ANDY Hazell admits he had to choke back the tears as Gloucester paid tribute to his 17 seasons of service at Kingsholm.
The fearless flanker was forced to retire earlier this month after failing to recover from a succession of concussions.
But he led the Cherry and Whites out ahead of their thrilling victory over Harlequins and the great and good of the city paid tribute to the 35-year-old at half-time.
A video including messages from current and former teammates and Hazell’s daughters, was played at the interval before mayor Chris Chatterton presented him with the Medallion of the City of Gloucester.
Hazell admits he was humbled by the occasion and was close to tears in front of his beloved Shed.
Hazell said: “It was pretty emotional but really nice to see that video with all the boys and the kids.
“I’m a pretty emotional guy so I had to fight back the tears but it was a great touch and nice to reflect on my 17 seasons at the club.
“It was a whirlwind day for me but I’m just glad we got the win.
“Leading the team out I felt like I was going to play, but it was nice to be with my kids and I had to be a lot calmer. It was massive for me to say thank you to the fans for how they’ve supported me and my family throughout my career.
“For 17 years they have been there week in week out I’m speechless from the support I’ve received.
“Then to get such an award from the mayor was incredible.
“I’m not sure what it means but one of the supporters told me I can set up a stall in the middle of the town!
“It’s an unbelievable honour and some how I was voted man of the match as well – it’s too much for me, I try to stay away from the limelight.”
Hazell is unsure of what life after rugby holds but knows Gloucester will always remain close to his heart.
The seven-cap flanker still finds it unbelievable that he has forged such an illustrious career, which included 266 appearances, for his hometown club.
He said: “To play here for 17 years and get paid for the honour is just stupid, I still have to pinch myself.
“It will be hard not to be involved, or come here every week to watch it’s a great club, my club.
“But that’s it now and I can look back on my career and I know I’ve given everything I can give. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.”
Hazell will undoubtedly be missed both on and off the pitch but is confident the club are moving in the right direction and holds great hopes for next season.
He added: “Gloucester is a good club and we just have to fulfil the potential and win something.
“It’s a club where if you are not honest you won’t be here long and hopefully that ethos continues.
“If anyone thinks they are bigger than that they get chopped back down.
“Nigel has made some great signings for next year and hopefully we will see the club lift some silverware.”