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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Adelaide defender Ben Rutten, 31, will retire at the end of the season. It was a decision he made several months ago. In making the announcement, Rutten said he wanted to finish while still contributing to the team and felt the time was right. He believes the club is in good hands with "a talented and motivated playing group". Rutten, who will finish with more than 230 games to his credit, started with West Adelaide as a junior. He was overlooked in two national drafts before the Crows added him to their rookie list in 2002. He debuted in 2003 against Fremantle and kicked three consecutive goals with his first three kicks. He was named All Australian in 2005 and finished top three in the club champion awards in 2005 and 2011.

Rutten counts the many friendships and finals appearances as highlights of his 12 year AFL career, and said “Playing finals football is what I cherish and will miss most ... I am grateful for the support of so many people... at the Crows and am proud to call myself a one-club player.” Coach Brenton Sanderson described Rutten, who is keen to pursue a career in coaching, as a valuable contributor both on and off the field.

Source: Ian Shuttleworh, Adelaide Media Release

Across town, premiership player and former Port captain Dom Casissi announced that Round 18 would be his last game. He retired with more than 200 games to his name. He is also sixth on the club's games record list. Like Rutten, Casissi is 31 and said the time was right to bow out, admitting he felt his body was struggling to recover each week. In making the announcement, Casissi said “It’s been amazing and I’ve lived my absolute dream to play AFL ... To win a premiership and wear the captain’s number one guernsey is just such an honor ... I leave the game really happy and content, particularly with where the club is at right now.”

Coach Ken Hinkley praised Casissi's contribution and his “selfless” nature. At the end of the match against the Melbourne Demons, both teams formed a guard of honor as the home crowd at Adelaide Oval cheered Casissi. He was chaired from the ground after he made a brief speech to teammates and supporters.

Source: James Wakelin, Port Adelaide Media Release

The Bulldogs lost veteran defender Tom Williams in early July. Williams injured a hamstring playing in the VFL during Round 16 and decided to bring down the curtain on an injury-riddled career which has seen him play just 85 games since his debut in 2007. Williams, 27, announced that his retirement was immediate and thanked the club for the opportunity to play, saying " I am proud of my career, and although it was met with some frustrating periods with injury, I can take away countless positives. I thank the club, my teammates and our supporters for their patience and support over the years and I look forward to seeing the exciting future of the Western Bulldogs unfold."

Club GM Graham Lowe paid tribute to Williams' career and in particular his contribution and resilience over an extended period of time. Williams won a Rising Star nomination in 2007 and had his best season in 2010 when he played 23 games including three Finals.

Denis Bicer, Western Bulldogs Media Release

Just ahead of their Round 18 match against Fremantle, St Kilda veteran Lenny Hayes announced that 2014 would be his final season. Hayes, like Casissi and Rutten, said he felt the time was right. Hayes joked that he cried more when former teammate Robert Harvey made the announcement of his retirement than he did when telling the team of his own decision. He also said he felt he had given all he could and thanked the club's supporters and members, “I love playing football and I love the St Kilda football club so it was never going to be easy ... It has been a tremendous journey. I am enormously grateful for experiences I have had and the lifelong friends I have made”.

Hayes, 34,will retire as one of the most decorated players in St Kilda’s history and one of the most universally admired and respected footballers of all time. So much so that his teammates wore "I Love Lenny" t-shirts at the official announcement. Hayes was drafted by the Saints in 1998 after winning the Morrish Medal (the TAC Cup juniors equivalent of the Brownlow Medal). Hayes went on to win three club Best and Fairest awards and finished in the top three a further four times. He was named in the All-Australian team in 2003, 2005 and 2009 and represented Australia in the International Rules in 2003. He captained the Saints in 2004 when they won the first of two preseason Premierships and shared the captaincy with Nick Riewoldt and Luke Ball in 2007 when the club experimented with rotating captains. He was a key player in the 2009 and 2010 Grand Finals and won the Norm Smith Medal in the tied Grand Final in 2010 (Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury won it in the replay).

Coach Alan Richardson paid tribute to Hayes, “I have always held Lenny in the highest esteem as an outsider looking in but since I have come to St Kilda, my opinion of him has only grown. He is held in the highest regard by everyone in the football world and the leadership he has shown both on and off the field has been nothing short of outstanding. He will be remembered as one of St Kilda’s all-time greats.” The Saints will celebrate Hayes’ career with a special tribute game against the Western Bulldogs in Round 20, which will be the club’s final home and away game of the season.

Source: Luke Holmesby, St Kilda Media Release, smh.com.au

Former Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell suffered what appeared to be a season-ending ankle injury in Round 17 against Essendon. However the injury also ended a distinguished career with Maxwell deciding to retire immediately. Maxwell, who has battled ankle and calf injuries recently, said his body had enough and he had nothing left. In making the announcement, Maxwell said, "It would have been nice to play out the season but ... I can’t complain. I’m completely content to have played for so long, to have made so many friends, met so many fans and enjoyed so many rich experiences. Playing for Collingwood changed my life.”

Maxwell’s rise from AFL reject to Premiership captain and All-Australian defender is a remarkable story of persistence, single minded dedication, selflessness and, ultimately, success. Maxwell, 34, was overlooked by a number of clubs several times before the Magpies took him as a rookie in 2003. In 2004, he was promoted to the senior list and immediately distinguished himself as one of the best rookies of all time. He began his career in the midfield as a tagger but soon moved to defense. His ability to play on tall and small players, intercept and repel opposition attacks and marshal his fellow defenders made him one of the best and most respected defenders in the competition.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire described Maxwell as a “living club treasure” and one of the “greatest Collingwood people of all time ... From humble beginnings as a player he led Collingwood all the way to a Premiership. We will never be able to thank him enough.”

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley played with Maxwell and, when the two were teammates, urged him to consider a future as a leader and possibly captain. “It was obvious quite early in ... his career that he carried in him a lot of the virtues that we hold dear as a club - excellence, discipline, relentlessness, community and remaining side by side ... Every one of his teammates, past and present, would have a story about how Maxy helped them in some way, of how he gave everything he had and inspired them to do the same. And the fans saw it ... on match day, too. It’s easy to love a bloke like that.” So revered was he and respected by Buckley that, in 2008, he presented Maxwell with the number 5 guernsey which he himself wore with distinction through his own glittering career.

Maxwell will remain with the club in 2015 as part of his preparation for a management role.

NICK MAXWELL
Games: 208
Goals: 29
Premiership: 2010
Finals: 18
Grand Finals: 3
Captain: 2009-2013
All-Australian: 2009
2nd best and fairest: 2009

Source: Stephen Rielly, Collingwood Media Release

Article last changed on Sunday, July 27, 2014 - 8:26 AM EDT


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