Just days after Bay of Plenty lock Baden Wardlaw announced his retirement from rugby, the Blues have called on his teammate to fill his space in the squad for their 2020 Super Rugby campaign.
Bay of Plenty Steamers and Mount Maunganui lock Aaron Carroll has been added to the Blues 2020 roster. The 26-year-old comes in for fellow Bay of Plenty lock Wardlaw, who was forced to retire from the sport on medical grounds.
It was Carroll's high work rate, physical, mobile and character that helped his selection.
Wardlaw, 29, had signed his first Super Rugby contract with the Auckland-based Blues, ready to make his debut next season. Medical checks found he had three fused vertebrae in his neck, a life-threatening condition he was born with, which meant if he suffered a knock in the wrong place he would die.
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The gut-wrenching and career-ending news meant his dream of playing professional rugby was over before it started.
Carroll played on loan for Thames Valley in 2017 before being selected to the Bay of Plenty Steamers in 2018. He has 21 caps for the Bay in two seasons and was part of the side's senior leadership group.
"It's a bit of a whirlwind few days. The first thing I did was to call Baden," Carroll says.
"I was really gutted for him. But he told me to go for it and that he was thrilled I got the call-up."
Carroll was voted the Chiefs Development team player of the year.
Blues high performance manager Tony Hanks says Carroll is an admirable replacement for Wardlaw.
"We've looked closely at targeting players with high work rate, physical, mobile and great character for our team. Aaron fits that group and along with Baden was a key part of the Bay of Plenty front five this year."