Cox leaves Eagles with legacy intact
Dean Cox with wife Kerry and daughter Charlotte after his announcement yesterday. Pics: Bill Hatto/WA News

West Coast champion Dean Cox says a reluctance to tarnish his legacy by trying to play on next season is the reason behind his retirement, along with general wear and tear.

The club's games record holder with 286 appearances - the man who revolutionised the role of the modern-day ruckman - will end his decorated career at the end of the season.

Cox turns 33 next week and described telling his teammates as the "hardest thing" he had done.

He will move into a full-time coaching position at the Eagles after marrying his playing duties with the role of specialist ruck coach this season.

Yesterday's announcement came less than six weeks after the sudden retirement of captain Darren Glass.

The departure of two of West Coast's all-time greats marks the end of an era. Beau Waters and Sam Butler will soon be the only two players left from the club's 2006 premiership win.

Cox will be available for the Eagles' final six home-and-away matches, but will fall just short of becoming the second WA-based player to reach the coveted 300-game AFL milestone.

He said he had planned to play on into a 16th AFL season at the start of the year, but his inability to sustain the high standards that earnt him six All-Australian jumpers had convinced him to call time.

"I've built a career where I thought I could have real impact in games, where I was at a level consistently doing that," Cox said.

"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 a bit of an injustice to myself.

"Milestones, number of games haven't really ever been a factor for me. It's been 'can I play the footy I want to be able to play?'

"Next year I thought if I went on I probably mightn't be able to do that."

Dean Cox and Eagles coach Adam Simpson yesterday

Cox reached his decision on Sunday after weighing up his future during a four-day holiday in the south of the State with senior teammates, wife Kerry and 19-month-old daughter Charlotte.

"For me it was more about going through games where the grind becomes really early in a game," Cox said.

"I've been in grinds throughout seasons for a particular game here and there, but when it happens early in the first (quarter) and you're just trying to really get through this game, you're thinking maybe it might have just gone past me a little bit."

The capacity for Cox to play on into 2015 had increasingly come under question after he was rested for three matches. There was also his tapering form and the contract uncertainty around understudy Scott Lycett.

But Cox said the presence of three AFL-ready ruckmen, including Nic Naitanui and Callum Sinclair, on the list had not been a major factor in his retirement.

"We've got three ruckmen that could be playing in any team that play really good, consistent football at the minute and they've shown that throughout the year, so it probably makes the decision a little bit easier knowing the club's in safe hands," he said.

Cox said Naitanui's upside remained "phenomenal". "I can't wait to see him as he really develops and understands the game," he said.

The list of achievements by Cox, which includes a 2008 club champion medal and four other top-three finishes in the top three of the Eagles' best and fairest, comes after being recruited with the 28th selection in the 2000 rookie draft.

The ruckman holds the games record for players who started their careers on a rookie list, but described the 2006 premiership as his proudest moment.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson described Cox as the club's "heartbeat" and said the veteran's football smarts were his greatest strength.

"He's just so unique," Simpson said. "He's adapted with the game and not many ruckmen can say they've done that.

"You quite often get drafted with a strength and that's your strength for your whole career.

"I think what Dean's done is his ability to adapt to the competition and that's what's given him six All-Australians and that's why he's held in such high regard. He's a champion of the game."

The West Australian

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