Census Johnston overwhelmed by support after hanging up boots

Former Manu Samoa prop Census Johnston said he has been a little overwhelmed by well-wishes from friends, fans, family and former teammates after announcing his retirement from professional rugby.

The 39-year-old, who played for Bayonne in the 2019-20 Top 14 before all French sporting seasons were cancelled last week, confirmed he was walking away from the game with posts to his Instagram and Twitter.

Johnston, whose parents are from Lalomanu and Falevao, said he was honoured by the feedback he received.

“I’m still going through all the messages at the moment,” he said.

“It’s been funny just reading through all the comments and a lot of the boys sending messages of memories back in the day, being on tour. It just makes me think, I’m grateful to have lived a good rugby life.”

Johnston’s 60 caps for the Manu Samoa are the third-most anyone has ever accrued for the side after Muliagatele Brian Lima and Aumua To’o Vaega.

He said retiring has given him the chance to reflect on the people who helped him along the way, particularly those to have passed on:

“It made me think about guys like Peter Fatialofa that had huge influences on my career, starting and helping me to get to where I was at that time.”

Johnston said he had been considering retirement for the last three years after his final international game against the All Blacks in June 2017.

“As soon as I left Toulouse[in 2017] I thought about retiring and hanging up the boots, but speaking to my agent at the time, he kept on coming back with offers and a few clubs that were interested,” he said.

Johnston is glad he hung in there for another three seasons in the French top division, signing up for two years with Racing 92 before the move to Bayonne.

Having lived in the country since 2009 with his wife and three daughters, France is another home for Johnston:

“Our plan is to stay in France for another year, I wanna try and work on my clothing label.”

He said his business, Frontrow Supply co, is doing well in the Southern Hemisphere, but he wants to secure some manufacturing partners in Europe as well.

“Probably try and do a bit of coaching on the side, scrum coaching,” Johnston said. 

“I want to eventually when I come home try and get into scrum coaching and share my experiences that I’ve had over my time in Europe .”

He thanked the Samoan public for their support of himself and the Manu over the years.

“Samoan rugby has meant so much to Samoans in general, and I think over the last couple of years what I’ve read is some Samoans have just turned away from rugby,” Johnston said.

“Rugby is a big part of Samoan life, and we want to get it back to a place where everybody can be proud of the team again, see those smiles on people’s faces that we’re used to seeing when Samoa is a pretty successful team.

“I’ve loved my time with the team, and I’m so grateful for the people that I’ve met over the years.”

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