Just as Simon Best hadn't really foreseen his pathway towards professional rugby, he had also never anticipated it ending with such sudden finality.
It will be 13 years in September since Best, then with the Ireland squad at the World Cup, was taken to hospital in Bordeaux after feeling unwell and struggling to speak when out for a coffee and stroll with team-mate Paddy Wallace.
"I never thought walking into the hospital that day that I wouldn't play that weekend," recalls the 42-year-old of what was diagnosed as an irregular heart rhythm. "We had Argentina that weekend and the doctor told me I wasn't going to play again, and I said, 'No, I'm playing on Saturday'.
"That's how bizarre it was. I guess when you're playing at that level you feel a bit invincible as well," adds the former prop, who played over 100 times for Ulster and won 23 Ireland caps.
His condition initially deteriorated when in hospital, making his admission - on the insistence of Ireland team doctor Gary O'Driscoll - all-important in terms of treatment and subsequent recovery.
"It was all a bit strange," he says. "When the speech was affected you thought you were saying the right thing but people just couldn't understand."
Best stayed on in hospital and remained in France slightly longer than the under-achieving Ireland squad who, with younger brother Rory in their ranks, exited the 2007 tournament in that weekend's crunch game with Argentina.
Just as he had been told in Bordeaux, Best never played again and bowed to the inevitable by announcing his retirement early in 2008 just after he had turned 30.
"In the end, there was no choice," Best recalls of having to quit.
With that it was back to the family farm outside Poyntzpass where the elder Best - thankfully without further health issues - has combined expanding the business with having a significant input at local club Banbridge, where he has also coached, as well as involvement on committees at Ulster.
Back in 2007 there was no concept of a transition from playing in the way that Rory has been managing in the wake of the latter's less sudden retirement after last October's World Cup Quarter-Final defeat to New Zealand.
For Simon, rugby was moving towards official professionalism when he was finishing up his school education at Portadown College and, though he was on the books at Newcastle in the late '90s - in the company of Doddie Weir, Nick Popplewell and even Jonny Wilkinson - thanks to studying agriculture at the city's university, the idea of actually pursuing a playing career was still a pretty embryonic notion.
"I'd never really thought about rugby as a career," says Best, who opted to take the plunge with a contract at Ulster in 1999 in the wake of the province's European Cup triumph.
The draw of turning out for his home province was too much to resist, along with being part of a European Cup-winning squad who were ready to mount a very determined defence of their title.
"I remember in that early part of my first season there was a great buzz about the place and then we unravelled at the group stages in Europe. And that was some reality check," recalls Best, though clearly not quite on the same scale of having to walk away from the game after eight years at the coalface. "I think the era I was in actually made it a little bit easier for me to move on and I knew what I wanted to do which was agriculture."
Having Simon's experiences to draw upon - he also led both Ulster and Ireland before his brother and the two played alongside each other for both - has potentially been beneficial to Rory, who now works around the farm as well and is readjusting to life without playing never mind the pandemic.
"At the moment, (Rory) is making sure that he takes his time and he's really enjoying that. I've been through it all, albeit a long time ago, but that's the important thing: to try and work out the route you want to take and there are always plenty of things coming at you," says Simon, who is married to Katy with the couple's three children being Jack (10), Sam (nine) and six-year-old Lucy.
"But what Rory's managed to do is spend a good bit of time at home which over the last few years he hasn't been able to do as much. Being away from that routine (as a player) is quite refreshing for him so I think he's taking advantage of that while he can and it's good to have him involved in the farming as well.
"I think," Simon maintains of his own embracing of 'normal life', "that the most difficult thing, and the thing I most struggled with is just the realisation that you'll not get some of the highs that you had.
"You just have to accept that there are other things out there, though they may never give you that buzz. Once you get over that you maybe stop looking for something to replicate it and then you reframe what success looks like for you."
There was playing success, with the elder Best being in the Ulster side which lifted the Celtic Cup in 2003 - he made his debut in late summer 1999 - and then in his first season leading the province they won the Celtic League, though he missed the title-securing game at the Ospreys due to an ankle injury picked up in the previous game.
"I keep winding Justin Harrison up as, naturally, every clip of us winning the Celtic League has him holding the trophy up while I (the captain) was lying in the Ulster Clinic," laughs Best, who could play both sides of the scrum.
Captaincy wasn't something he had actively pursued, though he had been interested in leadership roles.
"I'd never captained a representative side until I led Ulster and that first year we were a really tight group. Sadly, it was the last silverware for Ulster and it's obviously something that has to be turned around," he adds, though for Ireland, while primarily a bench player, he was still part of three Triple Crown wins over a four-year spell in Test rugby.
As it turned out, his very last game was in an Ireland shirt when he came off the bench in their thumping World Cup loss to France in Paris. He obviously didn't make the last group game, with defeat to Argentina bringing a severely humbled Ireland back home.
"One of the unsolved mysteries," is how he describes Ireland's failure to even make the World Cup's knock-out stages in 2007.
As for himself, there are no regrets.
"I should have had a few years ahead of me but I'd probably had as good a time behind me in terms of what maybe was still to come."