In early December West Coast running defender Brad Sheppard and Suns defender Jacob Townsend announced their retirements just a few days apart. Sheppard, 30, was forced to retire due to ongoing concussion issues. He suffered several head knocks late in the season, the last coming in round 22. The Eagles believed he could still play but gave him time to decide. He sought medical advice over concerns about his future health and opted to retire.
Sheppard was drafted in 2009 and played 216 games. He was named All-Australian in 2015 and won the best clubman award in 2020. He was also a key member of the 2018 premiership side. Coach Adam Simpson said, "His career speaks for itself, over 200 games, it's just really sad that it finishes this way. He still had plenty of good footy left. He retires as a man with universal respect at every level of the football club ... ".
He also commented on how the AFL is dealing with the issue, "It's a brutal game, it always has been, I think the AFL is doing a really good job to try and learn as much as it can. It still feels like we've got a bit more to learn about the whole situation, but we're putting the right things in place." Sheppard was described by the Eagles as "one of the mainstays of West Coast's accomplished defense" under Simpson and "one of the most popular players of his generation for his unflinching commitment to the contest".
Sheppard is the second Eagle to retire in a matter of months for concussion-related reasons, with Daniel Venables walking away from the game in August after a medical panel recommended he avoid contact sport. Venables was injured in 2019 and did not play again due to persistent symptoms.
After 10 seasons and four clubs, Jacob Townsend, 28, decided to retire to concentrate on his career as a carpenter. Townsend was originally drafted by GWS and played in their first AFL match. He played 28 games in four seasons before being traded to the Tigers where he played a further 20 games. A versatile player, he could play in the midfield and up forward. In 2017, he kicked 16 goals in five games and was a member of Richmond's premiership side. Delisted at the end of 2019, he joined Essendon during the Supplement Selection Period and played 12 games before being delisted at the end of 2020. Gold Coast then selected him as a rookie for the 2021 season. He managed just two games for the Suns, both in 2021. The Suns did not offer him a new contract but wanted to give him a chance to train ahead of next year's SSP, but he declined.
Interviewed at afl.com.au, he said it was the right time to retire, "I thought about it and knew I was going to be fighting for my spot with someone else and I thought the time was right for me to call time ... I was still keen to play AFL footy if they picked me up in the rookie draft but unfortunately, they didn’t, and I thought the time was right. It was a tough call because everyone's always saying, 'You're a long time retired', which I completely get, but I've been fighting for my spot the last four years, and I wanted a bit of certainty."
He missed out on selection for the Tigers' 2019 premiership team but was a member of the VFL premiership side that year and won the VFL J J Liston Trophy (VFL Brownlow equivalent).
Source: afl.clom.au, sen.com.au, abc.net.au, Guy Stocks, West Coast Media Release, AFL Record Season Guide
Article last changed on Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - 4:39 PM EST