Gloucester lock Alex Brown: 'I'm gutted it's ended like this'
DEVASTATED Alex Brown admits he is 'in mourning' at being forced to retire from rugby – but is proud to bow out at the top of his trade.
Gloucester's 33-year-old stalwart lock is still coming to terms with the fact he will never play again, after 227 Premiership appearances – the sixth-highest of the professional era.
The Kingsholm lineout boss revealed today that surgeons have told him he will never regain sufficient movement in his arm and shoulder to make a return to rugby.
Brown underwent shoulder surgery to repair nerve damage that could have helped him return to the Cherry and Whites ranks.
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But the extent of the damage and the repairs mean his career is over.
The Bristol-born second row will now look to continue his role in Gloucester's coaching staff, helping co-ordinate the Cherry and Whites' lineout work.
Admitting it was a shock to have retirement forced upon him, Brown said he will always cherish his decade with the Cherry and Whites.
He explained: "I'll never forget the surgeon coming into the room after the operation and telling me the situation, and saying 'that's it in terms of rugby. You won't be playing rugby again'.
"Those words, they were powerful words, and it's been a really tough time and tough to deal with.
"I'm still mourning from it now really, it's still very raw.
"I've tried to keep myself involved in the team as much as possible, and I'll continue doing that, because I do love the sport and I love Gloucester.
"It's just gutting that it ended this way.
"It will get back to the stage where I will be able to do a lot of general, everyday things, but to the level required for rugby I won't be near that.
"I will have lack of movement in my arm for the rest of my life I would have thought.
"And that's tough."
Brown sustained a shoulder injury in Gloucester's season-opening 24-19 Kingsholm defeat to Northampton, and had initially hoped to make a quick recover.
But with each passing medical appointment, the situation worsened.
He continued: "It was a one-off hit, pain running through my arms, a lack of sensation and I knew I'd done something quite bad.
"I didn't know what scale at that point, and in all honesty I thought it was something that would fix itself over time.
"But as time went on and the more specialists I saw, I realised this could be something quite serious.
"Going into the operation that I initially had to have, I knew it could go one of two ways.
"The surgeon was pretty up-front about that. It could go down the road of me recovering, and them not doing too much in the operation.
"Or it could be what it ended up, doing a full-blown nerve transfer, and obviously the recovery is not going to be possible to play rugby again."
Relieved to have his benefit year to allow him to maintain his Kingsholm association, Brown said one of the hardest things about his situation is not having the time or chance to make the decision on his own terms.
He said: "It's a great way to sign off and say thank you very much, the supporters have been fantastic.
"A lot of players finish, and that will be it, done.
"And they'll drift off and maybe be forgotten about almost.
"So I'm lucky to have this and I'll savour it.
"I've got to realise the fact that I'm 33 now, I've had a good crack at it, and possibly I was looking to play for two, three more years.
"To have someone stop it, it seems very, very harsh now, but I've stopped at the top, and I could have drifted and drifted, kept going and going.
"But there is a point when you've got to stop.
"Unfortunately this has been taken out of my hands, I haven't had the opportunity to make that decision, someone's made it for me.
"And maybe I'll look back and think that that was a good thing, but for now that's tough.
"If you were going to make that call yourself, you'd take your time, speak to all your coaches, speak to all your family, speak to everyone and get their take on it.
"But this is very, very final, and when someone tells you, 'You can't play rugby again, you will not be able to', the first reaction is to think, 'Of course I will'.
"But you've got to take it on board, you have no choice.
"I just love the game so much, and even if it's just for the rest of this year it's just a great place to be.
"I'd like to continue my role with the lineout work at Gloucester as long as I can, to be honest, I enjoy it and it's something I'm passionate about.
"I'm a bit of a geek like that, I like all the lineout stuff and the technical stuff.
"It's been an absolute pleasure and privilege to play at the club and be part of it, and hopefully I can still be a part of the club's ongoing future."