Rugby Union

Former Wallaby Dan Palmer lost passion for rugby, then weight

Dan Palmer has shed 20kg since retiring from rugby this year.
Dan Palmer has shed 20kg since retiring from rugby this year. Photo: Rohan Thomson

He was once a debt collector and a feared scrumming prop described as one of the toughest in Super Rugby, but former Wallaby Dan Palmer has shed 20 kilograms since his shock retirement, admitting he lost passion for the game less than two years after his Test debut.

The 26-year-old walked away from his rugby career this year, deciding to turn his attention to a science and psychology degree after a stint with French club Grenoble.

A bulked-up Dan Palmer, at his playing peak for the Wallabies in 2012.
A bulked-up Dan Palmer, at his playing peak for the Wallabies in 2012. 

But Palmer hasn't turned his back on rugby, taking up specialist coaching roles with the ACT Brumbies and the Canberra Vikings as a scrum expert.

But Palmer said he was ready to move into the next stage of his life, dropping plenty of weight and looking a shadow of the scrum expert that played for the Wallabies in 2012.

"Retiring from professional rugby is not a decision I made lightly," Palmer said.

"Although ongoing injuries were a part, I would say they were not the primary reasons I made the call to stop playing.

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"My passion for playing the game just isn't where it used to be and I'm not prepared to dedicate such a large portion of my time to something I was beginning to not enjoy."

Palmer's retirement was low key and went relatively unnoticed despite his standing in the game.

Palmer left the Brumbies after the Super Rugby final in 2013 to join Grenoble. A persistent foot injury limited his playing time and Palmer decided to quit rugby.

Slimming down wasn't a problem. He topped out at 117 kilograms in France but is now down to 97kg.

"I always struggled to maintain body weight when I was playing, so taking it off was quite simple actually," Palmer said.

"I have taught myself to only eat my share. I figure, if you're treating yourself like a farm animal and eating or drinking out of a bucket then you're probably doing something wrong."

Palmer has immersed himself in university life, studying full-time at ANU and juggling his degree with a scrum coaching role.

Palmer was also approached to be the Gungahlin Eagles new head coach, but time constraints will limit him to an assistant role.

He said he didn't miss playing rugby, "but I've been tempted to jump in during scrum sessions".

"I think what I miss is the mateship ... this is something I can maintain through coaching," Palmer said.

"The last few years certainly have been crazy. If I were to sum it up I would say I have been extremely lucky to have had the opportunities that I have, playing for the Brumbies and Wallabies was incredible on so many levels.

"Having the opportunity to embed myself in French culture and remove myself from my comfort zone was absolutely transformative and gave the chance to step back and work out what I really want."

Palmer said his university degree offered a new challenge as he steps into a post-playing career.

"Coaching is a new challenge that I am really enjoying – it forces you to see and think about the game in a unique way," Palmer said.

"Uni is incredible. It is a completely unique environment of ideas and weird and wonderful people. It's completely new to me and I'm settling in fine."