he’s done for the Maple Leaf and wish him all the best in life’s next chapter.
Official statement from Ray:
Today is a difficult day for me as I have to announce my retirement from rugby, effective immediately.
During our Rugby World Cup qualifying tournament last November in France I sustained a brachial plexus injury that has kept me from training and competing since it happened. Over the last few months, I have consulted with Rugby Canada’s medical staff, coaches and team doctors around rehab and recovery, and we came to the mutual agreement that it is not in my best interest to continue. My long-term health and wellness must be my main priority at this time.
This is an emotional announcement for me. Over the last 10 years I have tried to represent my club, family, friends and country with a high level of professionalism and over the last four years I have done everything I can to help Canada qualify for the upcoming World Cup in Japan and to live out a lifelong dream to play against New Zealand.
I am grateful for the unbelievable opportunities that rugby has given me in life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to earn 56 test caps for my country, to win three Canadian Rugby Championships with the Ontario Blues, compete at a Rugby World Cup, Captain Canada’s Men’s Team, fly all around the world and to win a Major League Rugby Championship title with the Seattle Seawolves while meeting countless amazing people along the way.
I would like to thank my family and friends, along with all the people and clubs who supported me over the years. A special thank you to my partner Laura Russell, who has been here through it all, I love you. Thank you to my Canada Coaches Kieran Crowley, Mark Anscombe and Kingsley Jones who saw me as a player not an age. I enjoyed all of it and learned so much over my tenure.
In closing, it was a dream-come-true to be capped for Canada as it was my goal since learning to play in high school. To earn it at 32 years old allowed me to appreciate it more than ever and I never would have guessed that I’d play over 50 times for Canada. Every time I put on the Canadian jersey I get emotional and I can say that I never took it for granted. I hope that I have left the jersey in a better place than when I first received it. I will be the first person to cheer on Canada this fall in Japan and know that my friends and former teammates are going to rise the challenge!
Ray Barkwill (aka La Flama Blanca)
BEST JOB I’VE EVER HAD!
Rugby Canada Chairman Tim Powers
“Ray Barkwill is one of a kind. To achieve what he did as an older player speaks to his impressive determination, ” stated Tim Powers Chair of the Rugby Canada Board of Directors. “He always lead with a smile, despite being occasionally mischievous, never leaving anything on the field.”
Coach Kingsley Jones:
“It’s disappointing for Ray that he will no longer be available to the team and a big loss to us on and off the field. Ray has a fantastic character and truly epitomizes Canadian Rugby. After winning his first cap at 32, Ray has only gotten better as his career has gone on. He is a great example for people not to give up their dreams because of age. It was evident to everyone in the team how much the jersey meant to him each time he pulled it on, he always made it clear he wasn’t going to give up his spot easily. I wish him all the best and I’m sure Ray will be involved in rugby in some capacity moving forward.”
“Ray is a true professional and one of the most passionate players I’ve ever seen put on the Canadian jersey. To win your first cap at 32-years-old and continue to get better as your career goes on is astounding and a true example of his character. Its been a pleasure playing alongside Ray with Canada and the Seawolves and I will definitely miss him as a teammate. I know the future is bright for Ray in whatever he chooses to do.”