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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The ball in contest as Boyd and Tippett duel for position
Kurt Tippett (left) battles for the ball
2016 Grand Final

Sydney Swans forward Kurt Tippett has announced his retirement. Tippett, 30, succumbed to a degenerative ankle. He injured the ankle early in 2017, underwent reconstructive surgery at the end of the season and has been working to strengthen it but decided it would not stand up to the rigors of AFL football. He had remained optimistic about his recovery but the time it was taking gave him doubts he would ever return to full fitness to play.

He informed his teammates on Monday, January 22. Tippett said it was tough bowing out after 11 years and expressed his love for the game and the club and thanked both Adelaide and Sydney for giving him the opportunity to play. He also thanked Coach John Longmire and former Adelaide coach Neil Craig as well as the fans and his family for their support. Tippett still had three years on his contract. He and the club came to a settlement agreement for a partial payout of his contract. This will be included in the club's 2018 salary cap.

Coach John Longmire said Tippett has been an integral part of the team, “Kurt has played some key roles for us but has been very unlucky with injury, which is a real shame, because when he’s out on the field he’s been a great competitor. It takes courage to admit when your body isn’t up to playing at the level you want, because players love nothing more than to be out there with their teammates competing each week. Kurt has considered what’s best for the club and his teammates ... and he departs with our full support.

Sydney Head of Football Tom Harley thanked Tippett for his contribution to the club, "Retirement is never an easy decision and I know that Kurt’s decision was not made lightly. Kurt has been an exemplary teammate and always put the club first. We wish Kurt all the best ... and he will always be welcome at our club.

Tippett played 74 of his 178 games for Sydney, including the 2014 and 2016 AFL Grand Finals. He was originally drafted by the Adelaide Crows in 2006 before crossing to Sydney at the end of 2012 as a free agent. He played 104 games with the Crows. He had an incredible season in 2009, kicking 55 goals in 24 games. By the end of 2012, he was regarded as one of the best ruck-forwards in the game.

His move to Sydney at the end of 2012 on a very lucrative contract came as huge surprise as he was widely tipped to return to Queensland. It was also at that time, that he and the Crows came under investigation for salary cap breaches and draft tampering. The investigation showed that Tippett had been paid monies outside of the normal playing contract in 2011 and 2012 as well as an agreement between him and the club that he could be a free agent at the end of 2012 even though he was not eligible. The agreements were signed in 2009. Several Adelaide club officials were fined and suspended for their involvement. Tippett was also fined $50,000 and suspended for the entire 2013 seasons with 11 weeks of that deferred for five years. After the penalties were handed down, Tippett said that at the time he signed the agreements in 2009, he was unaware that the deals were against the rules. This did not deter the Swans from recruiting him.

His recruitment and the signing of Lance Franklin a year later led the AFL, under pressure from Melbourne clubs, to phase out the Sydney club's Cost of Living Allowance, believing the club used the extra money to snare Tippett and Franklin. The club vehemently denied this.

KURT TIPPETT
Debut: Round 1, 2008 (Adelaide)
Games: 178 (104 with Adelaide, 74 with Sydney)
Goals: 325 (137 Sydney)
2008 Rising Star nominee
2010 Adelaide’s leading goalkicker
2013 Sydney’s leading goalkicker

Another retirement which went unnoticed was that of West Coast's ruckman Jonathan Giles. Giles bowed out quietly last September after the Eagles' exit from the finals. It went mostly unnoticed except for brief announcement on the West Coast website. Giles still had a year to run on his contract.

He managed just five games in 2017 due to a deteriorating knee, admitting that he was too sore to train properly so he could play to his ability. Bone on bone grinding was getting worse and the jumping and landing of ruck work, combined with Giles' own combativeness only made it worse. Swelling and stiffness were daily management issues and forced a mid-season break. Giles also had to consider life after football.

Giles did make it back to finish out the year with East Perth in the WAFL but doctors warned him that he should not push his body as he will be 30 in 2018. He was told he could need more surgery and possibly a knee replacement. He also had a discussion with the club football manager. it was not just about football but about his future lifestyle - did he want to still be able to run around with his family and have a healthy lifestyle in five to 10 years time, "You always speak to ex-players ... and they're always limping around, or the coaches ... go to see the physio or the doc and have an old footy injury. It's always in the back of your head, down the line how is your body going to feel?"

Drafted by Port in 2005, he spent four years at the Power without ever playing a senior game. He was unable to get a senior game and was picked up as rookie in 2011 by GWS where he played 51 games, but found his opportunities limited in 2014 with the arrival of Shane Mumford from Sydney. He headed for Essendon where he found it even tougher, managing just three games in 2015 and joined the Eagles in 2016. He played a total of nine games with West Coast.

Being referred to as a "journeyman" brings a smile to the popular clubman's face, "There wouldn't be an article on me without it," Giles laughed. "I reckon I have a little chuckle every time I read it or hear it. When I first got drafted I thought 'this will be great, I'll play for Port Adelaide and be a 200-game player and play for 15 years". He has no regrets that he didn't join that elite company of durable players and says the "ups and downs" helped shape him into the person he is today.

He was ready to take a break and work for a construction company but when Dean Cox departed to take up a coaching role at Sydney, Giles jumped at the chance to work with his former teammates Nic Naitamui, Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy. Vardy, who joined the Eagles from Geelong, took over as primary ruckman with Nic and Lycett sidelined for most of 2017 with injury and Giles is looking forward to improving their craft, "He (Vardy) had a really good season last year ... he's still got a lot of upside to him. "Where I'm working with him is ... in his ruck craft and technique ... Nic we've got to be careful with how he progresses ... and build a really good base to go forward ... He's been in and out of the main group ... he's got a very tailored program ... My role with him is to get him back going and get his confidence back, and the Nic that we know, to get that back. Everyone knows that he is a really explosive player so I'm trying to teach him other strings to his bow ... ".

He still finds time for the construction company where he works in contract administration and as a junior foreman. He joked, "I do all the pointing ... My hands are squeaky clean at the end of the day – my head's a bit sore."

Source: Loretta Johns, Sydney Media Release, afl.com.au, AFL Record Season Guides

Article last changed on Monday, February 12, 2018 - 1:08 PM EST


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