Canada rugby sevens captain Ghislaine Landry, the all-time leading scorer among women on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, has called an end to a stellar playing career.
The 33-year-old from Toronto has 1,356 points and stands third all-time in tries (143), second in conversions (319) and is tied for third in matches played (208).
Landry, who took over from Jen Kish as captain, helped the Canadian women win bronze at the 2016 Olympics. She also won a silver medal at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013 and gold at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“They say you are a visitor in the jersey, and I’m proud to share this journey has come to an end,” Landry said in an Instagram post under a picture of her younger self in a Canada jersey. “It has been an honour and a privilege to have played the game for so many years.
“As a kid stepping on to the rugby field for the first time, I never could have imagined what would transpire over the next 20 years and I’m deeply grateful.”
While calling an end to her rugby career, Landry will be keeping busy. She and her wife, Toronto-area firefighter Michaela Hoskins, had a baby daughter in September.
“To my wife and baby girl, I’m all yours now,” Landry wrote.
An elusive runner, Landry was a cerebral player who could kick, pass and direct the Canadian attack. She was a leader on and off the field.
“Absolute legend,” New Zealand’s Tyla Nathan-Wong, who is second in scoring with 1,106 points, said in a social media post. “Congrats on an epic career. Enjoy the next chapter and parenthood. The game will definitely miss you.”
“Truly going out at the top of your game. You’ve inspired countless young women across the globe to pick up a rugby ball and it is bittersweet to say farewell,” Rugby Canada said on social media.
Landry’s announcement comes on the eve of Rugby Canada naming its squad for the opening tournament of the 2022 World Series in Dubai later this month.
During her playing career, Landry was largely based on Vancouver Island — a long way from home and loved ones.
“With our family growing and all the time I’ve been away from them, I’m just really looking forward to spending time more time at home,” she said in an interview. “It feels like the right time.”
Her focus, understandably, is on her daughter.
“She’s been a pretty life-changing addition for us,” she said. “We’re just enjoying every day.”
Landry is the latest high-profile Canadian sevens player to leave the sport in the wake of the Tokyo Olympics. Men’s co-captains Nate Hirayama and Harry Jones as well as Justin Douglas, Connor Braid and Conor Trainor have retired in recent months.
Landry has not played since the Canadian women finished a disappointing ninth in Tokyo. The leadup to the games was disrupted by a COVID outbreak among the team and a split with coach John Tait in the wake of a formal complaint by 37 current and former members of the program under Rugby Canada’s bullying and harassment policy.
An independent review concluded that while the conduct described in the complaint reflected the experiences of the athletes, it did not fall within Rugby Canada’s policy’s definition of harassment or bullying.
Tait, while maintaining he had done nothing wrong, subsequently stepped down. Tait a former Canadian international who was one of Rugby Canada’s most successful coaches, is now technical director of B.C. Rugby.
Landry took to social media after the Tokyo performance.
“We always knew this was about more than rugby, about more than one tournament, even if it’s the Olympics,” she said. “We knew the last nine months might put our Olympic dream in jeopardy, we had that discussion as a group, and still the decision was clear. We were ready to put our dreams at risk for change.
“This has not been a distraction but it has taken a toll on us. And so, while we are heartbroken not to have been able to play our best, we are proud and united.”
Landry says she believes that good will come out of the turmoil in Rugby Canada, which is currently reviewing all of its high-performance programs.
“I am confident that positives are going to come from all of this,” she said. “Everyone’s taking a good hard look at every aspect of the program. It’s not just our program but overall. And I think that’s something that can have a lot of positives.
“Obviously I don’t think any of us wished for any of this to happen, or to have gone the way it has. But any time people take a step back and re-evaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and is there a better way to do it, I think you’re going to have positives come from that.”
Landry was a finalist for World Rugby women’s sevens player of the year in 2017 when she scored 269 points to lead the World Series for the third season in a row. She helped Canada win in Sydney and finish third overall that year, recording her 100th try on the world circuit and becoming the series’ all-time leading point-scorer along the way.
She was named to the tournament dream team in four of six stops.
Listed at five foot four and 141 pounds, Landry was told she was too small to play international rugby at the senior level.
She has built up her body in the gym to help absorb the punishment on the field.
“Essentially our bodies are our armour,” she once explained.
Landry has paid the price on the field. She tore her plantar fascia (a band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes) in the 2015 Pan-Am Games final, sidelining her for eight months in the leadup to the 2016 Olympics, and suffered two disc injuries in her back before that.
A star university player at St. Francis Xavier, Landry was essentially left out in the cold from 2007 to 2010 after playing just two senior tours for Canada.
Tait took over as coach, recognizing what Landry had to offer and bringing her back into the fold.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2021.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press