Marno Meyer arrived at Stade Rouennais in my third season at the club. A monster winger from South Africa, he came armed with Pro D2 experience garnered at traditional powerhouses Narbonne and Tarbes and started the year on fire for us. Unfortunately for both him and the team, he pranged his knee ligaments early in the season, ruling him out until the next year.
A popular member of the squad, memorably drinking our kit-man Patrice under the table in his own house, Marno managed to make it back onto the field and play a part in Rouen’s Fédérale 1 winning season, leaving the club on a high with a try in the final.
Marno is a thoughtful guy with a range of rugby experiences and is now pursuing a new career in Hong Kong with his wife Elanie.
How did you end your career?
For me it was a mix of factors. I had come back from a big injury the previous year where I suffered a torn ACL; the rehab required to get back on the field took a lot out of me mentally and that showed the year after.
I was struggling with motivation, I wasn’t enjoying training or playing and I struggled to get my old form back. Thats when I started to think about retiring and I did so at the end of that season.
Were you happy to end your career when you did? Why?
Yes very much so. I made the decision to retire during our Christmas break and felt like a weight was lifted. I began to enjoy my rugby again, managed to get my form back and gave it one last crack, knowing it would be my last opportunity to soak everything in.
I was also lucky enough to be part of a championship team with Rouen - we finished as champions of France, bringing Rouen its first of hopefully many more titles.
How did you prepare for retirement while you were playing?
This is one thing I didn’t do very well. I always had the idea that I would finish my studies while playing but I always found myself saying ‘Next year, next year, I’m still young’.
When I retired and realised I never got round to it, it freaked me out a little and reality struck. ‘What next?’ Luckily I have the opportunity to do so now.
Are you still involved in rugby in any capacity?
Yes very much so. After finishing in France, I moved to Hong Kong and got involved in coaching by accident really, it was never something that I had really considered doing.
Do you compete in another way now?
Yes - I’m lucky to still be involved in rugby and the competitive side of things as a coach. It’s a mental challenge rather than a physical one now but it does fill the void left from competing on the field. Now I compete intellectually and try to better myself in that respect.
What did you do immediately for work?
Immediately, I went into teaching.
How did it go?
That was a struggle as I did not get any enjoyment out of it. I was stuck in just another job. I realised then, how lucky I was to have been able to do something I loved and had a passion for, for over 15 years as a pro rugby player.
I went through some dark times to come to grips with life outside rugby and the different routine that came with that. But it also shocked me into the real world and did me a bit of a favour by showing me that this wasn’t what I wanted out of the next chapter in my life.
What are you doing now?
Coaching HKU Sandy Bay in the Hong Kong Premiership as Attack Coach, combined with a role with the Hong Kong Rugby Union as the National U20s Assistant Coach.
Is this something you see yourself doing long term?
Yes I see myself doing this long term in some form.
What does it provide for you apart from money?
It drives my passion for psychology and performance, aspects that have always interested me, and now I get to challenge myself and other people around me on a daily basis. Working with all different kinds of people and trying to understand the WHY, HOW and WHAT better.
What support did you receive with your transition?
Apart from my amazing wife, family and friends not much really. It was a scary time where I did feel alone at times. But I honestly do believe that being in a professional sporting environment for 15 years equipped me to handle adversity and negativity and you just keep fighting through it and find a solution.
Would you say that you have transitioned?
I would like to think that almost 2 years down the line I have, but it's not that simple. There are still times when I miss playing rugby immensely and being part of a group of people that work so closely together. I don’t think you ever shake that. But, I do have other goals now and I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to be involved with something that I have a passion for outside of playing rugby.
Did you experience any mental health issues as a result of retiring?
Yes there where times when I got really down and depressed I would say. That thought process of ‘what now?’ and ‘is this it?’.
For that first year or so I just didn’t know where I was going or how I would figure it out.
What has sport given you?
Sport has given me almost everything, it's shaped me, its taught me so much about me and life in general. It’s enabled me to work with people from all over the world and with different backgrounds. It's given me extreme highs and extreme lows and gave me the tools to deal with them. It's given me so many good friends and so many good memories. It’s just given me so much enjoyment and privilege that I will be forever grateful.
What’s your best memory from your career?
I have so many good ones but I would have to say my final 2 years of rugby, working on a daily basis with people I truly enjoyed working with on and off the field, a coach I truly respected and then all that coming together to win the first championship in the club’s history with my friends was a wonderful feeling and a great way to retire.
If you had one piece of advice for retiring athletes, what would it be?
It would be to enjoy every moment of your playing time. It goes by so fast. But then also, to understand that it doesn’t last forever, so don’t wait till the end to start preparing for life after rugby, understand that it's a reality. Find your WHY, if you can do that it will be ok.