Castleford Tigers’ longest serving player, Kirk Dixon, has decided to retire from the game with immediate effect.
The popular 30-year-old Hull-born winger has been at Castleford since 2007, but made the big decision to call time on his career this week following surgery in the off season to replace a disk in his neck.
Dixon explained: “I’ve had an artificial disk put in there and it was going to be at least a six months no contact rehab period.
“That would have taken up most of this season and prior to the surgery I already had an idea that I might retire at the end of the 2015 season. But it has come to an end now and you simply can’t put a price on your health. It’s certainly not the way I wanted to go out.”
Dixon will have the memory of a Challenge Cup final to look back on from his what turned out to be his final season and in 2014 he was one of the Tigers’ most consistent players, scoring 12 tries in 19 games.
He also passed the 1,000 point mark for the club in the opening day win over Bradford when scoring a try and six goals.
Other highlights of his nine-year spell at Castleford include winning promotion back to Super League in 2007 and equalling the club’s most tries in a Super League game record when crossing the line four times against Wakefield in the 2013 Magic Weekend at the Etihad Stadium.
He also famously kicked a touchline goal to give Cas a sudden death extra-time victory over Wakefield in a fifth round Challenge Cup tie in 2011.
Dixon said: “People try to tell you what it feels like to play at Wembley, but standing there in that tunnel with your best mates behind and in front of you, surrounded by coaching staff that you have upmost respect for, and to do it for a club you have fallen in love with because they have adopted you as your own, after all the club has been through, is just something so special.”
Not being a Cas player will be hard for Dixon.
He said: “I will miss everything about this place, the office staff, the coaches, the players, Castleford itself.
“There are a great bunch of people here in Cas and an honest set of fans who always pick you up when you need it, I’ll just miss it all.
“Trying to come to terms with not putting the shirt on and walking out of that tunnel is something that hasn’t sunk in yet and probably won’t for quite some time.
“Watching the boys walk out v Wakefield is going to be tough. But it’s my health that has to come first now, I have a family, a lovely little girl and it would have been selfish of me to carry on from both a family and a club point of view. I probably wouldn’t have come back from the injury as the same player.”
The Castleford fans are close to Dixon’s heart and he is now looking forward to being one of them, cheering on his former team-mates.
He added: “All I can say is a massive thank you to the Castleford fans. They’ve welcomed me from day one even though I am a codhead, they’ve not held that against me.
“The people here are fantastic. We’ve had some seasons where there really hasn’t been much to shout about, but they’ve still been here supporting us. It’s really humbling as players to know that we’ve got these great people supporting us.
“My family love coming here, there’s two great clubs in Hull they could support but it’s all about Cas for us, so from me and my family it’s a massive thank you and I will look forward to getting behind the boys from the terraces with you all.”
Tigers chief executive Steve Gill led the tributes to the ever consistent and loyal Dixon.
He said: “When a player has to quit the sport he loves through injury it is always going to be a sad day.
“Kirk Dixon has given us so many fantastic memories in his nine-year career at the Tigers and has always been a fans favourite.
“We will all miss having him around the place and I am sure he will miss being part of our great club.
“On behalf of the people of Castleford I would like to thank Kirk for his magnificent contribution to Castleford Tigers over the years.”