Exeter Chiefs have confirmed on Tuesday second-row James Hanks has been forced to retire from the game with immediate effect.
The long-serving forward, who sustained a serious neck injury late on in Exeter's LV= Cup semi-final win at Bath last month, has been told by medical experts to call time on his ten-year stint with the Chiefs. It's a cruel blow for the popular 29-year-old, who since making his first team debut at the old County Ground against Cornish Pirates in September 2005, and has since gone on to represent the Chiefs in 192 appearances, scoring seven tries.
The loss of Hanks is the latest setback to hit the Chiefs, who this season alone have seen fellow forwards Tom Hayes and Chris Whitehead also have to retire from the game due to injuries.
Initially handed his opportunity with the Chiefs by former Director of Rugby Ian Bremner, the former Exeter University student has since gone on to establish himself as an integral part of the club's make-up. Having honed his skills initially in the old National League One, Hanks was part of the club's Championship-winning side of 2010 that won promotion into the Premiership for the first time.
In the past four seasons, Hanks has seen gone on to feature for the Chiefs not only in English rugby's top tier, but also in Europe where he has feature in both the Heineken and Challenge Cups.
"I've had ten amazing years of very special memories with the club," said Hanks in confirming the news.
"I've had a lot of happy times, a lot of fun and I've played a small part in getting the club to where it is today.
"Personally, I don't think I could have asked for any more from my time with the Chiefs, but sadly this injury has brought my career to an end a little bit earlier than I probably envisaged.
"Whilst the injury was fairly serious, I'm relieved that I'm now on the mend and I'm looking forward to what I do next away from rugby."
Hanks departs Sandy Park, though, as a guy who was not only hugely popular off the field, but was a relentless workhorse on the pitch with his never-say-die attitude.
"As I said, I've had lots of memories over the years, but I'd say that Championship Final night at Bristol was probably the pick," added Hanks.
"It was the night things changed for all of us - not just us as players, but also for the club and for the supporters.
"Also our trips into Europe, especially that first year going to places like Bourgoin and Montpellier - and then to the likes of Clermont, Leinster and Toulon in the Heineken Cup - they were pretty special as well and just add to what has been a fantastic time for me at the club.
"Since I made my debut all those years ago the club has come so far and I've no doubt it will continue to grow as the years go by. The support I've received from the fans, Rob and the coaches; everyone behind the scenes at the club and, most importantly, the guys I have played with over the years, who have made it a special place to play. None of it would have been possible without the support of my family and friends and the most important person, my fiancee Amy.
"That support has been unbelievable throughout and I can't thank everyone enough for that. Obviously it will be tough not playing and being around the club and with the boys, but I still have a life to live after rugby and I'm excited by that challenge."
Hanks says he is now looking forward to his future career, whilst also having the opportunity of working closely with local charities in the future on a number of fundraising events.