Ally Hogg has announced he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the current season after a career which has included 48 Scotland caps and 175 appearances for Newcastle Falcons.
The 35-year-old scored the dramatic last-minute winner less than a week ago as the Falcons ended their 20-year wait for an away win at Leicester Tigers, and the back-row forward hopes to bow out on a high after propelling the club into their first ever Aviva Premiership semi-final.
A sold-out Kingston Park Stadium crowd will get to show their appreciation one last time on Saturday when the Falcons host Wasps in the final round of the Aviva Premiership regular season, Hogg saying: “It’s always a sad time when you have to end one career and look on to the next one, but I’ve had a good run.
“I’m 35 now which is a decent age for a back-rower, and there have been many highs and lows along the way. Getting to do your hobby for a job is something you can’t put a price on, and I’ve had a fantastic time. I’m pleased with how things have gone but I feel it’s time now to try something different.”
Beginning his professional career in his native Scotland, Hogg said: “I’ve stuck with just the two clubs, going eight years with Edinburgh and eight years with Newcastle, and I’m glad I did it that way.
“I had a great time up in Edinburgh but I always wanted to try the English Premiership, and it has been everything I thought it would be.
“Things didn’t go so well at the start with Newcastle but it’s culminating with a place in the Premiership semi-finals, and the progression we’ve seen across all the competitions this season makes it the obvious time to bow out on a high. Now it’s on to the next chapter.”
Recalling his early years at Kingston Park Stadium, the dextrous forward said: “It was a bit of a dogfight when I first came down to Newcastle, to put it politely, and we had some tough years down near the bottom of the table.
“That chapter ended with relegation to the Championship in 2012, but with Dean Richards and Semore Kurdi coming into the club we had a real stabilising influence and a chance to build the club and the team that everyone sees now. It didn’t happen overnight, it has taken a lot of hard work and the professionalism of the whole group has been the driving force.
“There have been quite a few of us who have been here right the way through that transition, which is nice, and a number of those boys will be staying on to help take us up to the next level.”
Relishing the prospect of one last home outing this Saturday, he added: “The way the Premiership semi-finals have worked out means I know that Saturday’s game against Wasps will definitely be the last home match I’m at as a Falcons player, and if I’m hopefully selected to play it would be the ideal way for me to thank the supporters who have always been amazing with me.
“My family will be coming down for the day and it will be great having them here for what I know will be an emotional occasion. My wife Linsey has been an incredible support throughout my whole career, as have my mum Fiona and dad Alex. Without them I wouldn’t be here playing professional rugby, and they’ve been with me every inch of the way. Hopefully I’ll get to run out with my kids for the game if I’m selected, and that really would be a special way to round things off in terms of playing at Kingston Park.”
Looking beyond what he hopes will be a big finish to his professional rugby career, Hogg revealed: “The next thing for me is trying to get into a job in financial services, which I’m actively pursuing at the moment, and I’m planning on staying in and around Newcastle.
“I’ll look forward to that new challenge as and when it becomes a reality, but the one thing to say is that I’ve loved my time at the Falcons as a club, and in rugby in general. It has been a heck of a ride.”
Keen to credit Hogg’s role in Newcastle Falcons’ resurgence as a club, director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Ally has been an absolutely fabulous player for us and a great person to work with.
“It’s still a mystery to me why the Scotland management haven’t included him over the last few seasons because he can do things that other players can’t, and I’ve seen few back-rowers who can read the game as well as he does.
“In addition to his obvious contribution to the team’s on-field performance he has always been a really positive influence on our younger players, passing on all of his expertise, and I was delighted for him when he popped up with the winner at Leicester last week.
“He will certainly be missed when he does eventually hang up his boots, but with a massive finish to the season in prospect he has a bit of work to do before then.”