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The suspension of the season due to COVID-19 led to Wests Tigers stalwart Chris Lawrence deciding to hang up his boots - but not because he lost his passion for the game.

Lawrence, who is revered for giving his all in each of the 250 NRL appearances he made for Wests Tigers, adopted the same approach to his business, One Wellbeing, while the competition was stopped.

He no longer feels able to fully commit to both.

The 31-year-old will retire at the end of the season to focus on his work with athletes and business leaders, although Tigers coach Michael Maguire wants him to remain with the club to help mentor younger players.

It was one of the reasons Maguire implored Lawrence to continue playing this year as he felt the former Kangaroos representative still had much to contribute.

However, the 10-week break from March 22 to May 28 made Lawrence realise that he was becoming more and more drawn to the business he established in 2014.

"I still had the motivation and still had the drive to get up and do the training and the work that was necessary but I found myself during that period working really hard within my business that I had set up and grown," Lawrence said on Tuesday.

"At that stage there were a lot of unknowns - even if we would come back - and I really enjoyed having another challenge that was different from footy.

Keith Galloway and Chris Lawrence in 2011.
Keith Galloway and Chris Lawrence in 2011. ©NRL Photos

"Even though I have had that business for a number of years I found a real passion and drive for a new challenge.

"I suppose, coming back into training and that sort of mini pre-season before we started playing and the games, the body is getting older and it’s a bit tougher to recover.

"If I went another year I don't think that drive would still be there to put my body on the line week-in and week-out to perform at this level. It is what I pride my game on and I just started to feel doubts whether I would do that next year."

Maguire recalled the fanfare around Lawrence's debut as a 17-year-old schoolboy just days before his HSC exams in 2006 against Brisbane after Tigers centre Paul Whatuira was ruled out with injury.

He scored a try in the round 21 clash and has been a mainstay of Tigers teams ever since under the coaching of Tim Sheens, Jason Taylor, Mick Potter, Ivan Cleary and Maguire.

"It was huge news that he was coming out of school to debut, and I always admired Chrissy from afar because he always committed everything when he did something on the footy field," Maguire said.

Chris Lawrence during his first season in the NRL.
Chris Lawrence during his first season in the NRL. ©NRL Photos

"He is a great example of leadership. I was watching him train and grab a young Shawn Blore, and just talk to him about his game.

"That is what Chris Lawrence is all about. He is willing to do anything for his team-mates and the staff around the organisation. That is why he had such a long career."

Not even horrific facial injuries suffered last year during a collision at training in Auckland, which left Lawrence requiring seven plates to be spread across more than 10 fractures, made him think of quitting.

Despite wife Kathryn initially telling him, "you're never playing footy again", Lawrence was determined to continue as long as he could commit to putting his body on the line for the Tigers.

"In the time I have been here there are no egos, just guys who are willing to come in and work hard and it has been enjoyable day-in and day-out," Lawrence said.

"Obviously we have had the ups and downs but to me, coming in and knowing that the guys next to you are going to make every single day enjoyable and rip into training - always doing their best and always pushing you - that is what it’s about. Having that sort of mateship is really important at a club."

If I went another year I don't think that drive would still be there

Wests Tigers back-rower Chris Lawrence

Asked who had the greatest influence on his 15-year career at the Tigers, Lawrence was unable to separate Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, the only other players to reach the 250 game milestone for the club.

However, Lawrence, who switched from the centres to second-row later in his career, also reserved special praise for Englishman Gareth Ellis and Chris Heighington.

"Obviously guys like Benji and Robbie stick out straight away. I spent most of my career with those guys," Lawrence said.

"But guys like Gareth Ellis and Chris Heighington, who were so professional day in and day out, they really set the tone and the standard when I was coming through."

Lawrence was named in an extended squad for Saturday's match against Sydney Roosters at Leichhardt Oval.​

"As a young kid you dream of playing one game," he said. "To be able to make my debut then and sit here 15 years later, is something I’m proud of."

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