At the age of 34, Huddersfield Giants legend Eorl Crabtree knew his career was coming to an end.
After 423 appearances and 79 tries for his hometown club, as well as 14 caps for England, the popular prop admits his body was struggling to cope with the demands of competing at the very highest level in rugby league.
Almost all of his body was aching, and Crabtree had to undergo surgery on a long-standing elbow problem.
Yet even though he was spending the latter part of his career constantly playing through the pain barrier, the front-row forward was still prepared to honour the final year of his current Giants contract.
However, Crabtree has revealed new head coach Rick Stone had other ideas.
Typically of the club’s gentle giant, he doesn’t hold that against Stone at all.
In a sense, he sees that as his Australian boss making the decision to retire for him – and enabling him to take the next step on his career path.
Almost as soon as the elbow operation has been done, Crabtree will swap his claret and gold playing kit for a suit and tie to take up a role with the club’s sales and marketing team.
This ambassador-type position is definitely right up Crabtree’s street, and he admits being able to step straight into a new job at the club he loves will help ease some of the emotional pain he may experience in the wake of hanging up his boots.
“To be honest, I’d have happily played on if required,” said Crabtree.
“But Rick made it clear to me that he’s looking to take the club in a different direction as a means of bringing us success, and there wasn’t really a place for me in his grand plans.
“I fully understood that and had no issues with it at all, especially because I’ve walked straight into a job with the club on the other side of the fence.
“I know there aren’t many players in the game who’ll be as fortunate as me in that regard.
“And I can definitely state I won’t be doing a ‘Jamie Peacock’ (the former Leeds and Great Britain prop came out of retirement from his rugby director role at Hull KR to play for the club during their ill-fated Middle 8s campaign) and playing for the Giants again in case they suffer a massive injury crisis.
“As well as having the elbow surgery, I’m going to have my broken nose repaired next month.
“That’ll involve inserting a couple of wires into the bridge to straighten it up, and once that’s done it won’t be safe for me to get back on the field.
“Because the state of my nose in its current shape means I’ve lost my sense of taste and smell and I can’t breathe properly, I think I’ve made the right decision!
“My one regret over all of this is that I’d have liked to have had a proper send-off at the end of a game so I could have said ‘thank you’ to the fans for their phenomenal support over the years, but apart from that, that’s it.”
And Crabtree admits he can’t wait to get stuck into his new off-field challenge.
“I’ve always enjoyed getting out and about and meeting the fans, sponsors and business partners,” added Crabtree.
“To tell you the truth, I’ve always wanted to do more of this because I believe it’s a great way of helping to promote our club.
“After what was a horrible season when we so nearly suffered relegation (it’s by far the worst I’ve experienced), the mood around the club is now very positive again.
“Rick’s a fantastic coach, capable of bringing the very best out of the players, and is in the process of putting together what will be an incredibly-competitive squad.
“And with our season ticket sales going well and much of the feedback to switching our home games to a Friday night having been so positive, I know we’ll soon be back competing at the top end of the Super League table.”