MIKE SCHMID has paid tribute to David Slemen after the Esher captain was forced to retire through injury.
The former Orrell, Connacht and Harlequins fly-half has missed the entire campaign with a back injury sustained last summer.
Slemen, 33, consulted different specialists over a disc problem but has finally decided to hang up his boots.
Director of Rugby Schmid admitted the loss of Slemen is a huge blow and says his absence has been a major reason why Esher have struggled this season.
Schmid said: “His contribution to the club has been immense and we will miss him.
“I knew that if we had had him out there this season he would have made a big difference. Losing your captain and 10 plus all the other injuries was a huge loss for us this year.
“That was one of the reasons at the beginning of the season why we were a little bit rudderless. He was the man to give us stability and direction out on the pitch and we have missed him immensely.”
Slemen, son of former England wing Mike, joined Esher five years ago and Schmid admits he was thrilled to secure his services.
Schmid said: “He was somebody that we were delighted to get at the time with his experience at Connacht and Quins in particular.
“He was a ready-made leader for us. We were losing our captain Duncan Cormack at the time and it was really important to find somebody with some credibility and somebody who would earn some respect based upon what they had done and how they were as a person.
“Dave walked in and filled that position for us very, very well and obviously as fly-half, he leads your team anyway in how you play.
“He just grabbed the respect of the boys almost instantly and really grew as a captain and a leader and was a driving force behind the club on and off the pitch for a number of years.
“He was always someone who you talk to and discuss things honestly and openly and he’s been a great sounding board.
“He is an exceptionally switched-on guy who understands the game deeply. This year, even though he has been injured, he has made some fantastic contributions which shows the character of the guy.”