by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Just ahead of Round 19, Eagle Matt Priddis announced 2017 would be his final year, despite being contracted through 2018. Priddis, 32, said he had been thinking about it for about 10 weeks and came to the decision that it was the right time. He fronted the media alongside Coach Adam Simpson and in front of his teammates, "... it's been pretty emotional ... Once you actually say 'bang, this is what we're going to do', there's something ... that really hits home, and that's probably when I broke down on Tuesday ...".Priddis, who won the Brownlow Medal in 2014, said there were several reasons to retire - list management, his dip in form and a belief that he can't make enough of a contribution. He is currently out with a quad injury but hopes to get back for the last games of the season. He also praised new teammate Sam MItchell who crossed from Hawthorn at the end of last year, "I've loved playing alongside 'Mitch', he's brought so much to the footy club, he's a great leader, his skill level is unbelievable ... ".
Priddis, who has played 235 games since his debut in 2006, has averaged 26 disposals and close to seven tackles a game for his career, and is the AFL’s all-time leading tackler (1587). His numbers this year are not far off, averaging 24 disposals, 7-8 tackles and 4-5 clearances per game.
He goes out as one of the most respected players at the club if for nothing else, his persistence. He was overlooked in three consecutive drafts before being added to the club's rookie list in 2006. That came after he won the Sandover Medal (WAFL equivalent of the Brownlow) playing for Subiaco, "It was a dream come true. I would've done anything to get on an AFL list ... But to come to a club that had (Chris) Judd, (Daniel) Kerr, (Ben) Cousins that was going to be a pretty good footy apprenticeship. Even if I was only going to be there for a year I was going to learn as much as I could ... I do know that I've given it everything. I've gotten everything out of my body. I've achieved things that I didn't think I would ever be able to achieve. To play 12 years being the slowest player in the AFL, I'm pretty proud of that." Priddis has several other accolades of which he can be proud: the John Worsfold Medal as club best and fairest in 2013, runner up four other occasions and All-Australian in 2015.
He believes he has played his best football under Simpson, who himself got a bit emotional in declaring Priddis had made the most of his ability, "It's the epitome, isn't it? He'd be the number one (for that), I would have thought ... We spoke about the head, heart and gut, and he just lives and breathes all those things from the footy club to how he carries himself with his family and his values and morals. He's an inspiration. We'll never get another one like this guy."
While no official announcement has been made, it is believed that Sam Mitchell will also retire to take up a permanent coaching position. He joined the Eagles this year not only as a player, but also as a part time coach so he would be ready for a full time postion once his playing days finished.
He will go down in league and St Kilda history as one of the all-time greats. After the narrow Roumd 19 loss to Port Adelaide, champion Nick Riewoldt, 34, announced he would retire at the end of 2017. In speaking to the playing group, Riewoldt said it had been a privilege to represent St Kilda for the past 17 years and thanked the club’s loyal supporters, “When it’s all melted down what we are left with is reality. I’ve been in a hugely privileged position playing a sport I love for a club that I love for 17 years ... Reaching this decision hasn’t been a ‘fall off the cliff’ type epiphany, rather a gradual acceptance and acknowledgement that it’s time ... St Kilda has been my home for half of my life, I’ve given my absolute all ... and I would like to thank them for affording me the opportunity ... It has been an incredible honor and you have consistently brought out the absolute best in me. To my former and current teammates and coaches, St Kilda staff, members and fans, thank you for your amazing loyalty and support through both the best, and most challenging years of my life. Thank you to my friends and family, Mum, Dad, Alex and Maddie (his sister who passed away several years ago from a form of leukemia), for sharing every part of this ride with me and for your unconditional love." He also said he was proud to be able to go out "... with a liter or two of petrol left in the tank, rather than being run out on the side of the road with the hood up, begging for help."
Currently sitting on 333 games and 714 goals (after Round 19), the key forward is a six-time winner of the Trevor Barker Award (St Kilda best and fairest), a five-time All Australian, St Kilda’s longest serving captain (220 games), and one of the club’s greatest ever players.
Coach Alan Richardson said Riewoldt would leave an incredible mark on St Kilda, For Saints members and fans, Nick has been the type of player that made them proud to support the club. His loyalty and commitment to St Kilda has meant everything to them and I know they will be saddened by today’s news. Behind the scenes, Richardson described Riewoldt as a leader of the highest caliber, I haven’t seen a better leader in my time ... His preparation and professionalism is unrivalled ... and the standards he drives within our group will remain with his current teammates until their careers are over. Nick’s leadership at the club when we were very much in a rebuilding phase was testament to his character and his understanding of how to get the best out of those around him. His ability to overcome adversity, not only to get himself up for matches but to push as hard as he does on game day to outlast an opponent, will be the legacy he leaves ... The strength he displayed when Maddie passed away, and the work he and his family have done since to continue her fight, is again a reflection of the person he is.” The annual "Maddie's Match" against Richmond (with cousin Jack Riewoldt) serves as a fundraiser for research.
Richardson also praised Reiwoldt's team first attitude, At the start of last year we spoke about our desire for him to move up into the midfield to assist in the development of our playing group. Despite being one of the premier forwards in the game, he took on the challenge with the qualities we have come to expect and enjoyed another standout season ... In a similar vein this season he handed over the captaincy to Jarryn Geary, knowing the importance of others stepping up into those roles. His individual achievements are well documented but it is his capacity to help others improve that his teammates and coaches will remember him for.” Riewoldt joked at the press conference that, when he first sat in on midfield meetings to learn the strategies and game plans, there were times he had no idea what the midfield coaches were taliking about.
Riewoldt was born in Hobart, Tasmania but played his junior football with Southport in Queensland before being the number one selection in the 2000 AFL draft. He debuted in 2001 and has since become one of the most decorated players in club history. Riewoldt was first named St Kilda captain in 2005 as part of the club’s rotating leadership policy, before assuming the co-captaincy alongside Luke Ball and Lenny Hayes in 2007. In 2008, he was named the sole skipper, holding the position until the end of 2016.
Longest serving captain in St Kilda history: 220 games (2005, 2007-2016)
Trevor Barker Award, St Kilda best and fairest: 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2014
All-Australian Team: 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 (captain), 2014
Leigh Matthews Trophy (AFLPA MVP): 2004
St Kilda Leading Goalkicker 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014
AFL Rising Star: 2002
149 Brownlow votes
Preseason premierships: 2004, 2008
Most marks in AFL/VFL history (currently on 2,922)
(ed. note, this is a recent achievement with the record breaking mark (catch of the ball) taken in, ironically, "Maddie's Match" in Round 16)
The Leigh Matthews Medal (AFLPA MVP) and a second Trevor Barker Award followed in 2004, which was also the first year he was named in the All-Australian team.
Source: Clair White, St Kilda Media Release, afl.com.au, sen.com.au (audio courtesy of afl.com.au)
Shortly before Priddis made his announcement, Crow veteran Scott Thompson also 2017 would be his last. One of the most durable and consistent players, Thompson has finished in the top 10 of the club's best and fairest voting in nine of the past 11 seasons, came third in the Brownlow in 2012 (initially won by Essendon's Jobe Watson, but then passed on to Hawk Sam Mitchell and Tiger Trent Cotchin after the supplements saga). He has also polled 155 Brownlow votes in his 17 year career, more than any other Crow.
In making his announcement, Thompson said it had been a privilege to have played at AFL level for so long and that he would be no different to any other retired player in missing the camaraderie and friendships which are forged at the club and believes in the playing group, “The current group is not just full of talent, but also great blokes who have a genuine care for each other and a desire for team success.”
Thompson, who played his 300th game in 2016, has played a total of 308 senior games, has managed just one senior game in 2017 due to an injury-interrupted preseason and that most likely it would be his final year. He has been playing in the SANFL which has given him a desire to coach, “While playing the majority of this season in the SANFL, I have realized how much I love the game and in particular helping and mentoring the younger players, and seeing them develop.”Thompson, 34, would love nothing more than a Grand Final appearance and winning the ultimate prize but won't worry if it does not happen, and told his teammates not to slacken, "If fairy tales happen, I'll certainly put my hand up for it, but I know exactly where I sit at the moment and worry about what I can control and who knows what happens from there. I told the players, 'Don't slacken up, because I'm right up you’re a**e and I'll take your spot if you don't watch it. I've played in three losing preliminary finals, 2005, 2006 and 2012, where I thought we had a team that I thought was capable of going all the way ... I'm chasing the grand final dream at the moment." He went on to thank everyone involved, "It is a tough industry and success is hard to achieve unless you have a lot of support and I have been fortunate to have an amazing family, especially my beautiful kids Ava and Harry. From my early days at Melbourne through to this year at Adelaide, I have been lucky to have coaches who have invested time and energy in me and made sure I got the best out of myself. A special thank you must go to my teammates past and present, as well as the trainers, physios, doctors, fitness team and other staff have also helped out along the way. To the Crows members and supporters, I would like to say thanks and there is no doubt you are the most passionate in the country.”
Coach Don Pyke was an assistant when Thompson arrived at the club, and worked with him as the midfield coach. He praised Thompson as a "true champion" whose achievements are thoroughly deserved, “From the day that he arrived ... he has been a fantastic leader both on and off the field who has helped those around him improve. To play at such a high standard for more than 300 games is a credit to him and his professional approach to the game and he will leave a long-standing legacy at the club."
All Australian, 2012
Crows Club Champion, 2012 and 2011
Crows Club Champion runner-up, 2010
Crows Club Champion third place, 2007 and 2008
Brownlow Medal third place, 2012
Phil Walsh Medallist, 2015
Chelsea Phillis Coaches Award, 2011
19th Man (member voted) Award, 2011
Adelaide Football Club Life Membership, 2014
International Rules representative, 2008
Preseason Premiership, 2012
Other achievements: played 99 consecutive games Round Nine, 2010 to Round 18, 1014, is eighth on Adelaide's list for total games (269), leading possession-getter (6,752), clearance-winner (1,338) and tackler (1,313) in Adelaide’s history. and amassed a club and personal best 51 disposals against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Round 22, 2011.
Source: Ryan Smith, Adelaide Media Release
Article last changed on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 4:09 PM EDT