THREE times I have gone to write this article and another champion of the game has declared their intentions to retire. Scott Thomspon, Matt Priddis and just this week Nick Riewoldt all declared they will be retiring from football at the end of the 2017 season and I can guarantee they won’t be the last ones to call time on their playing careers before the season is done. With a month left in the season let’s break down the chances some of footballs greatest make this season their last.
*All stats and awards are accurate as of the completion of Round 19 2017.*
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Gary Ablett, Gold Coast Suns
AWARDS: 301 games, 2x Premiership Player (’07 & ’09), 2x Brownlow Medalist (’09 & ’13), 5x AFLPA MVP, 2x Cats B&F winner (’07 &’09), 3x Suns B&F winner (’11-’13), 8x All-Australian (’07-’14)
THERE is no denying that Gary Ablett is one of the greatest players of all-time. I kind of forget just how dominant he was during the Geelong domination that occurred in the late 00’s leading to him being the Suns poster boy over the last half a decade. There is growing speculation that Ablett will seek a return to Geelong with a year still on his contract, but part of me thinks he should walk away at the end of the year. Regardless, he won’t be in a Suns guernsey in 2018.
VERDICT: PLAY ON (IN GEELONG)
Shaun Burgoyne, Hawthorn Hawks
AWARDS: 337 games, 4x Premiership Player (’04, ’13-’15), 2006 All-Australian
EVEN though the 34-year-old has a whopping 337 games under his belt you could argue that he is playing better than ever before. The man affectionately known as ‘Silk’ could shock the AFL world and retire at seasons end, but his form and health warrant another year at Hawthorn.
VERDICT: PLAY ON
Image from alchetron.com
Matthew Boyd, Western Bulldogs
AWARDS: 291 games, 2016 Premiership Player, 3x Bulldogs B&F winner (’09, ’11 & ’12), 3x All-Australian (’09, ’11 & ’16)
OVER the past 10 years Matthew Boyd has been a prolific ball winner for the Bulldogs. Since 2007 Boyd has played in 223 games and amassed over 6200 disposals, good for an average of over 28 a game. On the verge of his 35th birthday and with some serious miles on his body expect Boyd to join the outgoing retirement class of ’17.
Josh Gibson, Hawthorn Hawks
AWARDS: 225 games, 3x Premiership Player (’13-’15), 2x Hawks B&F winner (’13 & ’15), 2015 All-Australian
THERE aren’t many people that have the honour of being a best and fairest winner in a premiership season. There are even fewer who can say they have done that twice. Josh Gibson is one such player. One of the greatest defenders of his generation, ‘Gibbo’ was pivotal in the Hawks three-peat and I’m hoping he can shake a persistent groin injury to earn a farewell match this season.
Brendon Goddard, Essendon Bombers
AWARDS: 307 games, 2013 Bombers B&F winner, 2x All-Australian (’09 & ’10)
SINCE leaving St Kilda, Brendon Goddard has gone on to become a crucial player for the Bombers. After recently bringing up his 300th game milestone he is still very much an in form required player at Essendon and will still feature on the park for a few more years to come.
VERDICT: PLAY ON
Image from heraldsun.com.au
Michael Johnson, Fremantle Dockers
AWARDS: 227 games, 2013 All-Australian
EVEN though Johnson may be lacking in the awards compartment compared to his fellow retirees, that doesn’t undermine his importance in the Fremantle backline for the past decade. Johnson can claim the honour of being an All-Australian in the year the Dockers made their first and only Grand Final appearance to date. He has looked good this year, but with no contract for 2018 and Freo partaking in a rebuild, there is little reason for him to play on.
Steve Johnson, Greater Western Sydney Giants
AWARDS: 288 games, 3x Premiership Player (’07, ’09 & ’11), 2007 Norm Smith Medalist, 3x All-Australian (’07-’08 & ’10)
ONE of the most exciting players of our generation is slowly falling victim to father time. After 13 glorious seasons with Geelong, ‘Stevie J’ joined the Giants in 2016 and has been plagued by knee issues this year. Fingers crossed Johnson can feature in GWS’ potential deep run into the finals and we get to see some magic from him one more time.
James Kelly, Essendon Bombers
AWARDS: 309 games, 3x Premiership Player (’07, ’09 & ’11), 2011 All-Australian
ANOTHER former Cat from their premiership glory days features on the list, with the now Bomber chalking up another 36 games since leaving the Cattery. Kelly will be 34 heading into next season, many believe he should retire, but I think that the defender will return to Essendon for a third season before hanging up his boots.
VERDICT: PLAY ON
Mark LeCras, West Coast Eagles
AWARDS: 192 games, 2010 All-Australian
YOU can’t deny the fact that LeCras has been under the pump to perform. With West Coast going through a youth movement and LeCras out of contract the likelihood of the small forward being offered a new contract seems slim. He may choose to play at another club for a year or two, but my guess is that 2017 will be his last pro season.
Jarrad McVeigh, Sydney Swans
AWARDS: 294 games, 2012 Premiership Captain, 2x Swans B&F winner (’08 & ’13), 2013 All-Australian
YOU could understand why McVeigh would hang up the boots at the end of the season, with his body failing him a handful of times this year, allowing the club great to register just seven games so far. I can’t see him playing elsewhere therefore, I’ll have my fingers crossed he can stay healthy and Sydney can play at least two finals to let him chalk up 300 matches.
Image from abc.net.au
Sam Mitchell, West Coast Eagles
AWARDS: 323 games, 4x Premiership Player (’08 & ’13-’15), 2012 Brownlow Medalist, 5x Hawks B&F winner (’06, ’09, ’11-’12 & ’16), 3x All-Australian (’11, ’13 & ’15)
WITH a seat in the coaches box looming, Mitchell will likely follow Matt Priddis’ lead and hang up his boots. Many thought that the Hawk great’s move to the West would equate in a premiership for the Eagles, but their inconsistencies mean they may even miss finals. It’s through no fault of Mitchell’s who will aim to win his next premiership medal as a coach.
Leigh Montagna, St Kilda Saints
AWARDS: 287 games, 2x All-Australian (’09-’10)
INJURIES will force Montagna to play his fewest amount of games since way back in 2005. The Saints legend won’t be competing for a flag anytime soon and with his long time pal Nick Riewoldt ending his career this season it’s highly likely that Montagna follows his lead and the infamous pair bow out together in Round 23.
Dale Morris, Western Bulldogs
AWARDS: 239 games, 2016 Premiership Player, 2008 All-Australian
MORRIS will, unfortunately, join the list of AFL players who have tragically had their careers cut short by injury. A gruesome broken arm will not only sideline the champion Bulldog for the rest of 2017 but will likely mean curtains for his prolific career.
David Mundy, Fremantle Dockers
AWARDS: 268 games, 2010 Dockers B&F winner, 2015 All-Australian
ONE of the most underrated players of his generation, David Mundy is still a wanted man at the Fremantle Football Club. His ball use and clutch play (see below) have been a barometer for the Dockers success and he will likely be in Freo colours for a few more seasons.
VERDICT: PLAY ON
Robert Murphy, Western Bulldogs
AWARDS: 308 games, 2x All-Australian (’11 & ’15)
UNFORTUNATELY for football fans, one of the most loveable characters will be leaving the game at seasons end without a coveted premiership medallion. Despite the Bulldogs breakthrough flag last year, finals are still no certainty and it’s highly unlikely that Bob Murphy will be able to celebrate going out as a champion. The last player drafted in last century and the oldest player on a list will be sorely missed.
Drew Petrie, West Coast Eagles
AWARDS: 326 games, 2011 All-Australian
AFTER 16 seasons and over 300 games as a North Melbourne forward Drew Petrie joined the Eagles last offseason and has been a serviceable player for West Coast. With injuries striking their ruckman/forward stocks Petrie has saved the Eagles on a few occasions this year, but with the return of Nic Natanui and the list once again focusing on their youth the time for Drew to retire is now.
Brent Stanton, EssendonBombers
AWARDS: 252 games
STANTON hasn’t been sighted on an AFL field since Round 11 and doesn’t look like he will be returning anytime soon. With over 250 games to his name and no spot inside the best 22, it would be smart for Brent Stanton to step away.
Jobe Watson, Essendon Bombers
AWARDS: 216 games, 3x Bombers B&F winner (’09-’10 & ’12), 2x All-Australian (’12 & ’13)
THE strong bodied Essendon mid hasn’t been his usual dominant best this season missing a few games with a handful of niggles and complaints too. The Bombers aren’t exactly spoilt for choice with players that fit Watson’s mould though so he will be a required player next year. 2018 may be his last season, but he can still contribute in a meaningful way, which will see him stay on an AFL list.
VERDICT: PLAY ON
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