I'M in my 15th season with the Dragons and it's going to be my last. I've got two more months of calling myself a professional rugby player and then that's it, I'll be retired.

It's a decision that has been coming for a while; I am not retiring through one specific injury but a series of niggles over the past few seasons have played their part in me choosing to hang up my boots.

Essentially, the calf finally had me. I've probably mentioned it far too many times in these columns but significant scar tissue has built up and is making every tear a little harder to heal and every comeback a little longer.

My contract was coming to an end this summer and, putting my coaching hat on, I felt that the combination of my age, recent injury history and wealth of talent in the back row, it was unlikely to be renewed.

READ MORE: Profile of Dragons legend Lewis Evans

I had, however, already made my mind up about retiring and that saved Dean Ryan a tough conversation.

I could almost see the writing on the wall when I limped off after the game against Connacht, when I'd suffered the latest calf problem.

TRY: Celebrating after scoring against Brive, one of 13 tries Ive scored

TRY: Celebrating after scoring against Brive, one of 13 tries I've scored

The past few years have been frustrating, it's been tough since I turned 30 to be honest, with some nasty injuries at the most unfortunate of times.

Then the added challenges of the pandemic seemed to make the last year of my career tougher.

There were a few dark moments with so much uncertainty but one of the beauties of being in a sporting environment is having the support of a group of boys around you, with likes of Josh Lewis, Luke Baldwin and Huw Taylor helping to keep me sane!

I'm 34 in July and I'd always said that I'd like to retire at 33 rather than being one of those older guys that play into their late-30s, chasing the young guys with their bodies creaking.

I might be hobbling a bit with my calf but I'm still pretty much intact (even after five operations) as I get ready for the next chapter.

However, my short-term aim is to get back to fitness and get right for this next run of games in whatever this Rainbow Cup competition is. I'd love to put my boots on one more time and enjoy that feeling of running out on the training paddock right now, and especially get one more game at Rodney Parade.

The last time that I started a game was away at Bordeaux-Begles in the Champions Cup, when I was captain. If it's not to be in the coming weeks, then that wouldn't be a bad way to finish.

CARRYING: On the charge against Wasps in Europe

CARRYING: On the charge against Wasps in Europe

I've made 236 appearances for the Dragons since my debut against the Scarlets in 2006 and I've been fortunate to play alongside some great players – notably with Lions Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate in the same back row, not to mention god knows how many other quality players I've had to compete against.

While I've never won a medal, there have been some good times I can look back on, seeing many places with some good people and playing against top quality opposition all over Europe in a variety of different competitions.

I've had chances to play elsewhere but I'm proud to have spent my entire career at the Dragons and to have made more appearances than anybody else.

I now need to mentally prepare for the retirement potentially sinking in a couple of months down the road, suddenly hitting me.

They say that there are five stages of grief and I've gone through the denial, anger/frustration, moments of depression and had plenty of 'if only' moments. Now I'm definitely in the mindset of acceptance.

I've seen other sportsmen go through this when retiring, as well as family and friends who have transitioned from one career to another.

GLORY: Lewis Evans and Ashley Smith celebrate the Dragons 2013 win against Cardiff Blues

GLORY: Lewis Evans and Ashley Smith celebrate the Dragons' 2013 win against Cardiff Blues

It's been good for me to discuss thinks with my friends and former Dragons teammates Ashley Smith and Rhys Buckley, who have since gone on to have successful careers away from rugby.

I am still passionate about the game and my aim is and always has been to go into coaching after being involved with the Dragons age-grade teams and Newport RFC in the Premiership over the years.

The avenue for me to go down hasn't materialised yet but I am optimistic that doing my WRU level four badge will help me stay in the game – I've been in pro rugby for 15 years and still think that I've got plenty to offer.

And I'm not going to chuck away my boots as I may turn out for Newport HSOB to play out of pure enjoyment.

But that's for down the line, at the moment I'm just focussing on enjoying these last few weeks as a Dragons player.