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Saints legend Alex Waller to retire from professional rugby

Northampton Saints legend Alex Waller will hang up his boots at the end of the 2023/24 season after an incredible 15 seasons in Black, Green and Gold.

The 34-year-old is the Club’s record appearance holder in the professional era, and the eighth-most capped player in Saints’ history, having made 370 appearances in a Northampton shirt to date.

The Kettering-born loosehead graduated from Saints’ Academy to make his senior debut in 2009, writing his name into Northampton’s history books after scoring the extra-time try which sealed the Premiership title for the men in Black, Green and Gold in 2014.

Waller captained the Club for three seasons from 2018 to 2021 – lifting the Premiership Rugby Cup in 2019 – but after 15 years on the field, the prop has decided that now is the right time to call it a day.

“It’s difficult to put into words what Northampton Saints means to me,” said Waller. “I’ve been involved with the Club since I was 14 years old, it’s been a massive part of my life.

“My time here has been amazing, and I wouldn’t change any of it. Staying a one-Club man is something I’m really proud of, and hopefully I’ve been able to give Saints supporters some fond memories over the years.”

Alex Waller

“You always want to leave the shirt in a better place than you found it, and I would like to think I’ve added my own flavour to it. To be able to captain my boyhood club was a real highlight of my time here, and I’ve been so fortunate to play alongside some greats of the game and to have played so many games for this incredible Club – it has by far exceeded my expectations.

“In sport, there are times where the job has to come before anything else. I’ve got to thank my wife, Harley, and my kids, Beau and Winnie, for putting up with me through what is essentially a very selfish job, as well as Mum, Dad, Karl and Debbie for supporting me throughout my whole career. Now it’s time for me to change course, and put my family completely at the centre of my attention.

“I’ve loved going on the journey with my brother Ethan too, playing with and against him. I want to congratulate him on his career, we’re all really proud of what he’s achieved as a player.

“There are too many other people to thank; Jim Mallinder and Dorian West gave me my first opportunity, Chris Boyd gave me the honour of the captaincy, Matt Lee (Head of Medical) has been through my whole journey with me, and I’ve also worked with Chris Kemp (Strength and Conditioning) throughout my entire career. I get the plaudits for my longevity, but the reality is that none of it would be possible without the backroom staff – they don’t get anywhere near the credit that they deserve.

“I’ll hopefully still be involved at the Club and the business I run alongside Tom Wood (Waller & Wood Woodworks) will be keeping me busy. It’ll certainly be a different challenge and something I’m looking forward to doing more of.

“But for now there’s plenty of rugby still to be played this season, and hopefully some more good memories to make. The first season I was properly established within the squad was when we won the Premiership in 2014, so if we were to finish up on another high it would be pretty poetic.”

Alex Waller

Waller holds the Premiership record for most consecutive appearances in league history; his streak saw him star in Premiership and European matches across a number of seasons, helping Saints in their run to the 2011 Heineken Cup final and the historic Premiership and Challenge Cup double in 2014.

Waller took on co-captaincy of the Club ahead of the 2018/19 season and went on to hold that role for three years, lifting the Premiership Rugby Cup in front of a packed-out cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens during that first campaign.

While uncapped at senior level, Waller has represented England in a 2014 summer tour match in New Zealand against the Crusaders, and against Barbarian F.C. at Twickenham in May 2015 – and he donned the famous Black and White hoops later in his career, representing the BaaBaas in the summer of 2023.

Saints’ Director of Rugby Phil Dowson – who played alongside Waller for six seasons before returning to Saints to coach the prop in 2017 – was full of praise for his former teammate as he calls time on his playing career.

He said: “Alex has been a constant at this Club since I joined; he started off as an Academy kid and he has matured into a real stalwart here, breaking records for his appearances.

“He’s grown up in this environment and spent what will feel like his whole life at the Club – he is a true Saints man in that respect.”

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby

“I count him as a good friend, we have always had a laugh and had a relationship where we can be honest with each other. One of the things I was so grateful for when I came back as a coach, going from playing alongside people to coaching them, was that people like Alex were so open and positive with it.

“He is not only a very good player but more importantly a very good person. He cares about his teammates, he cares about this Club, he cares about the game. You can tell that in the way that he plays, and what he’s put himself through over the years.

“He’ll be a big miss for us as a squad and we’ll welcome him back any time. But most importantly, we wish him, and his family, all the best with what comes next.”

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