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Clyde Rathbone: contemplating my next move

Clyde Rathbone: 'I’ve been thinking about my values, what’s really important to me and why?'

Clyde Rathbone: 'I’ve been thinking about my values, what’s really important to me and why?'

As I approach the end of my rugby career, I’ve been thinking a lot about ego and how it shapes decisions. I’ve been thinking about my values, what’s really important to me and why?

At some point, every athlete must decide how to exit their sport and enter ''the real world''. That is if injury doesn't make the decision for them.

I’ve retired before, in 2009, when my knees wouldn't allow me to compete at the highest level. I got a second chance last year, my body rested, and my enthusiasm revived by the opportunity to return to the Brumbies. My decision to attempt a comeback was all about stepping out of my comfort zone and testing myself.

While a hamstring injury has sidelined me for most of this season, I'm now back running and available for selection from next week. But, in my last contracted year with the Brumbies, where to from here?

A popular option in rugby is what’s become known as a ''dash for cash'' to well-paid retirement homes in Japan or France. This path allows players in the twilight of their careers to maximise earning capacity.

At 32, it seems like the smart option. But I can’t shake the feeling that such a dash could cost me opportunities far greater than first meets the eye.

I’ve learnt to value experiences in terms of personal growth, rather than financial gain. In a culture that places an inordinate importance on status and possessions, this kind of wisdom is often hard-earned.

I’m reminded of this whenever I see children grab at the candle flame or take their umpteenth tumble. Children live one second at a time, and their incredible rate of development appears built on a fearless appetite for failure.

Then we become adults with a sense of self and brittle egos in need of constant shelter. 

Perhaps instead of the comfort and security of a well-paid dash for cash, I should grab at the flame and risk getting burnt. Perhaps there’s more to life than yens and euros.

Our ego underpins so much of our decision-making. Where we work, which house, in which suburb, what we drive, where we eat, what we wear. Children appear far too sensible to care about this nonsense, yet as adults we spend countless hours transfixed by these meaningless choices.

Indeed, ours is a society that lauds knights and dames, as if these titles were anything but absurd anachronisms representing values adrift from real meaning.

My good mate and former Brumby Dan Palmer is set to retire at 25. Not so long ago he was an Australian Wallabies representative. After a year-long sojourn in France, Dan’s priorities have changed. He's going to go to university, trading lacing up his boots for opening up his mind. Many people will fail to understand his decision. I won't.

My rugby career has progressed from a barefoot under-10s player in South Africa to the Australian Wallabies and now, to a second-string Super Rugby player.

This journey has had the invaluable effect of disconnecting who I am from what I do. But I’m concerned by a culture that insists professional athletes are important people.

We aren’t. Never have been. And we’re paying a high price for thinking otherwise.

Inflated self-importance and a desire for fame diminishes our ability to take the path less travelled. Thus robbing us of life’s great mysteries and the discoveries they make possible.

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