After 400 games and two premierships, Dustin Fletcher has announced the end to one of the AFL’s most admired careers.
The gritty defender made the logical call on Friday morning after an injury-plagued season ended with his groin complaint cruelling his chance for one last run.
Caretaker Essendon boss Matt Egan said Fletcher and the club had given everything to get on the MCG on Sunday against Collingwood.
“For someone like Fletch we wanted to give him every chance,” he said.
“He got close, a 50 per cent chance, the last few weeks he really tried to push his rehab but didn’t get to the level.”
Fletcher said in a statement he loved every minute of his time at the Bombers.
“I can walk away knowing I gave everything I could for this club,” he said.
“Its been a huge honour to play at the same club as my dad and the team I supported as a kid, and to pull on the jumper for more than twenty-years is something that I’m very proud of.
“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 teammates and good friends.”
In keeping with his personality, there are no grand plans for a send-off – yet.
“I think we respect Fletch and leave that up to him,” Egan said.
Long-time coach Kevin Sheedy said his emergence as one of the all-time great AFL defenders was one of his great coaching joys.
“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.”
Fletcher has played more AFL matches than any other Bomber, sitting fourth in the all-time list after retiring on 400 games.
He won the club’s best and fairest in their 2000 premiership season and was named All-Australian twice.
DUSTIN FLETCHER’S AFL CAREER AT A GLANCE
Brownlow votes: 63
Premierships: 1993, 2000
All Australian: 2000, 2007
W.S. Crichton Medal (Essendon Best and Fairest): 2000
International Rules Series: 2005, 2006, 2010, 2014
Debut: 1993, round two v Carlton
Born: May 7, 1975
Recruited from: Western Jets/Essendon Grammar
MOST AFL/VFL GAMES
Michael Tuck 426
Brent Harvey 405*
Kevin Bartlett 403
Dustin Fletcher 400
Robert Harvey 383
Simon Madden 378
Craig Bradley 375
Adam Goodes 369*