West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui has announced his AFL retirement, saying he has exhausted every avenue to keep his career alive.
Naitanui was contracted for 2024, but a season-ending achilles tendon injury that required surgery convinced him the time was right to bow out.
It ends his career at 213 AFL games, with the 33-year-old missing the club’s 2018 premiership due to a serious knee injury.
“I feel like I have exhausted every avenue to work my way through my injury, but my body is sending a strong message that it is time,” Naitanui said in a statement.
“You never want this day to come, but it always does and I’m content in the knowledge that I have given it everything.
“Being a power athlete who has relied on my ability to jump throughout my career, this injury was probably going to take that away from me.
“I am also looking at a lengthy rehabilitation from my latest surgery and there are no guarantees of making it back to AFL level even if everything goes to plan.
“I have given it a lot of thought in the last few weeks and this is the best decision for the club, myself and my family.”
Naitanui will go down as one of the best and most unique ruckmen of all time, with his deft tapping abilities, amazing athleticism, and bulldozing work at ground level setting him apart.
A three-time All-Australian, Naitanui had to contend with two knee reconstructions and many other injuries through his decorated career.
He follows fellow West Coast stars Shannon Hurn and Luke Shuey in announcing his retirement over the past fortnight.
“Nic has been a legacy player for our football club and has been one of the most influential players of his generation,” coach Adam Simpson said.
“Sadly, he is the third club great to retire in the last three weeks.
“In some respects it is the end of an era and we will certainly miss Nic.
“In the last couple of years when he has been limited in the amount of games he has played his impact around the group has remained significant.
“There have been few ruckmen in history to have a bigger impact on the game and he will always hold a special place in the history of the club.”
Naitanui was selected with pick No.2 in the 2008 national draft and excited fans from the outset.
In just his second AFL game, he kicked three final-quarter goals to lead his team to a 20-point win over Hawthorn.
Naitanui is joined in retirement by Sydney defender Paddy McCartin as a result of concussion issues that derailed a promising career.
The Sydney defender has been sidelined since round four, when he suffered his most recent concussion during a loss to Port Adelaide.
McCartin’s decision came after an independent AFL medical concussion panel recommended the 27-year-old cease participation in contact sport.
“I am obviously disappointed that I’m no longer able to continue to do what I love, but I have to be guided by the specialists and I know that this is the right decision for me,” McCartin said in a statement.
“I want to thank the Sydney Swans for the faith shown in me and the opportunity to pursue my dream of playing AFL football.
“It has been a privilege to play for this great club and I will remember this time fondly.”
McCartin was selected by St Kilda with the first pick in the 2014 draft but managed just 35 games with the club.
He was delisted at the end of 2019 after multiple bouts of concussion.
McCartin returned to action through Sydney’s VFL program and made it back to the highest level when he was rookie-listed by the Swans for the 2022 season.
He played 24 senior games that year – all alongside brother Tom McCartin, including the grand final loss to Geelong – but managed just another four games this season.
“Paddy’s story is a powerful one,” Swans football boss Charlie Gardiner said.
“He has shown remarkable drive and resilience to overcome considerable setbacks to play at the highest level and fulfil his potential.”
McCartin’s decision comes a fortnight after Hawthorn ruckman Max Lynch retired on similar medical advice following repeated concussions.
The Western Bulldogs’ three-point loss to Hawthorn has seen the club and coach Luke Beveridge come under intense scrutiny once again, as their finals place is thrown into jeopardy.
Sitting sixth heading into the round, the Bulldogs are now clinging onto eighth by percentage, and while they face the last-placed West Coast next week, a tough assignment in Round 24 against Geelong at their GMHBA Stadium fortress now looms as costing them September action.
Speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack, former player turned AFL analyst David King lamented ‘another wasted season’ for the Bulldogs, urging them to make radical changes in the off-season to make the most out of the talented list Beveridge has at his disposal.
“Given what they’ve got at hand – and this is not a go at the coach – I think at the end of the year, they need to do a full review of everything as a football club, and say: ‘What are we missing here?” King said.
“[Tim] English, [Marcus] Bontempelli and ‘Libba’ [Tom Liberatore] will probably be All-Australian this year and Bont could win the Brownlow – are they maximising this guy in the back-half of his career? He’s a generational talent.
“[Aaron] Naughton and Jamarra [Ugle-Hagan] have kicked 73 goals between them, so there’s not a lack of talent forward of centre.
“I’m concerned that this is just going to be another year they’ll tick off and say ‘we were unlucky there’ and nothing really changes. I think they really need to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
“I’m not saying it’s the coach, I’m not saying it’s the way they’re playing, I’m not saying it’s the list – it just seems like everything’s in great order, yet they’re scratching to make the eight. I cannot work it out.
“If they miss finals, it has to be a savage review… maybe they need to miss the finals to actually be honest with themselves: ‘What are we wasting here?'”
Of particular concern to King was a ‘ridiculous’ move in the final minute of the loss to the Hawks: three points down and with 47 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs opted for ruckman Tim English to take the crucial kick-in, which soon backfired.
“I’ve never seen a ruckman take a kick out when the game is on the line and there’s less than a minute to go,” King said.
“Instead of Ed Richards just taking the ball out of his hands, he lets the ruckman play on from fullback and start bouncing the ball. I thought the kick out from fullback was the easiest kick in the game, it didn’t look that way for the next 15 seconds.
“What was he [English] doing anyway? Just go long and get it on your boot!
“How can they not be ready for the two-minute drill given where they’ve been the last three or four years? They’ve been to grand finals.
“This is a team that should be at the pointy end of the competition, challenging Brisbane, Collingwood and Melbourne and being unbeatable at Marvel [Stadium] and in Melbourne – and they’ve got no idea what they’re doing when it comes to the crunch against a team that is just learning how to win.”
Michael Voss was just about praying to the football gods as Carlton’s ‘finals-like’ arm-wrestle with Melbourne lay in the hands of a score review.
The Blues led by five points with 41 seconds left when Caleb Marchbank was ruled to have got a hand to Demons star Christian Petracca’s long-range shot on the goal line.
But the goal umpire could not be certain and the decision was sent upstairs.
“I was sitting there just going, ‘please don’t overrule this, you can’t lose this way’,” coach Voss said after his side’s 9.6 (60) to 8.8 (56) win on Saturday.
“Thankfully, the call went our way and we were obviously able to hold on.”
Officials ruled there was insufficient evidence to overturn the goal umpire’s decision.
“I’ve spoken to him (Marchbank), he says that he did touch it, but at this point in time, it doesn’t really matter to me,” Voss grinned.
“We’ll call it that it was touched and we’ll take the four points and walk away.”
Carlton wingman Blake Acres was also happy to take his teammate at his word.
“He said he touched it, so we’ll go with that,” Acres told reporters on Sunday.
“The umpire called it a point as well and he was the closest one there, so if he thought it was a point and Caleb said he touched it, there’s two ticks there.”
Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin didn’t want to buy into the debate over whether Petracca should have been awarded a goal that would likely have led to a Demons victory.
“The guy closest to where it all took place thought he touched it,” Goodwin said post-match.
“Umpire’s call… that’s the rules.”
Carlton survived two further Melbourne attacking raids in the final 30 seconds to post an eighth straight win, which all but sealed their first finals appearance in a decade.
The result meant the Demons slipped from second to fourth, leapfrogged by the Brisbane Lions and Port Adelaide as the top four sides chase home ground advantage for their qualifying finals.
Ken Hinkley hopes Josh Carr will be Port Adelaide’s coach – but not just yet.
Hinkley is expected to soon ink a fresh contract to continue as Power coach next year, his 12th season at the helm.
And he’ll do so with Carr in his coaching box after his senior assistant dropped out of running for the vacant Richmond head coaching job.
“He’s going to be a senior coach one day,” Hinkley said of Carr.
“I would hope, and I do hope, one day it is at Port Adelaide.”
But Hinkley rubbished suggestions of a succession plan with Carr.
“To have a succession plan you have got to have other things in place for a start,” Hinkley said.
“I’d imagine there’d be a piece that needs to get done before anything like that happens,” he said, referring to his own looming contract extension.
“Everyone who thinks that Josh is going on a promise at Port Adelaide, they don’t know Josh Carr well enough.
“He’s got a commitment to us and I think he has showed that that’s real.”
Carr played 207 AFL games for Port and Fremantle and, after retiring, was an assistant to Hinkley between 2011-15.
He spent the next four years as head coach of SANFL club North Adelaide, winning a premiership before joining Fremantle’s assistant coaching ranks from 2019-21.
The 43-year-old returned to Alberton to be Hinkley’s senior assistant this season.
“He is going to be an outstanding coach in his own right,” Hinkley said.
“He has been a really important part of what we’ve been able to do this year and I hope that he continues to build.
“And 100 per cent, one day, Josh Carr will be a coach.”