Rugby Canada announced that Ray Barkwill has retired from playing rugby. The rugby world has been fortunate to witness the warrior that he was on the pitch.
Ray Barkwill was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario and began playing rugby at Westlane Secondary School along with Niagara Wasp RFC of Rugby Ontario’s Senior Men’s League. He went on to play for the Niagara Thunder while continuing his education at Brock University in Ontario. In 2007, he captained Brock University team to its first OUA Rugby Championship while being named OUA Finals MVP.
After graduation from Brock University with a BSc. in Physical Geography, he continued his post-graduate studies at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. While there, Barkwill played for the University of Western Australia in 2009-10 and was selected for the Western Australians Perth Spirit from 2010-2012. In 2011, he also led UWA to a Pindan Grand Finals Premiership, while being named Best & Fairest.
He also played for the Western Force A in 2012 before leaving to tour South America with the Ontario Blues. On that tour, he played against Argentina’s Salta Provincial team and the national teams of both Chile and Uruguay.
Barkwill also represented Ontario Blues from 2008-2016, while winning 5 national championships in a row. He has represented Canada 43 times since 2012 while captaining his national side on numerous occasions. He was a member of the 2015 World Cup team and winner of the prestigious Canadian Shield. In 2016 he played professional rugby for PRO Rugby’s Sacramento Express.
During the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he started the first two matches for Canada against Ireland and Italy, then came off the bench against France. While there, he was voted one of the players with the best beards.
At the 2016 Americas Rugby Championship, he assisted Canada to a third-place finish with wins against Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile, while losing to both the United States and an Argentina XV side. He also was captain for one of the matches.
On November 9, 2012, he received his first cap for Canada in a loss to Samoa. His 56th cap came against the Hong Kong in the 2019 World Cup Qualifier at Marseille, France on Nov 23, 2018. Ray won his first cap at 32 and played in 56 of Canada’s 61 test matches.
Ray also played with Canada A team at the Americas Pacific Challenge in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2017 and in 2018.
He also played professionally with the Seattle Seawolves during the inaugural 2018 Major League Rugby season.
It is hoped that the rugby world has not seen the last of Ray. His leadership is invaluable and his emergence as a coach would benefit rugby.
Bryan Kelly of Rugby Canada indicated that “Barkwill has gladly stepped up as Captain of Canada when required, and has provided leadership for the entire men’s program on and off the field. Coaches and players alike will say that he’s one of the most dedicated and hardworking players.”
“His career accolades include three-time Canadian Rugby Championship winner with Ontario Blues, 5 test cap tries, Major League Rugby title with the Seattle Seawolves and winner of the 2017 Shield Award as Most Inspirational Player as awarded by members of Canada’s Men’s Team.“
“On behalf of Canadian Rugby, Rugby Canada would like to thank Ray for all that he’s done for the Maple Leaf and wish him all the best in life’s next chapter.”
Ray Barkwill Official statement
Today is a difficult day for me as I have to announce my retirement from rugby, effective immediately.
During our Rugby World Cup qualifying tournament last November in France I sustained a brachial plexus injury that has kept me from training and competing since it happened. Over the last few months, I have consulted with Rugby Canada’s medical staff, coaches and team doctors around rehab and recovery, and we came to the mutual agreement that it is not in my best interest to continue. My long-term health and wellness must be my main priority at this time.
This is an emotional announcement for me. Over the last 10 years, I have tried to represent my club, family, friends, and country with a high level of professionalism and over the last four years I have done everything I can to help Canada qualify for the upcoming World Cup in Japan and to live out a lifelong dream to play against New Zealand.
I am grateful for the unbelievable opportunities that rugby has given me in life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to earn 56 test caps for my country, to win three Canadian Rugby Championships with the Ontario Blues, compete at a Rugby World Cup, Captain Canada’s Men’s Team, fly all around the world and to win a Major League Rugby Championship title with the Seattle Seawolves while meeting countless amazing people along the way.
I would like to thank my family and friends, along with all the people and clubs who supported me over the years. A special thank you to my partner Laura Russell, who has been here through it all, I love you. Thank you to my Canada Coaches Kieran Crowley, Mark Anscombe and Kingsley Jones who saw me as a player, not an age. I enjoyed all of it and learned so much over my tenure.
In closing, it was a dream-come-true to be capped for Canada as it was my goal since learning to play in high school. To earn it at 32 years old allowed me to appreciate it more than ever and I never would have guessed that I’d play over 50 times for Canada. Every time I put on the Canadian jersey I get emotional and I can say that I never took it for granted. I hope that I have left the jersey in a better place than when I first received it. I will be the first person to cheer on Canada this fall in Japan and know that my friends and former teammates are going to rise the challenge!
Ray Barkwill (aka La Flama Blanca)
BEST JOB I EVER HAD!
DJCoil Rugby articles by Doug Coil are also available on Facebook. Other Social Media sites to follow or subscribe include Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for interviews.