Chiefs and All Blacks prop Ben Afeaki has announced that he will retire from all rugby due to medical reasons.
The popular 27-year-old suffered concussion in February of 2014 in a Round One Super Rugby match against the Crusaders and has not played since.
Expecting to make a full recovery, the highly-respected team man is rapt about the experiences rugby has given him.
“I am very fortunate that I have achieved some awesome things in rugby but now is the time that I have to make a decision that is best for my health long-term, and that is to retire from all rugby,” Afeaki told the Chiefs' official website.
“I have been part of team that has won back-to-back Investec Super Rugby Championships. I have lived out a boyhood dream of playing for the All Blacks and played for a very special team in the Maori All Blacks and captained my Provincial Union, North Harbour.
“During that time I have built some life-long friendships, had some awesome experiences and received amazing support and care from the Chiefs, North Harbour and New Zealand Rugby.”
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said Afeaki will continue to remain part of the Chiefs family despite not being on the field and will continue to receive on-going support from the Chiefs, New Zealand Rugby, his Provincial Union North Harbour and the New Zealand Players Association.
“Ben is an outstanding man who is highly respected and loved by all at the Chiefs," he said.
"When he informed the team that he was retiring from rugby, it was very emotional. The haka they honoured him with was the most passionate and heartfelt I’ve ever witnessed.
“His phenomenal work rate and physicality played a massive part in our success in 2012-13 and he will be sorely missed.
"He has our full support in this decision and has used the past 14 months since his injury to clarify his future beyond his playing days. We are totally committed to assisting him in transitioning into the work force.”
Afeaki represented the All Blacks in one Test in 2013, played 36 matches for the Chiefs, eight matches for the Maori All Blacks and 58 games for North Harbour, captaining the side.
His provincial union, North Harbour paid tribute to their former captain who spent his entire provincial career playing for them since his debut in 2007 as a 19-year-old.
North Harbour Chief Executive Brett Hollister said Ben would be missed by fans and team-mates.
“He has been a great servant of North Harbour rugby where he began his professional rugby as a young man," he said.
"He has achieved the highest honours through his skill and professionalism and we wish him all the best for the next stage of life.”
Afeaki is excited about his future prospects and is currently exploring business opportunities for the next phase of his life now that his playing chapter is completed.