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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

A career that almost wasn't will come to a close at the end of this season with Sydney's Brett Kirk announcing his retirement when the season is completed. In making the announcement, Kirk said he knew in his heart that the time was right. Kirk began his football journey in Sydney's Reserves but was cut from team. He refused to accept the rejection, returning home to play two seasons with his local club before trying again at Sydney. He eventually made it on to the club's rookie list and debuted in 1999, but played just 12 games in his first two years. It took until Round One, 2003 for him to notch 50 games. By 2004 he was a midfield mainstay. Not blessed with great skill or speed, he more than made up for a lack of these qualities with his courage, grit, competitiveness and determination.

The 33-year old Kirk had played 225 games going into Round Nine this year and has not missed a game since Round 15, 2002 to rack up 184 consecutive games. He was Co-Captain alongside Leo Barry and Barry Hall in 2005 when the club broke their 72 year premiership drought. When he held the Premiership Cup aloft, he acknowledged past players and fans by proclaiming "This is for the Bloods!" The Swans were known as the Bloods during their days at South Melbourne.

While he doesn't get the public accolades attributed to superstars such as Chis Judd, Dean Cox and Gary Ablett, he is well-respected and admired by his peers within and outside the club. A devout Buddhist, his work ethic, discipline and determination epitomizes the club's ethos and team spirit. Coach Paul Roos, who was Kirk's teammate until his own retirement in 1997, described Kirk as one of the greats of the club and of the game. He acknowledged Kirk's early struggles to make the grade and said Kirk was a great example of what could be achieved. Roos believes Kirk would be in the top five of all the players who ever played for the club. He said, “It’s not only his legacy as a player ... Equally important is his enormous influence on the culture of this ... club. Hopefully there will always be a little bit of Brett Kirk in the Sydney Swans ...". Kirk agreed, saying that although the 2005 premiership was the ultimate prize, he was also proud of the impact he had in helping to create that culture and helping the club gain respect.

Club chairman Richard Colless was equally effusive in his praise of Kirk. Colless said that he always told players new to the club that he wanted them to leave as better players and people. He said Kirk was the best example. He also said there were not too many people in the history of the club who had made a greater contribution than Kirk. CEO Andrew Ireland said it was always a sad day when someone like Kirk decided to retire. He described Kirk not only as a fantastic player but a fantastic person.

Sydney Swans Club Champion: 2005 and 2007
Club Champion Runner-up: 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008
Sydney Swans Player of the Finals Series: 2006
Sydney Swans Co-Captain since 2005
All-Australian 2004
International Rules: 2003, 2004

Source: Sydney Morning Herald and Jenny McAsey, Club Media Release, ed. notes

Article last changed on Friday, May 28, 2010 - 11:38 PM EDT

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