Newcastle Jets captain Nigel Boogaard had plenty of highlights to reflect on as he announced his retirement from professional football on Friday after a 16-year career.
The 34-year-old defender, with 275 A-League games, recounted his debut at the Central Coast Mariners, an FFA Cup win with Adelaide, an All Stars game against Manchester United and junior national team camps.
But it was coming back to his hometown club, where he finished as their longest-serving skipper, that obviously meant the most.
"I enjoyed my time, but nothing beats coming back here," Boogaard said as he broke down in tears.
Despite the tears, Boogaard said retirement was not a sad time and he was looking forward to the next chapter in his life.
"It's been a long 16 years, but an enjoyable one," he said.
"Lots of ups and downs but I look back and I want to thank everyone who has made that possible.
"It's been fun, by no means is this is a sad moment for me, I've come to terms with this.
"I just feel it's the right time for me to step away and enjoy some more family time and enjoy life after football.
"It's been a great 16 years, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.
"I think if you said to me as a 10 year old at the fence at Breakers Stadium watching ... if you said that in 16 years time you'll get a career playing football that spans as long as it does, I probably would have laughed at you.
"I've been a fan of this club and I always will be, I was lucky enough to play here and hopefully in years to come I'm able to sit upstairs and enjoy this club being successful into the future."
Boogaard has captained the Jets since returning to the Hunter in 2015 from Adelaide.
The hard-nosed centre-back, who started his A-League career at the Mariners in 2006, played 122 games for Newcastle but has struggled in recent years with leg injuries.
In 2018, he famously returned early from a fractured leg to play in the club's home grand final loss to Melbourne Victory.
He said mounting injuries, which included Achilles tendonitis, had played a big part in his decision.
"I'm not by any means the best specimen anyway, so for me to drag myself this long, I'm pretty happy with that," he said.
"But it does play a part."
"It will be nice to wake up on weekends and be able to walk to get breakfast and not be feeling the aches and pains.
"I would have liked to play more games but that's part and parcel of it and I'm still pretty proud to have achieved what I've achieved."
Boogaard was on a one-year deal this season and ready for it to be his last, but he said he wrestled with the decision.
"I had it in my mind at the start of the year, probably off the back of the return from COVID and a bit of uncertainty when the last coach left and who was coming in, and renewing contracts and things," he said.
"For me, in my mind, I was kind of ready to just call it. But I think the start of the season ... I thoroughly enjoyed pre-season and enjoyed working with the coaching staff that we had this year and the playing group was great.
"I think I released that pressure a little bit at the start of the year and really started to enjoy it and probably played some better football than I had the past couple of years, and then there was the possibility of pushing to see if there was something for next year, but for me I think it's the right time to call it."
The Jets came 11th came a challenging season featuring uncertainty over the future of the club, an ownership change and the decision from coach Craig Deans to step aside after just four months in the fulltime job.
However, Boogaard finished on a positive note with the 2-1 win over premiers Melbourne City on Thursday night which ensured Newcastle avoided the wooden spoon.
"I didn't really think about it being my last game," he said. "I just wanted to make sure we got a result and got off the bottom of the table. Not just for personal reasons and wanting to finish off on a high, but the fact that the boys this year, and the staff and everyone, we put in this year everything we had and we didn't want to finish last.
"It was just something nice for the boys to hold onto at the end of the year, knowing the season we went through."
Boogaard said he wanted to stay involved with football, potentially playing locally after a break and developing as a coach.
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