Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Unlucky Ben Henry forced into retirement

Ben Henry scores a try for the Warriors. Photo / File
Ben Henry scores a try for the Warriors. Photo / File

Ben Henry will go down as one of the unluckiest players in New Zealand league history.

The Warriors back-rower announced his retirement from the sport today after a succession of major knee injuries over four seasons.

The 24-year-old tore his ACL twice, in 2013 and 2015, then in the opening game of this year suffered a patella injury to the same (left) knee. The final straw was another serious setback suffered in the gym two months ago, after he was making steady progress in his rehabilitation.

"It was a tough decision to make," Henry told Radio Sport. "Over the past three years I've had knee surgery after knee surgery. After I did it for the second time this year I thought, 'if my knee can't handle doing rehab in the gym, there is no way it could handle an NRL game'.

"My mind is willing but, physically, I don't think my body can handle it. It's also a decision I've made so I'm able to run around with my kids when they grow up."

With all his time off the field in recent seasons - he played only 30 minutes this year and 160 in 2015 - Henry has become one of the forgotten men at the Warriors.

Henry made a club record 64 appearances in the NYC competition, captaining that side to premiership wins in 2010 and 2011. He was elevated to the NRL squad in 2012, and his potential was underlined by Brian McClennan's decision to throw him straight into the unfamiliar centre position, where he was an ever-present during that difficult season.

Henry's best campaign was 2014, when he was a key part of the Warriors' impressive mid-season run and also made his Kiwis debut. He could play anywhere in the backrow or centre and even filled in at hooker. Henry had an eye for the tryline, averaging almost a try every three matches, and was a solid defender. He was also seen as a future Warriors captain.

"It's been really hard but I'm at peace with it now and looking forward to the next chapter of my life," said Henry. "When you are young you think you are bullet-proof but, unfortunately for me, I've realised how human I am and how much my knee just can't put up with the rigorous activities on the footy field. I'm happy but sad at the same time but I just have to get on with it."

Henry is likely to stay on at Mt Smart and is in discussions about a football-related role with the club in the development area.

Henry has been well prepared for life after sport, completing certificates in electrical engineering, small business and computer servicing as well as being an NRL education ambassador in 2013 and 2014 and a NRL State of Mind ambassador in 2015.

- NZ Herald

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