Welsh side Cardiff Blues have confirmed that gargantuan number eight Nick Williams has retired following a 16-year professional career.
The talismanic back-rower hangs up his giant boots following four seasons at the Arms Park, where he has earned cult hero status. During that time Williams has made 77 appearances, scored 13 tries and played an inspirational role in the 2018 European Challenge Cup success.
Williams joined Cardiff Blues from Ulster in 2016, and previously enjoyed stints with Aironi and Munster after starting his career in New Zealand with the Blues and North Harbour.
He had hoped to bid farewell to the Arms Park faithful on the pitch but remains immensely grateful for every opportunity he has had to pull on the jersey.
Williams said: “It’s sad not to have had one last run out at the Arms Park but with Covid-19, and everything that has come with it, there have been much bigger things to worry about. It is what it is.
“I have been blessed to play this game for so long and could never have imagined I would be a professional for 16 years and travel to so many brilliant places around the world.
“When I arrived in Cardiff, I knew this would be my last club and I have tried to make the most out of every singled minute. It has been a really special time and the welcome my family received has been unbelievable.
“Winning the European Challenge Cup a couple of years ago is an obvious highlight but I will also just miss the day to day and being with the boys around the place.
“I am so grateful and have nothing but love for everyone at the Arms Park, from teammates and coaches, to the brilliant staff and sponsors, who have also been great to me, and of course the awesome fans. It has been a hell of a ride and I’m grateful to all the teams I have been part of.
“If I could carry on playing then I would but the game has taken its toll and my wife has already sacrificed so much. I’m now looking forward to the next chapter with my family.
“We are settled here now, this is our home and I’m looking forward to sharing a beer with some of the supporters on the terrace when we get back to the Arms Park.”
— Nick Williams (@nick8williams) August 5, 2020
Williams, who was born in Auckland but of Samoan descent, played rugby league through his youth and switched to union late. He was taken under the wing of Mark Anscombe and quickly progressed to North Harbour and Blues honours.
The 36-year-old played 37 Super Rugby games for the Blues and earned four Junior All Blacks caps before making the move to Europe.
He spent two years at both Munster and Aironi, before reuniting with Anscombe at Ulster where he spent four successful seasons and was named PRO14 Player of the Year in 2013.
Williams, who was renowned for his devastating ball carrying, soft hands and breakdown ability, quickly established himself as a key figure both on and off the pitch at the Arms Park and was named the Peter Thomas Player of the Year in 2018.
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill has led the tributes to the number eight and believes he has made an invaluable contribution to the region.
Mulvihill said: “Nick has been an enormous figure for us both on and off the field and will be missed by all of us at the Arms Park.
“His qualities on the pitch have always spoken for themselves, he is a big and physically imposing player but also possesses a quality skill set that defies his size and is very good over the ball.
“What people don’t always see is the leadership and cultural drive that he brings to our environment each and every day.
“He has been a great servant to Cardiff Blues and has had a major influence on the entire squad. We now wish Nick and has family all the very best for the future and look forward to welcoming them back to the Arms Park when some kind of normality returns.”