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Dog done: Premiership captain announces AFL retirement

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22nd October, 2021
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Western Bulldogs veteran Easton Wood has announced his retirement from the AFL.

The 32-year old will be remembered as one of just two premiership captains in the club’s history, having famously stepped in for injured skipper Robert Murphy in the Dogs’ fairytale run to the 2016 flag.

Wood also won a club best and fairest and All Australian selection in a career-best 2015, before taking over from Murphy as full-time captain for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The veteran defender had a year to run on his contract, but selflessly chose to pull up stumps early due to concerns over whether his body could handle the rigours of another season at the highest level.

“If I felt like I was just rocking up to get a paycheque knowing that ‘jeez at any moment if I pinged a string or I got dropped that I could just pull the pin’ and leave the club high and dry, I’d feel sick about that,” Wood told The Age.

“I don’t think I’d be able to ever reconcile that, no matter how much was coming back the other way.”

Soft-tissue injuries were a regular occurrence for Wood throughout his 188-game career. Only once, in 2019, did he manage a fully uninterrupted season, while he missed 11 weeks during 2021 after suffering a serious hamstring injury against Port Adelaide in Round 9.

He was part of a defence that was ripped apart by Melbourne in the second half of this year’s grand final, with Bayley Fritsch – Wood’s opponent for much of the match – booting six goals. He said in a statement that a desire to “finish on my own terms” was a key factor in his decision to hang up the boots now.

“Whilst it’s been difficult to confront, the reality is I’ve athletically declined,” Wood said.

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“I wanted to finish up on my own terms and I felt that if I declined further next year, I wouldn’t have that opportunity.

“I’m proud to go out as a member of the team and being part of an amazing run to get to the grand final.”

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge, who helped transform Wood from dour stopper to, at his peak, the leading intercept marker in the game, lauded Wood’s career and his impact on the Bulldogs’ rise up the ladder in his first years in charge.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate to have Easton as part of our organisation for as long as we have,” he said in a statement.

“Easton has left a lasting impression on everyone associated with the Club, and we’re better for having worked with him.

“Not only was he meticulous in his preparation and yearned to maximise his potential as a professional athlete, but he succeeded in being an influential leader and he always spent the time to make others better.”

According to Beveridge, COVID-19 restrictions prevented Wood from being able to farewell his teammates and the club in person.

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