Adam Cooney has announced his retirement, joining unwanted yet esteemed company in winning the AFL’s highest individual honour but not a premiership.
The Essendon midfielder said on Tuesday the 2016 season would be his last, fittingly confirming his future before a milestone match against former club Western Bulldogs.
Cooney was taken with pick No.1 in the 2003 draft and won the 2008 Brownlow medal.
But a degenerative knee injury meant he never hit those highs again, even after seeking a fresh start with the Bombers in 2014.
Preliminary final losses in 2008 and 2009 are the closest Cooney came to pocketing a premiership medallion.
“Pretty unsatisfied. It’s bittersweet I suppose,” Cooney said on the eve of his 250th match.
“Early on when I won the Brownlow I was only 22 and I injured my knee, I probably wasn’t able to play the sort of footy that I wanted to after that.
“You play footy to win a premiership. It’s a little bit disappointing to not be able to play in a premiership.”
Cooney featured in 219 games for the Bulldogs and at his best was one of the league’s most influential players, burning sides with his speed and skill.
The 30-year-old remains close with many former teammates at Whitten Oval.
“It seems a fitting tribute to be able to play against the Dogs this week to celebrate not only my 250-game milestone but also celebrate the career I have enjoyed at both clubs,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to also say thank you to the fans from both clubs who have showed me enormous support.”
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was full of respect for Cooney, saying the on-baller had enjoyed a great career.
“We’ll acknowledge that after the game and send him out on a good note,” Beveridge said.
Cooney contemplated returning for the 2017 season but recent performances convinced him otherwise.
“Halfway through this year I was actually playing some OK footy and was weighing up whether to go on,” he said.
“But towards the end of the season I probably started to slow down. It would probably have been a little bit selfish of me to decide that I wanted to play on.”
Bombers coach John Worsfold lauded Cooney’s leadership during the club’s difficult 2016 campaign, when 12 senior players have been suspended.
“Adam’s experience, leadership and team care has been really vital,” Worsfold said.
ADAM COONEY’S AFL CAREER
* Draft history: Pick No.1, 2003 National Draft
* AFL Debut: Round 1, 2004 against West Coast at Etihad Stadium
* Bombers Debut: Round 1, 2015 against Sydney at ANZ Stadium
* AFL Games: 249
* Brownlow Medal: 2008
* All Australian: 2008.