Essendon legend Dustin Fletcher has announced his retirement after 23 seasons with the club.
The Bombers confirmed in a statement on Friday morning that the 2015 campaign was the 40-year-old veteran’s last, as expected.
A groin injury will prevent the two-time premiership player from one final game against Collingwood on Sunday.
“It’s been a huge honour to play at the same club as my dad and the team you supported as a kid, and to pull on the jumper for more than twenty years is something that I’m very proud of,” Fletcher said.
“I’d like to thank my wife Suzie, my boys, Max and Mason, and my family and friends for their support over my career.
“I’d also like to thank the members and supporters for the way they’ve treated me and my family over the years.
“Celebrating with them after winning the flags in ’93 and 2000 was really enjoyable and their support, especially over the past three years, is something that I won’t forget.
“I’ve loved every minute of playing for Essendon, I’ve been fortunate to win a couple of premierships and shared some great memories with my team mates and good friends. I can walk away knowing I gave everything I could for this club.”
Widely acknowledged as one of the best defenders in AFL history, Fletcher leaves football with a lasting legacy.
Recruited by Essendon in 1992, Fletcher was a key member of the 1993 and 2000 premiership teams. He was also selected for the 2000 all-Australian team.
Only three players – games record holder Michael Tuck, Richmond’s Kevin Bartlett and current North Melbourne star Brent Harvey – have played more VFL-AFL matches than him.
Former coach Kevin Sheedy said Fletcher was an outstanding representative of Essendon.
“Fletch arrived at Essendon as a skinny school kid, and he transformed himself into one of the greatest players to play the game,” Sheedy said.
“He’d regularly beat the toughest and strongest forwards to have played the game, his shut down speed, ability to read the game and competitiveness was something he never lost.
“He’s a very humble person and the way he went about his football endeared him to football fans, not just Essendon supporters, he’ll be remembered as one of the greats.”