After 15 seasons and 236 games, life as a Dragon has come to an end.

Since announcing the retirement a few weeks ago, to say it’s been a whirlwind of emotions would be an understatement.

The acceptance sunk in a while ago but the frustration of not having one more run out in a Dragons jersey has been with me for a while, along with the fear of the next step after rugby.

The mental health aspect of rugby is now in the limelight, especially with the likes of Lloyd Ashley addressing the potential issues faced by players along with the Welsh Rugby Players Association promoting the awareness and the need for more boys to talk openly to independent people who won’t have an adverse influence on you as a player.

In the past I’ve spoken to the likes of Tavis Knoyle, who has often said that being prepared for the unknown post-rugby is one of the biggest causes of stress.

He is a perfect advocate, along with Richard Hibbard and Greg Bateman, who have put plans in motion ready for their final game when the time comes.

CHANGE: Im ready to experience the relief of the final whistle as a coach rather than a player

CHANGE: I'm ready to experience the relief of the final whistle as a coach rather than a player

This is the one bit of advice I’ve said to all players who have asked about my career, utilise the time as wisely as possible.

Having The Lamb in Newport and running a school workshop business proved great experiences to learn about ‘the real world’ and a form of escapism from the worries of rugby.

I have been incredibly lucky to have the support from family and close friends throughout my career who have helped celebrate the good times and be counsellors at others.

I certainly wouldn’t have even got into the academy and played semi-pro for Ebbw Vale while attending UWIC at 18 without my dad shuttling me.

My biggest fan and critic enabled me to fulfil a career I hoped to pursue from a child and so did my mother, who has never honestly liked my chosen profession but been as vital to any of my success as anyone else. I will forever be indebted to them.

These past few weeks have enabled me to look back, reminisce and reflect on my time, to think of the great friends and memories I’ve made as a result of playing rugby.

There have also been close mates outside of rugby who kept my feet on the floor, separating outside life from my job and being good people to rely on in moments of doubt and worry. I appreciate you all.

Saying all that, I haven’t had too much time to dwell on the past because I’ve got a new challenge on the horizon. The week that I had the conversation about hanging up the boots was also the same week that I had found out that I will be officially transitioning to the ‘dark side’ of rugby.

The announcement in April and was slightly overshadowed, I didn’t really have a chance to get to overthink too many things because the next day I accepted a new job.

Working with Newport High School Old Boys has prepared me for the end of my playing days

Working with Newport High School Old Boys has prepared me for the end of my playing days

I’m heading to Hong Kong to the USRC Tigers where I will be known as a club coordination officer – essentially director of rugby –for one of the Premiership teams.

I’ll be organising logistics from the mini and juniors, youth and academy and be head coach for the seniors.

It is certainly going to be a challenge and will take me beyond the comfort zone of just being a coach.

The time spent in professional sport has enabled me to look back and reflect on what I thought was good for team development and implement those ideas and beliefs into the organisation.

The previous two years spent with Newport High School Old Boys as ‘DOR’ have also been invaluable; working with other coaches, committee members and senior players to try and organise and develop the structure of the club, on and off the pitch, has prepared me well for the Tigers and their 850-plus members.

Participating in the WRU level four coaching will also enable time to develop as a coach while on the job, working with old colleagues such as Hugh Gustafason and Josh Turnbull, improving our craft.

Once the first residential is completed in June I fly over Hong Kong for a brutal three-week quarantine before getting my teeth sunk into the job.

I’ll be honest, it’s a combination of being nervous and excited. The coaching side of things I’m comfortable with and surrounding myself with other good coaches and people has been the priority.

Now I’m in the process of recruitment, which has also been a new and ‘fun’ experience, made more challenging over Zoom!

There is a backs coach from New Zealand and I’m hoping for a South African to be our defence coach, who actually knows my former Dragons teammate Rynard Landman from university. It shows how small the rugby world can be and the importance of creating networks.

The transition will be much easier and less daunting because of a big Welsh ex-pat community over there. Former Dragons Andrew Hall, Leigh Jones and Dai Rees have been big figures in Hong Kong but have headed back to the UK but there are still plenty of familiar names like Jevon Groves, Tom Isaacs and my good friend Adam Frampton, the former Newport forward.

Having familiar faces over there will make things a lot easier for someone who has never lived more than a few miles away from the M4 but is going 6,000 miles out of the bubble for two years.

My only previous experience of Hong Kong for the sevens with Wales in 2008, so only have a few photos and some vague memories of the city.

I’m looking forward to learning more, developing as a person and creating more memories with the new culture, lifestyle and rugby, then time will tell what opportunities will present themselves after that.

It will be my last column for the foreseeable yet I may offer an brief look into coaching life abroad instead of a regional player in a few months... we shall see!

Thanks to those who have taken time to read the articles and I hope it has offered a fun insight to life as a professional rugby player at the Dragons. Thanks Chris Kirwan for all of your help and guidance over the years too.