Western Bulldog Clay Smith has announced his retirement from AFL football.
A lingering knee issue has forced the 25-year-old to call time on his career.
“It was a very difficult decision for me to retire at my age, but the right one to make given my knee hasn’t been able to fully recover,” Smith told the Bulldogs’ website.
“I’ve given everything to try to make it back this season, but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out the way I would’ve liked.
“I want to thank everyone at the Western Bulldogs for their support over my career, and especially the medical staff, physios and strength and rehab staff for their care and professionalism.
“It’s been a difficult road for me, but I was able to experience being in the premiership team and I wouldn’t swap that for anything.
“I’ve also met some great people, made some incredible friendships, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play AFL football.
“While life without footy will leave a big hole in my life, it has shaped me as a person and helped me grow and I’m thankful for that.”
Coach Luke Beveridge paid tribue to Smith.
“It has been emotional time for all of us because Clay is such an admired and loved person around the place, and it’s sad his career has come to an end at just 25 years of age,” he said.
“To have the mental application and strength to work through all the setbacks he’s had to deal with has been inspirational to watch and his team-mates have been motivated by his determination.
“He should be so proud of what he did to overcome all of his challenges, and content that he will always be a Western Bulldogs premiership player.
“We will miss him dearly when he leaves the building, but we will always be connected.”
He played 55 games for the Dogs, booting 43 goals, including eight majors in the Bulldogs’ four epic finals in 2016.