Ruaridh Jackson announced his retirement from professional rugby during the COVID-19 pandemic, ending a 16-year career that saw him make more than 100 appearances in two spells with Glasgow Warriors either side of stints with Wasps and Harlequins, and win 38 caps for Scotland.
Jackson can reflect with pride on that career, and look to the future with similar feeling given the initial success of The Garden Shed Drinks Company that he founded along with his former Scotland and Glasgow colleague Ryan Grant in 2017.
The business has gone from strength to strength, and now the pair, along with ex-Scotland star Richie Vernon and Andrew Easson, the ex-Scotland Sevens and Edinburgh Rugby man, are swapping their boots for bikes as they look to raise money for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, and Unite Against Cancer.
Ruaridh Jackson to get on his bike for charity
Jackson spoke to Last Word on Rugby to explain more about the challenge.
“Richie and Ryan were the instigators of it all because they were looking for a challenge, and with myself retiring this year, Ryan swiftly roped me in.
“I think we were naive to just how far it is and how difficult it will be to complete, but we’re excited about it and hopefully we can raise some good money for two really good causes.”
The good causes are the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, set up by Doddie Weir to aid research into a cure for Motor Neurone Disease, the condition with which he was diagnosed in late 2016, and Unite for Cancer, a Glasgow-based charity that Jackson is an ambassador for.
He explained more: “Iv’e been an ambassador for them for a long time. I got to know Colin [Smith, co-founder], his brother sadly died when he was 17 from a rare bone cancer.
“They set up the charity to find new research into types of cancer that don’t have cures or prevention methods, so they’re working hard behind the scenes, and looking after people who are going through what they went through when Chris passed away.
“It’s a really nice charity that’s doing some good work out of a sad event.
“I really wanted to do something to give back and raise some vital money for them.”
While next month’s challenge remains a daunting one, Jackson admitted it’s been a welcome project to keep him fit at the end of his playing career.
“It’s been good,” he continued.
“I tried hard at the start of lockdown, but it’s quite easy to check out and have a couple of glasses of wine and have no repercussions from it in the long run. I’ve enjoyed not having the fitness testing and it’s been nice to set ourselves a goal from a tough, physical challenge.”
Not only has Aberdeen-born Jackson had a mammoth 234-mile cycle, which the quartet are aiming to complete in just 36 hours, to prepare for, he became a dad for the first time recently, with daughter Florence born on July 14.
‘I knew this was the right time’
The arrival of Florence, and his work with The Garden Shed Drinks Company, has meant the 33-times capped back hasn’t missed rugby, so far anyway.
“I’ve had a lot going on,” he added.
“I think when games start up again, I think that’s when I might miss it a bit because that’s what everyone does it for and that’s the moments you enjoy.
“The training aspect – after 14 years, I’m pretty content that I’ll not be doing that.”
Ruaridh Jackson also explained why he decided to hang up his boots now.
“With all the coaching changes [at Glasgow], they were looking at different routes, which is fine, and I spoke to my agent and my family and talked about looking for clubs elsewhere, and with the business in Glasgow and our first kid on the way, to uproot now seemed a bit pointless.
“I always wanted Glasgow to be my last place. I love the club and it’s where I started – sadly I never got a farewell game, but mentally I was ready to check out.
“When I really thought about it long and hard, I knew this was the right time.”
The former Wasps and Harlequins man had conversations with new Glasgow boss Danny Wilson, but the club decided not to offer him an extension to his contract that expired at the end of the season.
“Danny was looking for another 10 and an out-and-out fullback that was going to be there for a number of years, whereas I was a hybrid that could cover both and was probably in my last year.
“I’d definitely have retired at the end of the year if I had got the extra year, so I was in a good enough place that there were no hard feelings when it came to it.”
Jackson’s best rugby memories
Reflecting on 14 years in the professional game, Ruaridh Jackson picked out a couple of highlights from his international career.
“My debut for Scotland is one,” he said.
“It was a painful loss to New Zealand but it was a great experience running out for Scotland at Murrayfield for the first time, and next on that list is my second cap, where I kicked the winning goal against Samoa at Pittodrie.”
For the boy from Aberdeen, that match-winning kick meant a lot: “Growing up in Aberdeen, and being an Aberdeen fan, that was a special place to do that.”
Representing Scotland at the 2011 Rugby World Cup was also among Jackson’s international highlights, as was being selected for the 2018 Commonwealth Games 7s squad, while putting a half-century of points on Munster ranked among his favourite Glasgow Warriors memories.
Glasgow fans will be disappointed they didn’t get the chance to bid farewell to the man who served the club well in both the stand-off and fullback role during his career, but they can show their support by donating to Jackson’s gruelling cycle challenge.
To donate, click here
And to follow the quartet’s training, visit their Instagram page here
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images