Kieran Campbell paid tribute to a “massive stalwart” of Ulster Rugby yesterday after Chris Henry announced he would be retiring.
The 34-year-old Henry, in an open letter to fans, announced he would be retiring, with immediate effect.
The Irish international is currently celebrating his Testimonial Year in recognition of 10 seasons service to Ulster Rugby.
But he said for the wellbeing of himself, his wife and family, it was time to hang up the boots saying “My career has physically taken its toll and so, for my wellbeing, I will be retiring immediately.”
Campbell, currently the Ulster Academy manager, would have played with Henry and paid tribute to a stalwart, all round good person and a great role model to young players.
Henry, who played for Wallace High School, Ballymena and Malone won 184 caps with Ulster and also went on to make 24 appearances for Ireland.
Campbell said: “Chris has been a massive stalwart to Ulster rugby. It’s pretty unusual nowadays that you get a one-club player right through his career. It’s a great testament to his own province as well.
“The other thing you can say about Chris is that not only has he been a stalwart and a good rugby player, but he’s a really good person.
“In the last year and a half or so, he has been exemplary in how he has come into the ‘A’ team at times and how he has treated the young players and the lead he has given some of the young back row players has been excellent.
“That is reflective in that he’s not only a good player, but a good person.”
Campbell added: “Obviously he has gone on and done a good job at his club, Malone.
“I know he has been significant in coaching their forwards and they are having a strong season as well. It was also an honour to play with him.
“I saw Chris come through too from a very young age. Chris did it the hard way too. He had to work really, really hard and I think if some of our young guys coming through if they knew how Chris came through and the hard yards he had to do.
“He actually went away and played Sevens as swell when it was at its embryonic stage, and he came back off that to make himself a much fitter athlete and really used that as a springboard.
“From there, he really kicked on to have a great career with Ulster and Ireland.
“I believe, and any young guy who wants to understand real diligence, effort and patience to try and get where you want to get to, he’s a good role model.
“I’m sure in years to come, he’ll still be a good role model for us.
“I know he has ambitions to coach and he’s doing that at the moment at Malone, and I told he is very welcome to support any of our young guys he wants to be involved with.”
Henry, in his open letter, said: “After a great deal of thought and in-depth discussions with family and friends, I believe that now is the right time to retire from the game I love.
“No matter how much I would love to finish the season with this talented group, my career has taken its toll physically, and so for the wellbeing of myself, my loving wife and my family, I will be retiring immediately.
“It’s impossible to thank everyone who has contributed to my career in this short letter, but allow me to make a start.
“I am incredibly proud to be a one-club man, and I want to thank Ulster for giving me the chance to achieve my dream.
“The honour of putting on the white and green jerseys is something I will always cherish. I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have travelled all around the world doing what I love.
“Like any rugby career, there has been setbacks and knocks, however the incredible highs will forever outweigh the lows.
“Thank you to all the coaches, players, physiotherapists, doctors, back-room staff and fans that kept the faith in me.”
Ulster operations director, Bryn Cunningham, added: “Chris has been a great player and a superb leader, who has supported the development of younger players in our squad.
“He has overcome significant setbacks throughout his career and that is testament to his strength of character.
“On behalf of everyone at Ulster Rugby, I’d like to wish Chris and Jade all the best as they embark on this exciting new chapter in their lives.”