Ex-Canadian rugby international Mike Pyke retires from Aussie Rules Football
In this Sept. 16. 2007 file photo, Mike Pyke, left, runs with the ball during the Rugby World Cup Group B match between Fiji and Canada at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo)
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, October 16, 2015 8:30PM EDT
Victoria's Mike Pyke, a former Canadian rugby international who became a North American trailblazer in Aussie Rules Football, has called it quits on his career with the Sydney Swans.
"I got to the point where I didn't think I had any more improvement left in me and that's when you know to step aside and let the younger players come through," the 31-year-old ruckman told the Swans website.
Pyke played 110 AFL games for the Swans.
His unlikely journey Down Under started when Matt Woodland, a Canadian friend who was living in Australia, thought he could do well in Aussie Rules Football. He convinced the six-foot-six Pyke to send a highlight video to a local player agent who recommended the Canadian to the Swans.
Pyke had been playing pro rugby in France at Montauban. His then-fiancee (now wife) wanted to move on. And Pyke's passion for the sport had been tested after injuries and a disappointing 2007 World Cup.
The Swans were interested enough to fly Pyke and his fiancee down in June 2008, signing him a few days later. He made his debut the next year at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
In 2012 he was a regular in the side that won the Grand Final.
Swans coach John Longmire paid tribute to the Canadian.
"To take up the game as a 25-year-old from another professional sport, and to retire a premiership player with 110 games under your belt is a really special achievement," he told the club website.
"We have seen so many players try to cross over to AFL from other sports but few have achieved what Mike has been able to do. He is a talented athlete but it is his incredible drive and determination that has helped him have such a great career."
As a ruckman, Pyke contested the ball at bounces and so-called ball-ups -- essentially officials bounce the oval rugby-like ball on the ground or hurl it high over their head from the boundary.
Pyke played fullback and wing in rugby, scoring a highlight-reel try against the All-Blacks in 2007 when he raced the length of the field after intercepting a pass.