Retiring North Queensland prop Ben Hannant has revealed that sharing North Queensland's premiership lap of honour with his wife Emma and their six children was not only the greatest moment of his career, but the highlight of his life.
Hannant officially retired from the NRL on Thursday after a career spanning 12 seasons, 245 NRL games, 12 Origins for Queensland and six Tests for the Kangaroos, an ongoing knee injury unable to sustain a 13th season the reason for pulling the pin.
The 31-year-old signed a one-year extension to remain at the Cowboys only a fortnight ago and although he had every intention of playing on beyond 2017, came to the realisation this week that he would never again be able to compete at 100 per cent fitness.
A premiership-winner with Brisbane in 2006, Hannant said that being part of the Cowboys' first premiership team in 2015 and what that represented will live on as the rugby league memory he will treasure most.
"For me it was winning the comp last year and being able to have my kids there," said Hannant, who will now return with his family to their farm on the Gold Coast.
"Getting a photo with my wife and the trophy and the kids talking to me on the lap of honour about how special it was.
"They understood how much time and effort and work and sacrifice [went into it] from the whole team but also their dad.
"That was the proudest moment not only of my football career but my life, having my kids see their dad achieve something that was very special to him.
"The best memories in my life have been playing rugby league. From a young kid going through to last year and winning a premiership and having my wife and kids around to share in something that I'd worked 10 years to achieve."
Cowboys coach Paul Green was an assistant coach at the Broncos when Hannant first joined the club in 2006 and said that he left an indelible mark on North Queensland in his 52 games across two years in Townsville.
"He's been wonderful contributor here at the club for the two seasons that he's played and brought plenty to the club and to the playing group," said Green.
"You only get one chance to be the first team to win a premiership for a club and Benny will always be part of that. He'll always be part of our history here at the Cowboys.
"He's always honest with himself and his teammates and I think that's a credit to Benny.
"The easy thing to do would have been to battle through another year and hopefully get another season out but he made the decision based on what he felt was best not only or himself but for his teammates as well."
Addressing his teammates on Wednesday to inform them of his plan Hannant said was the most difficult part of his decision to retire and certainly caught players such as Kyle Feldt by surprise.
"That was a big shock," Feldt said. "He mentioned to us yesterday that he was going to pull the pin.
"A big loss for us but good on him, he's had a really strong career and I wish him all the best outside of footy as well and his family."
Although comfortable with his decision, Hannant conceded that it was something of a sad day but thanked the game for moulding him into the person he is today.
"I've been extremely blessed. I've loved every minute I've played this game, especially these last two years up here, it's been outstanding," said Hannant, who made his NRL debut with the Roosters and played for the Broncos, Bulldogs and Cowboys.
"When the specialist told me that if I do keep playing that I'll need another surgery at the end of the year and my knee will be really shot, I had to think of my kids and the future.
"I don't want to go out just making up the numbers and not being able to give my best.
"For me it's not about the accolades or what I've achieved in footy but the mateships that I've made and the person I've become.
"This game has moulded me into the person that I am today."
First published on NRL.com.