After 17 seasons of professional rugby and capturing championships in three different countries, Andy Ellis has called it a career.
Rugby New York signed Ellis in 2021 after his stint in Japan with the Kobelco Steelers. His last season with the team in 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19. After the Top Rugby League’s cancellation, multiple sources reported that Ellis would likely retire. That was until Ellis received a text from former New York head coach Greg McWilliams.
“I talked to my wife and said if an amazing opportunity were to come up, then I would take up the offer,” Ellis said. “Two weeks later, I get a text from then-head coach Greg McWilliams asking if I would be up to play rugby in New York.”
Ellis loved the idea of playing in a big city in the United States, and McWilliams was a former coach of Ellis when he was on the Barbarians. Ultimately, it was an offer Ellis couldn't refuse, and he decided to give New York a chance. Ellis admits that joining a new club in a new league was a trial he was excited to take on.
“The challenge was a part of the appeal of coming here,” Ellis said. “The idea of winning another title in another country is something that motivated me. I'm very proud of the opportunity to help build the club and establish a culture.”
Ellis was able to see that idea come to life as he lifted the MLR Shield this past season. After his outstanding performance in the MLR Championship, his teammates performed the haka in his honor. Among those performing the haka were former All-Blacks, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo. It was a surreal send-off for Ellis.
“Having the haka performed for me was a special way to finish my career,” Ellis said. “It’s a huge sign of respect and honor in New Zealand.”
It was quite the storybook ending to a legendary career. Deciding to retire is never an easy choice for any athlete. Throughout Ellis’s playing career, he always found time to make himself busy with different hobbies and business ventures. He is an award-winning gardener and an investor in several businesses to go along with his talent at the halfback position. Ellis hopes to continue to keep busy and take everything day by day.
“I’m excited to try multiple avenues, but I’m not too sure what I want to do just yet,” Ellis said. “I’ve reached out to other retired players, and they told me to give myself six months. In that time, I’m going to catch up with family and reconnect with friends, and my plans will become clearer as time passes on.”
Although his playing career has officially ended, Ellis’s relationship with rugby doesn’t appear to be over. He says he would like to help with his former clubs, including Rugby New York.
We hope for nothing but the best in his future endeavors and sincerely thank him for his time here. We are lucky to have been the final pit stop in his illustrious career.
By Jason Piccolomini
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