Canberra - Brumbies loose forward Ita Vaea has made the decision to retire from rugby, effective immediately, due to ongoing health issues regarding his heart.
Vaea left the field in the Brumbies' match against the Chiefs on April 2, and after doctor’s recommendations, ended his career on Monday.
The 27-year-old said he has made this decision to benefit himself and his family.
“I am extremely disappointed to be retiring today, under these circumstances,” Vaea told the Brumbies' official website.
“It has truly been an honour to represent the Brumbies over the past five years.
“While my playing career has now ended, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met and shared experiences with special players and coaches who I can call lifelong friends.
“It will be hard watching the boys run out, but I know that this is the best decision for myself and my family.
“Coming back from this last time was something I never thought I could achieve. I am so blessed that I was given a second opportunity. Now I have to concentrate on the next chapter in my life.
“While I am not sure what is in store for the future, I know that the lessons I have learnt in rugby will serve me well.
“It is an incredible game, has given me so much more than I could have ever dreamed and I will miss it immensely.
“Thank you to everyone who has made it such a special journey.”
Vaea has battled the condition for several years and was forced to give up rugby to concentrate on medical treatment for life-threatening blood clots in 2012.
Following scans, Vaea was placed on blood-thinning medication and had his physical activity limited. He missed the 2013 and 2014 Super Rugby seasons.
Through two years of treatment he never gave up his dream of returning to Super Rugby and in round one of the 2015 competition, Vaea earned a spot on the bench for the Brumbies’ match against the Reds.
From there, he became one of the most damaging ball-runners in the competition and played a leading role in the Brumbies run to the 2015 Super Rugby finals series.
His good form continued into the 2015 National Rugby Championship, where he was rewarded with the UC Vikings Player’s Player and the Rugby Union Players’ Association Player of the Year Awards. Two awards which show how highly valued Vaea is by his peers.
In 2016, Vaea has scored one try (v Cheetahs) in three appearances and ran for 63 metres from 28 carries. He also came up with two turnovers and made 15 tackles.
Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham said Vaea informed his Brumbies team-mates of his decision to retire at training on Monday.
“He is one of the most respected players from both his teammates and staff,” said Larkham.
“His determination to return to rugby after the initial diagnosis shows his true character.
“He took part in last week’s Wallabies camp in Sydney, which shows you that he is currently regarded as one of the nation’s top players.
“We will definitely miss Ita’s contribution as a Brumbies player, but understand that there are much more important things in life than Rugby.
“Ita has been a huge part of the Brumbies family over the past five years and it has been a pleasure to work with such an outstanding player.
“He has overcome the odds once before and we know he has made the right decision for himself and for the people closest to him.”
Vaea finishes his career with 48 Super Rugby caps and six tries (30 points). He made his debut against the Chiefs in 2011 at GIO Stadium in Canberra and is Brumby No 133.
The Brumbies will honour Vaea’s rugby career at an upcoming home match. Details will be released at a further date.