by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Round 23 saw the curtain come down on eight more players: GWS defenders Josh Hunt and Stephen Gilham, Bulldog Daniel Giansiracusa, Sydney's Ryan O'Keefe, Magpie Luke Ball, Gold Coast rugby convert Karmichael Hunt and St Kilda duo Clint Jones and James Gwilt.
Josh Hunt began his career with Geelong where he played 198 games and was a key to their 2007 and 2011 Premierships. Hunt, 32, played a total of 13 games with the Giants since joining them at the end of 2013 to bring his game tally to 211. Hunt played in the 2008 International Rules series and Geelong's 2006 and 2009 preseason premierships.
Gilham, 29, was originally drafted by Port Adelaide in 2002 but managed just one senior game before being delisted at the end of 2005. Hawthorn then picked him up as a rookie in 2006 and he was soon elevated to the senior list. Gilham played 98 games for the Hawks and was a key in defense in the 2008 Premiership. Hawthorn traded him to GWS at the end of 2012. He played 15 games with the Giants for a total of 114 games.
General Manager Football Graeme Allan congratulated the pair on their AFL careers and said the experience the duo brought to the club was invaluable. "They have helped mentor young players and shown them what it takes to achieve ultimate success ... They should be very proud of their careers and what they have achieved."
Hunt plans to attempt a career as an NFL punter, something he has been planning for some time. He has been working for the past several years with former Cat Ben Graham, who recently returned to Australia after a successful stint in the NFL.
Source: afl.com.au, sen.com.au, Leigh Meyrick, GWS Media Release, AFL Record Season Guide
Daniel Giansiracusa, 32, almost called it quits at the end of 2013. He decided to play one more season and combined playing with a part time coaching role. He said now was the right tine to retire after 265 games over 15 years. His games tally puts him tenth on the club's games list. Drafted in 1999, Giansiracusa scored a goal with his first kick and went on to establish himself as one of the best small forwards in the competition kicking 367 goals.
Giansiracusa will remain at the club as an assistant coach. Coach Brendan McCartney believes he make a successful coach. “He’ll end up being exactly the way he was as a player, he’ll leave no stone unturned ... his greatest attribute, apart from his competitiveness, is that he never stops learning and he’s just so open to getting better.”
Giansiracusa was a Rising Star nominee in 2001, played in the International Rule series in 2005, led the club's goal-kicking in 2012 and played in the club's 2010 preseason premiership.
Source: sen,com.au, fanatix.com, AFL Record Season Guide
Collingwood's Luke Ball played his 223rd and final game in Round 23. Ball, 30, said a back injury which would require surgery if wanted to play again next year was part of the reason for his decision. Another factor was a conversation with Coach Nathan Buckley with Buckley telling Ball his opportunities would be limited in 2015. He has also battled a calf injury this year which restricted him to 17 games.
In a statement Ball said, "I still have the competitive will to play on but the team is evolving and ... I need everything to go right to meet my expectations and the standard required by the team ... I’m at peace with the decision. If I step back and consider .. my career, I've got so much to appreciate and be thankful for. I’ve had great fun, met all sorts of people, made some wonderful friends, been challenged by disappointments and injuries and derived enormous satisfaction from competing and striving for success. I love the game and I want to leave loving it." Buckley praised Ball as the ultimate professional, "It was always going to take a train to stop him, and in the end, it did. You could never ask for more from 'Bally' in terms of his preparation, the example he sets, the standard he holds himself to and the effort he brings.He has been an inspiration for his teammates, a wonderful player and a person of great integrity. We were fortunate to have him play in a black and white jumper."
Ball was part of the 2001 "super draft" in which he was the second pick, sandwiched between Luke Hodge and Chris Judd. He played 142 games with the Saints 2003-2009. He was traded to Collingwood at the end of 2009 and was a key to their 2010 Grand Final win in the replay against his former side.
Ball is currently the president of the AFL Players Association and hopes to continue with the AFLPA in some capacity next year. He will remain as president until the AGM in March. The AFLPA also issued a statement, congratulating Ball, who succeeded Luke Power as president in 2012, on a fine career. Acting CEO Ian Prendergast said, “Luke has been a huge contributor to the game, and will be a big loss ... Luke has been highly regarded by PA members for his ongoing work with key industry stakeholders that has ensured players have maintained a strong voice on all major issues ... Luke has worked tirelessly ... to ensure the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) reflects the position of players ... as well as continuously striving for outcomes that deliver a first class sporting workplace for all players ... The legacies left by Luke will benefit players and the game for a long time to come.”
After the game against Hawthorn, both teams lined up to form a guard of honor for Ball.
Goals: 91 (through Round 23)
Awards: Collingwood Premiership 2010, best finals player 2010, St Kilda best and fairest 2005, St Kilda second best and fairest 2004, All Australian 2005, St Kilda captain 2006, St Kilda co-captain 2007.
Source: Simon Chiarelli, Collingwood Media Release, sen.com.au, Rebecca Chitty, AFLPA Media Release
Article last changed on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 12:36 PM EDT