Just ahead of the final round, Richmond wingman Shane Edwards and Port midfielder Robbie Gray announced they would retire at the end of the season. Michael Hurley, Devon Smith, and David Mundy joined them in retirement soon after.
Edwards recently reached the 300 game tally against Brisbane and was a key contributor in the 2017, 2018 and 2020 Grand Finals. He was named All-Australian in 2018 and has finished high up in the club's best and fairest numerous times. Edwards, 33, wanted to go out on his own terms and said, “It is time for me to step aside and move on just as players did for me when I started. I am trying to play to the best of my ability ... but it is pretty obvious ... I won’t be helping us move forward next year. The club has given me everything, it has changed my life forever and I will always be connected to the Richmond Football Club. My teammates are what I will miss the most, we have been through so much together and always had fun ... I have won premierships and a few wooden spoons and finished everywhere in between as well.”
Coach Damien Hardwick paid tribute, "Shane came in as a young player and leaves as a proud Richmond and Indigenous man. The journey he came on reflects us as a club and what we have achieved. Shane leaves us as a three-time premiership player and All Australian. It resembles everything we have become. What we have gained from Shane is incredible insight, as individuals and about Indigenous culture as well. The lessons we have learned from Shane as a player can never be understated. The way he came in and impacted games when we needed a spark, is the one thing I will remember from Shane as a player."
Edwards enters a special list of Indigenous players who have played 300 plus games, joining the likes of Shaun Burgoyne, Adam Goodes, Eddie Betts, Andrew McLeod, Lance Franklin, Michael O'Loughlin and Gavin Wanganeen.
Gray also hung up the boots after Round 23 after 18 seasons. He ends with 272 games and 367 goals (through Round 23). Gray, 34, said, "To play in one more ... has me looking forward to playing ... I've got some amazing friends and memories that I'll take with me forever, but it's time for others to get their chance now. I can't wait to play in front of [Port fans] one last time, they've given me and my family so much and been such supporters of me personally." He said it getting harder to recover and has had knee issues, "Obviously I had the big knee operation a long time ago and had a really good run for a long time after that. It's got a bit grumbly the last few years and round one had a bit of an incident with it, was able to come back and play but it has been a bit of a struggle. You get to this sort of age and with issues I've had with my body, I knew it was the right time." Gray said the decision to retire was tough, "Certainly it has played on my mind a fair bit, this year has been a struggle. After I weighed everything up, I felt like this is the right call for me personally and the club."
Known for his ability to stand up in big moments, Gray is often touted as Port Adelaide's greatest player of the AFL era. Coach Ken Hinkley agreed and said his impact had been invaluable, "He's the complete package, he's the absolute best of the best when it comes to playing the game ... but he's equally as far up on that list of great people. "It's such a special person we're talking about today, that's why I find it sad, as much as I do a celebration of his career. I said last week, that in my opinion Rob has been the greatest player at our football club in the AFL era ... His record demands that kind of recognition ... He is the complete package. He is the absolute best of the best ... But he's equally far up that list of great people ... that is why this moment is sad in some ways but such a celebration in other ways ... ".
Rising Star nominee (2007)
AFL Coaches Award 2014
All-Australian 2014, 2015, 2917 and 2018
International Rules series 2011, 2014 and 2015
Showdown Medal (best on ground vs PA) 2010, 2015, 2018 twice and 2019
Bomber forward turned defender Michael Hurley played his first game for the season and his last after announcing his retirement. He was drafted as a power forward in 2008 but was moved to defense where he really blossomed and endeared himself to teammates and fans alike. it was his 194th game. After playing 19 and 14 games in 2019 and 2020, he suffered a severe hip injury in 2021 and suffered a life-threating infection. He had to undergo extensive rehabilitation and had to learn how to walk again. As resilient as ever, he vowed he would play AFL again. He also missed the 2016 season due to suspension over the supplements saga.
Affectionately dubbed ‘Bear’ by his teammates for his caring nature, off the field, Hurley has been involved in various charitable initiatives, particularly the club’s charity partner in Challenge working with children and their families living with cancer, as well as his extensive work to raise funds and awareness for disabled and disadvantaged young people.
Hurley said while he still had the passion for the game, it was the right time to retire, “ ... the club has meant so much to me. The decision has crept up a little bit, and at the start of the year, I really wanted to get back out there and play ... It was about the middle part of the year where I got close and in recent weeks, running out there and getting a kick again was just fantastic. Physically and mentally, I am feeling up for the challenge, but such a big operation and a big couple of years, and the uncertainty around whether physically I could still keep up ... it really set in that it was probably time ... What keeps coming to mind is the relationships I have built ... I probably haven’t experienced a lot of on-field success ..., different success to me is meeting special people and people from this club I’ll have in my life forever. While it’s hard to name everyone individually, I’d also like to thank the admin staff, the property staff and particularly the medical staff, for patching me up ... The most important people at the club to me is my teammates ... All you guys in the room hold a place in my heart and my past teammates too ... ".
General Manager Josh Mahoney said Hurley was held in the highest regard by his teammates and would be missed by everyone at Essendon, "... Michael has been the ultimate clubman ... and we are a better place for his contribution ... His selfless and caring approach has been at the forefront of how Michael has carried himself ... While he was cruelled by various circumstances ... Michael was always an incredibly positive figure and wanted what was best for the football club ... in the weeks following his hip injury, at times it did not look like Michael would be able to run again, let alone train or play ... so we’re delighted he’s able to line up with his teammates on Saturday. After an extensive training block in recent months, he’s been managing his way back through the VFL and building up his game time. He has now earned the opportunity ... and we know our members and supporters will want to say goodbye to Michael too ... ". Hurley was a Rising Star nominee in 2009 and 2010 and All-Australian in 2015 and 2017. He was also awarded life membership to the club in 2018.
Just ahead of Round 22, Essendon forward/midfielder Devon Smith and Docker midfielder David Mundy announced their retirements. Smith's was immediate while Mundy will see out the season, Smith was originally drafted by GWS in 2011 and debuted in 2012. He was a Rising Star nominee that year and also placed second in the club's best and fairest award in 2015. At the end of 2015, after 109 games, he requested a trade back home to Victoria. He played a further 73 games with the Bombers and won the best and fairest award in 2018. A degenerate knee injury saw him manage just eight games in 2022.
Smith said, “While it wasn’t an easy decision ... unfortunately I couldn’t quite get the body to where it needed to be to perform ... I’ve loved my AFL journey and I’ve had the true privilege of representing two fantastic football clubs. I want to thank all my past and present teammates for all their support across the journey ... your time in the AFL goes by so quickly and my message to them this morning was that they shouldn’t lose sight of the fact it is a privilege to run out with your best mates every week. I’ll miss that the most ... ".
General Manager Josh Mahoney acknowledged Smith’s service to the club, “While we’re sad to see Devon hang up the boots, we congratulate him on a wonderful career ... “Despite his body letting him down at times with his injuries, Devon was always hungry to get the best out of himself. He was an ultimate competitor and was selfless in his role when the side required it. Devon added immense tackling pressure and his ability to hit the scoreboard always strengthened our side when he was at his prime."
Through Round 23, Mundy has played 373 games. Mundy, 37, was drafted in 2004 and debuted in 2005. The tally places him 10th for most games in league history and, depending on how the Dockers fare in the finals, he could move up to equal seventh. He won the club's best and fairest award in 2010 and was named All-Australian in 2015. He captained the club in 2016 and played in the International Rules series in 2021.
Mundy said, "I'm incredibly proud, I've been living my dream ... I've loved every bit of it. Not all of it has been easy, there's been quite a few, really hard and emotional bits ... but I've been able to grow as a person and as a player throughout my time at Fremantle and I wouldn't have it any other way".
Fremantle football manager Peter Bell was quick to point out how important Mundy had been in the context of the club's history, "Dave has been a major part of where we are as a club and where we are headed. He's a great character who understands the bigger picture, understands what the stresses of being a player are, and understands more broadly the other decisions and leadership that we need as a football club."
The club paid tribute to Mundy in Round 22 and while the game was the fans' chance to say thank you to Mundy, the veteran said it was also important for him to be able to pay tribute to the club, "It's been an incredible thing to be a part of to be honest, to receive that kind of love and respect from the fans. It's something that's really grown in the back half of my career and I find it really hard to describe how it makes me feel. It's obviously very special and I really appreciate that support."
Source: sportingnews,com.au, abc.net.au, PortAdelaidefc.com.au, abc.net.au, Alexandra Stewart, Essendon Media Release
Article last changed on Tuesday, August 23, 2022 - 7:54 AM EDT