AFL: Hawthorn champion Luke Hodge will retire at the end of 2017.
The four-time Hawks premiership star and dual Norm Smith medallist made the announcement yesterday afternoon.
"I'm still loving football, my body still feels good but what I've realised over the last month is the younger guys have really taken steps and if I play on next year I would be taking the spot of a younger guy, and as a senior bloke I would never want to do that,” Hodge said in front of family, teammates, club officials and the assembled media.
Hodge, taken with the first pick in the much-vaunted 2001 'super draft', says he had planned to hang up his boots after last year signing a one-year deal.
He said the progress of the club's youngsters, a new-look Hawks side is rising up the table after losing its first four matches this season, had confirmed his decision to retire.
Noted for his outstanding leadership (he captained Hawthorn from 2011-16), Hodge said he always put his side first.
"I would do anything for the team and anything for my football club to achieve success, sometimes that means I've crossed the line and I know that's not the best part but I've been able to achieve a lot of things people at other clubs haven't, and that's something I'm really proud of,” he said.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkon paid tribute to the ultimate team man and leader.
"I don't think there was a position he didn't play in his 16-year career, that would suggest he's got a fair amount of talent, but without doubt all his teammates, all his coaches and all within the footy club would know the greatest contribution to the success of this footy club is the sacrificial manner he's gone about it,” Clarkson said of the "once-in-a-generation” star.
"He's always put his footy club ahead of himself, and that's rare. The game is all about your team and your teammates and he's been able to demonstrate that better than any player I've ever come across at any level in footy.”
Hodge is set to play his 300th AFL game on Saturday against archrivals Geelong at the MCG.