Dixon (32) brought up his 100th game for the Highlanders in the Sky Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final against the Blues. He began his Super Rugby career with the Hurricanes, before joining the Highlanders in 2015 as Highlander #228.
Dixon has co-captained the side with halfback Aaron Smith over the past few seasons and has been one of the clubs most consistent performers, possessing one of the best lineout throws in the game.
Highlanders CEO Roger Clark was fulsome in his praise for Dixon. “He has been an integral part of the club since his arrival, he has significant mana within the team and has put an enormous amount of work into our organisation. He goes with our good wishes and gratitude.”
Highlanders Head Coach Tony Brown said Dixon would leave a long-lasting legacy at the club.
“Ash will be remembered as one of the great Highlander’s men; his contribution to the club both on and off the field has been immense, as co-captain he has been the ultimate professional and we wish him, Mikayla, Paiyton and Boston all the very best with this fantastic opportunity.”
Dixon said it was a difficult decision to leave. “I’ve put a lot of thought into it and it was not an easy decision for myself and my family to make, I’ve had some incredibly great times with the team, and I will cherish them forever.”
He also paid tribute to the Highlanders supporters. “The fans have been absolutely incredible the love and kindness shown to me and my family has been amazing, and we will be forever grateful, thank you all so much.”
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby & Performance Chris Lendrum said Dixon occupied a unique place in the rugby whānau.
“Ash’s achievements speak to his character. He leaves as one of the most capped Māori All Blacks captains of all time, and a leader of huge influence for both the Highlanders and Hawke’s Bay.
“He is a Super Rugby champion and a Ranfurly Shield holder, but more importantly he personifies the values of Te Ara Rangatira, The Rugby Way. We wish him and his whanau all the best in Japan and he goes with our full support.”
Highlanders: 100 games
Hurricanes: 15 games
Hawkes Bay: 109 games
Māori All Blacks: 19 games
Awards: 2020 Tom French Cup for Maori rugby player of the year