by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Just ahead of the Round 18 match against Richmond, Eagle ruckman Dean Cox announced that 2014 would be his final season. Cox, 33, admitted that it takes him two or three days to recover after games and that he felt it was time to retire. He also said the current form of ruck partners Nic Nainatui, Scott Lycett and Callum Sinclair had made the decision easier. While he admitted it would have been nice to be the first Eagle to reach 300 games he said he had never planned on hanging around just to reach a certain number of games. Cox is planning on moving into a coaching role and has spent much of this season working with his fellow ruckmen in a coaching capacity.
West Coast Coach Adam Simpson said he didn't expect at the start of the year that Cox and Darren Glass (who retired several weeks ago) would both call it a day. Simpson said Cox had been a wonderful player, seeing him as an opposition player, watching him as an opposition coach and this year as his senior coach. “He has been an exceptional player and we have been trying to manage his work load ... I believe he is ready to transition into coaching. We have already seen the impact he has had in a coaching role with the younger ruckmen and he has so much knowledge to share ... that’s exciting for the club.”
Former Eagles coach John Worsfold was recently asked who was the greatest player he coached over 12 years. “If I had to pick one, I’d lean towards Coxy, I’d lean towards the influence he’s had on games over such a long period of time, not just because he’s taller than everyone else and he taps the ball well, but he kicks the ball as well as most midfielders and he gets possessions up there with the mid-tier midfielders in the game. So he plays that dual role and has been outstanding.”
The plaudits are well-deserved as Cox redefined the role of the modern ruckman. His athleticism, mobility, ground skills, kicking and ball wining skills saw him play almost as an extra midfielder with his ability to drop back into defense or push forward. On top of that, his excellent tap work allowed his midfielders first crack at winning the ball more often than not. The combination of his athleticism and his height (6'6") made him difficult to counter.
Taken as a rookie in 2000, Cox debuted in Round Two, 2001, ironically against Sydney, the team against which the Eagles built a modern day rivalry due to a string of very close contests. His presence alongside midfield stars Ben Cousins, Chris Judd and Daniel Kerr added to the arsenal. Although a senior player in his first year, Cox still had to bide his time for several years with Michael Gardiner ahead of him. When Gardiner suffered a season-ending knee injury in Round Four, 2004, Cox took over and became the dominant ruckman in the AFL.
Cox always viewed his ruck work as the priority. Speaking on SEN's The Run Home, he said "I’ve always looked at it that I was there firstly to get my hands on the footy and provide the midfield with clean hits. I really look at my hit out to advantage percentage ... then ... how I can impact the game once the ball has left the stoppage area.” He did admit he felt it took some time to develop his aerobic capacity, saying “It probably wasn’t until year three when my running really improved and then getting into games I felt I recovered really well after second and third efforts.”
Cox was instrumental in West Coast's 2005-2006 Grand Finals. He kicked a goal in the 2005 match and was named as one of the best on ground. Ironically it was his kick from the middle of the ground to a waiting pack of players in the goal square in the dying seconds which was intercepted by Sydney Leo Barry to deny the Eagles and give Sydney their first Premiership since 1933. In 2006, he missed five games mid-season due to a broken collarbone. He was named as one of the best on ground in the Finals series and the Grand Final, dominating Sydney's Darren Jolly as the Eagles reversed the previous year's result to take home the cup.
Cox's retirement leaves Sam Butler and Beau Waters as the only remaining members of that 2006 Premiership team still playing.
Games: 287 (through Round 18, club record ahead of Glen Jakovich's 276)
Goals: 167 (through Round 18)
WAFL Simpson Medal 2000 (WAFL Brownlow equivalent)
Best Clubman 2006
Best and Fairest: 2008
All-Australian: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012
Ross Glendinning Medal 2011( best on ground in Western Derby against Fremantle)
Most games played by player who began on rookie list
11th most goals kicked
Most consecutive games played: 104
Leads team for hit-outs
NOTE: Cox was concussed in Round 18 after Tiger Ty Vickery gave him a roundhouse to the face during a boundary throw-in. At this time, it is unknown when he will play his next game. Even if he does not play, he will travel with the team as ruck coach.
Source: foxports.com.au, portlincolntimes.com.au, sen.com.au, theage.com.au, AFL Record Season Guides, Gary Stocks-West Coast Media Release, westcoasteagles.com.au
Beau Maister, a former Eagle traded to the Saints, announced his immediate retirement after a season-ending shoulder injury a month ago while playing in the VFL. Maister, formerly Beau Wilkes, managed just 44 games in an injury-riddled career which began in 2005 on West Coast's rookie list. He had two stints as an Eagle rookie before finally being elevated to the seniors and playing 14 games in 2008. In 2009, a finger injury kept him out of the side for the early games and he spent most of the season in the WAFL, managing just three senior games at the end of the year. After managing just six more mid-season games in 2010, he was delisted and went back to the WAFL but was picked up by the Saints in the 2011 draft although he played only ten games in 2012. Despite the limited appearances, the Saints believed he could compliment Nick Riewoldt and Justin Koschitzke up forward. A fractured wrist and serious hamstring injury restricted Maister to just seven games in 2013. His 2014 season has been just as fruitless with just four games for the year.
Maister, 28, will return to his native WA to pursue business interests. In 2012, he legally changed his name from Wilkes to Maister to honor and keep alive his New Zealand mother's name. St Kilda Head of Football Chris Pelchen paid tribute to Maister for his time at the Saints. "It is with real disappointment that we say goodbye ... as he has become one of the most admired and respected players within our group ... he has performed to his absolute ability through sheer hard work and determination … qualities that have endeared him to everyone at the club. We thank Beau for his commitment to the Saints and wish him every success for the future."
Luke Holmesby, St Kilda Media Release, AFL Record Season Guides
Article last changed on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 10:15 AM EDT