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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

One day before the Eagles played their match against the Indigenous All-Stars, Beau Waters announced his immediate retirement due to his inability to overcome the shoulder problems which have kept him sidelined for the past 18 months. An innocuous bump to his bad shoulder convinced him it was time to give it up. Waters suffered the knock the week before and said "I just went to grab a ball and got hit in a certain direction that jeopardized the integrity of the shoulder ... From them on, it got progressively worse ... I was struggling to get through skills sessions. After being so bullish during the preseason, I was probably a little bit deluded by the fact I hadn't received any contact over that period. I was wrapped in cotton wool. The rest of my body feels great."

Waters, 28, took his announcement in stride saying there wasn't a lot of emotion in his decision, just the fact he realized that his impact would be limited and that he could no longer contribute the way he wanted. Since being drafted in 2003, the rugged defender has managed only 120 games (of a possible 259) due to groin and elbow injuries as well as the shoulder which has required multiple surgeries. At a press conference, he revealed he had had 31 shoulder operations. He missed the 2005 season and Grand Final due to osteitis pubis but was a key to the West Coast's Premiership in 2006 and said that the Grand Final was a highlight of his career. He was also named All-Australian in 2012. He served as vice-captain to Darren Glass and was widely tipped to be the next captain but stepped aside to concentrate on his rehab from injury. Of his retirement, Waters said "I walk away a really happy man. I've loved the experience and people ... No regrets, and never any resentment". He said he wanted to be remembered as a good teammate.

Waters speaks of the 2006 Premiership with just a hint of regret, saying he was fortunate to be there as the youngest player on the field that day at just 20 years old. He added that there was a bit of arrogance about the successful 2006 team with everyone expecting it to happen over and over again, which it didn't. On that note, he offered advice to all current players, advice which many before him have issued, "Grab your opportunity when you can because you are a long time retired." Waters, who has an MBA, said he would take a break from football and weigh up his options but he did not rule out a return to the game.

Coach Adam Simpson, who has never had the chance to see Waters in action as coach but was an opponent during his own playing days with North Melbourne, praised Waters for his attitude throughout. "He must fight some demons on his own every now and then, but he doesn't show it in front of the group or me .. He's a no-fuss type ... His leadership and how he handles himself has been invaluable." Simpson likened Waters to his former Kangaroo teammate Glenn Archer, who he said was the toughest man he had ever played with.

West Coast communications manager Gary Stocks wrote a fitting tribute to Waters. According to Stocks, it was talent scout Trevor Woodhouse who "introduced" him to Waters via a five minute video highlights package of the young South Australian playing in the Under-18 Championships. Stocks said he always liked hard, tough and fearless players. Stocks said Waters "displayed it all. Bone-crunching body hits on his opponents, outstanding marks going back with the flight and a neat left-footed kicking action." As a result, the Eagles "had their man ... He went as hard for the ball when he was vulnerable as he did when he had the opportunity to clean up an opponent." Stocks spoke of Waters' exhausting recovery programs, the setbacks and the fightbacks and how Waters remained positive throughout.

Waters' work is no less impressive off the field. He has been involved with numerous charities including the Cancer Council WA and Youth Focus. He won the Chris Mainwaring Medal as best clubman and was twice awarded the Eagles in the Community Award. In 2014, he won the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award. Always positive, Waters cracked a few jokes as well. "I put a few kids through college via my surgeries, a couple of surgeon's children ... I'm still beeping through airports. The other day in the electrical storm I was a bit worried about walking outside. I'm like a lightning beacon." He also joked that he wished the number of surgeries he has endured were less than his age and suggested that he would not be taking up arm-wrestling.

Twitter was abuzz with tributes from teammates, opponents and fans:
Nic Naitanui: Honor to play alongside ya Beau. No greater servant of the community and nobody tougher on the field.
Lachlan Keefe: Congratulations Beau Waters. Most courageous player I've ever seen on a footy field, well played.
Tom Boyd: Congrats Beau Waters, terrific player who played with all the qualities we love in our great game.
Jude Bolton: Tough as nails Beau Waters. Such a shame to see another career cut short due to the rigors of the game.


Article last changed on Saturday, February 28, 2015 - 9:03 PM EST

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