Canadian speedster Justin Douglas has joined rugby sevens teammates Nate Hirayama, Connor Braid and Conor Trainor in calling it quits in the wake of the recent Tokyo Olympics.
The 27-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., retires having scored 145 tries on the World Series circuit, second only to Hirayama among Canadian men and 16th on the all-time list. He steps away from the sport after helping the Canadian men to an eighth-place finish at the Tokyo Games.
"I don’t think it would’ve been hard to see how much the last nine years on the field have meant to me," Douglas wrote in a social media post. "Pretty sure I had a smile on my face the entire time. It has been my absolute pleasure representing this country, alongside some of the best teammates and friends a guy could ask for.
"It was never going to be easy to move on. Rugby has filled my life with incredible people, and experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’ll be forever grateful for everything this game has given me and I’m excited to take on this next chapter in life."
Douglas was part of Canada's gold-medal team at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and also played at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013 and 2018. He represented Canada at the 2014 and '18 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games.
Former Canada coach Damian McGrath called Douglas "our ‘get out of jail'" card.
Douglas made his World Series debut in Australia in October 2012 as an 18-years-old, coming off a serious knee injury after moving to Victoria as a teenager to become part of the B.C. Elite Youth Sevens program.
Douglas was part of Canada's historic Cup-winning team to the 2017 Singapore Sevens Cup, its first-ever tournament win. He was named Canada men’s sevens player of the year in 2017.
In 2018, he led Canada with 35 tries and was named the Sevens Series Impact Player of the Year.
"He's a one-man highlight reel," said current Canada coach Henry Paul, a former star on the sevens circuit himself with England. "World-class speed and a really good rugby brain. His ability to just turn out at those times when you need him."
"Nothing but admiration," he added. "Really really strong work ethic in training. Really coachable. Really nice guy. Good family man. Good team man. A pleasure to work with."
Both of Douglas' older brothers, Travis and Jared, represented Canada at different levels.
The changing of the guard started before the Tokyo Olympics. Ciaran Hearn, a veteran of both the Canadian sevens and 15s teams, retired in July.
A new-look Canadian team, featuring just three members of the Olympic squad — Phil Berna, Andrew Coe and Jake Thiel — will compete this weekend at the HSBC Canada Sevens in Vancouver. It's the first World Sevens event since the circuit ground to a halt due to the pandemic after Canada finished third in Vancouver in March 2020.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2021