West Coast champion Dean Cox says telling the playing group of his decision to retire at the end of this season was the hardest thing he has ever done.
The club games record holder officially announced at an emotional press conference at Patersons Stadium today that his 14th AFL season would be his last.
The six-times All-Australian is expected to line-up against Richmond at home this Friday night, but will fall short of the coveted 300-game milestone regardless of whether the Eagles make finals after calling time on his career.
“It’s been a decision that I’ve been thinking about for a little while,” Cox said.
“I’ve spoken to people really close to me about my future and then to tell the playing group just before was probably the hardest thing I’ve done.
“If you look back in football terms at the hard times you’ve been through, losing a grand final, but to finally say, ‘it’s finished’, it wasn’t easy.
“I suppose for me it’s been about I’ve built a career where I thought I could have real impact on games, where I was at a level consistently doing that and then it gets to a stage.
“At times this year I’ve thought it’s probably wavered away from that and if I was to continue next year I probably would’ve done an injustice to myself and what I’ve established through my career.”
Cox said his ability to play football at a high personal standard rather than milestones had driven his decision.
The 286-game player said he reached his decision at the end of yesterday’s training session after weighing up his future during a four-day break down south with his family last week.
“Milestones, number of games haven’t really ever been a factor for me,” Cox said.
“It’s been can I play the footy I want to be able to play and next year I thought if I went on I probably mightn’t be able to do that.
“I’ve realised throughout stages this year it’s becoming a lot tougher to do.
“I’ve become a life member of this footy club and hopefully a life member of the AFL, which I’ll hold closely to my heart.”
A farewell match for Cox is yet to be announced, with six games left in the home-and-away season and West Coast still technically in the hunt for finals.
Cox’s achievements across a decorated career topped off by the club’s 2006 premiership win are all the more remarkable given the 32-year-old was originally taken with pick No.28 in the 2001 rookie draft.