Henry Perenara went from scoring NRL tries to awarding them but all that time the player-turned-referee had been secretly struggling.
Perenara carved out his career in the NRL with almost 100 games as a player and nearly 200 games as a referee but it was 20 years before Perenara was officially diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia – a heart condition that results in an abnormally fast heart rate.
Medical experts consider 180 beats per minute high but with Perenara’s condition, his could race up to 230.
“First thing dad said when I told him about being diagnosed, he said, ‘why are you still doing this?’,” Perenara told 1 NEWS.
It didn’t take long for him to run out of answers.
“I actually went off my meds because it was starting to affect the way I was refereeing, the way I was starting to feel,” he said.
“And then I had an episode at training where I blacked out … pretty much collapsed at the end of the session.
“That's when I made the decision to pull the pin.”
Perenara’s condition isn't life threatening and he has a degree to fall back on for life after the NRL.
After two decades in Australia, he'll return to Auckland where it all started as captain of the Lynfield College First XII.
As the oldest of six brothers as well as the cousin of All Black TJ Perenara, the 40-year-old said family is now his main focus.
“I’ve been preparing for this day for a long, long time,” he said.