In his heyday, former lock Chris Jack was accustomed to being lifted in countless lineouts. These days, he's the one doing the heavy lifting.

The 35-year-old has taken up a building apprenticeship, a move which saw him hang up the boots after 14 years of professional rugby.

"It's rewarding but it's a big learning curve having not done much outside of school except professional rugby," Jack says.

Based in his adopted home of Nelson, Jack entered the construction industry with hopes of getting another profession under his belt before old-age crept in.


After a stint playing professionally in Japan during 2012, Jack was forced to re-evaluate his options after injuries and diminishing form got the better of him.

"I went and played in Japan. If I wasn't as broken down as I am and my children were a bit younger, we probably would have stayed there a bit longer."

On returning to New Zealand, he got in touch with Justin Candish from Scott Construction in Nelson and immediately began a two-month trial. After a successful few months, Jack was offered a permanent role and has been donning a tool belt ever since.

"My father and brother are both involved in the building industry and have done pretty well for themselves and are pretty happy with their jobs. I thought I'd give it a go and found I really enjoy it. I'm learning lots. It's interesting and every day is different."

At first, Jack admits his work colleagues were taken aback by his appearance on the building site. But it didn't take long for the tradie banter to start flying about.

"The first couple of days inside the smoko shed were pretty quiet," he says. "The boys were a bit surprised by it. But they've been fantastic and that's probably the thing I enjoy the most. They're just like the rugby boys and enjoy working together as a team.

"You've still got to start from the bottom, sweeping the floors and grinding the concrete sort of stuff. I'm definitely getting a lot of banter sent my way."

Jack has also taken on a community role as the Nelson Child Cancer Foundation ambassador. It's something which began while playing for the Crusaders.


"For me, it's a pretty cool role and I'm honoured to be part of it. As a parent, I'd hope someone would help if my children were in that position. I like to help people back if I can."

Jack can reflect on a successful playing career, especially his time in international rugby.

"With the All Blacks, there are so many moments but the one that stands out most is your first start, you never forget that," the 67-test cap lock admits.

"I've got the jersey nicely framed up with my All Black cap, my first test tie and I think I've got the programme in there, too."

With his rugby days firmly behind him, hanging up the boots has provided Jack with a new lease on life. And he hasn't wasted any time relishing fresh opportunities.

"I spent my life being programmed - 'this is when you train, this is when you play, this is where you stay, this is what you do'. Now I can do what I want, when I want. I can go to work and have my weekend to myself and just spend time with my family, which is great.

"After living overseas off and on for so long, you come to realise what a special place New Zealand is and how lucky we are to live here. My son's right into nature, so we do a lot of bush walking and just enjoying life."