Rugby: Cornish All Blacks star Mike Rawlings forced to retire at 25 because of serious eye injury
CORNISH All Blacks back rower Mike Rawlings has been forced to retire from the game at the age of only 25, due to a serious eye injury.
The former Cornish Pirates Academy forward took a blow to the head in the National Two South game at Hartpury College on January 11.
His full vision failed to recover after that incident, but he played two weeks later away at Bishop's Stortford.
However, he then got himself checked out, and the scale of the damage became apparent, leaving him with no other decision to make.
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"It came as a bit of a shock," explained Rawlings, who played more than 120 games for the All Blacks over a seven-year period.
"If I had caught it a lot earlier, there would have been a chance of playing again, but a few of the detachments moved to the centre part of my eye, and started affecting my vision, so unfortunately I have had to hang up my boots.
"Almost a month ago I took a whack on the head against Hartpury. It was a standard hit to the head really which left both of my eyes blurry.
"But as time went on, a little spot of vision in my eye was constantly blurry, and the Launceston physio told me to go straight to the opticians, and before I knew it I was in hospital and having surgery.
"It was a detached retina and they believe that playing rugby over the space of a few months has caused the problem, and there were seven detachments in total.
"It came down to my eyesight or rugby, and my eyesight is a little bit more important!"
"When you hang up your boots, you want it to be on your terms, so it is frustrating, but I am planning on staying in the game and doing a bit of coaching."
Rawlings, the younger brother of All Blacks assistant coach Tom, did not experience a promotion campaign during his career at Polson Bridge but says there have still been plenty of moments to savour.
"It has been a privilege playing with and against all the players that I have, and most of all I can't forget the coaches I have been coached by," said Rawlings to Guardian Sport.
"A lot of the guys I was lucky enough to play with at Truro College have come up through the ranks with me and I am still playing at national league level with them, and that has been one of the most satisfying parts of my playing career – staying with that group of friends I made at a young age and being able to play right the way through to senior rugby with those guys. That has probably been the highlight.
"Playing in the same team as my brother has also been great, and captaining the All Blacks."
In addition, Rawlings has been a star performer for the Cornwall county team, racking up ten appearances between 2008 and 2012.
"I didn't make it to Twickenham last year due to injury, but apart from playing for your country, representing Cornwall is the biggest honour. Being a Cornish boy, it is quite a proud moment when you pull on that shirt."
Rawlings has already got involved in the coaching side of the game, helping to look after Cornwall Under-20s for the past two seasons, and he is hoping to expand that side of the sport, now that his playing days are over.
"Tom has taken a bit of a backward step from the Under-20s this year, so myself, Ian Morgan and Bryn Jenkins have been doing it and it has been really good, and with the group of guys we have got this year, we are really hoping to push for Twickenham," he said.
"I definitely want to stay around Launceston, so if I can get a coaching role there and be part of the set-up somehow, I would definitely like it."