Fans farewell Ben McEvoy after AFL retirement: 'Absolute champion'

·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
Ben McEvoy leads Hawthorn onto the ground for an AFL match.
Hawthorn ruckman Ben McEvoy has announced his AFL retirement just days after playing his 250th game. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The AFL world is paying tribute to another veteran star who is calling it quits, with Hawthorn ruckman Ben McEvoy the latest to hang up to boots at season's end.

The popular Hawk and former St Kilda star, affectionately labelled 'Big Boy McEvoy' after his emergence in the AFL, last week played his 250th game after successfully recovering from a broken neck.

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Drafted by St Kilda in 2008, McEvoy retires as a two-time premiership player after being traded to the Hawks in 2013.

He became a crucial part of Hawthorn's eventual three-peat, helping the team to grand final success in 2014 and 2015.

McEvoy became the first player to captain Hawthorn after starting their career at another club when he was announced as captain in 2021.

The 2022 season was almost over before it began for McEvoy, with the 33-year-old suffering a serious neck injury at training in March.

A gruelling road to recovery saw him return to the field for round 17, with McEvoy to add a further two games to his tally in the next fortnight before farewelling the league that welcomed him as a teenager 15 years ago.

“I have an enormous amount to be grateful for across my whole journey,” McEvoy said.

“Football can be a selfish existence at times, and I am incredibly thankful for the unconditional support I have had from my family.

“I also want to thank my teammates, coaches, fitness staff, volunteers and supporters, who have all contributed to me being able to perform at my best.

“I feel very privileged to have played out the career I have and still pinch myself as to how fortunate I have been.”

Fans were quick to jump on social media to pay tribute to the understated but undeniably successful ruckman.

The Hawks made sure McEvoy's 250th game last weekend was one to remember, scrapping their way to a seven-point win over the Gold Coast Suns.

In typical fashion, it was McEvoy floating in to take a contested mark in defence during the last two minutes which helped the Hawks avoid a painful defeat.

McEvoy's retirement follows that of Sydney Swans midfielder Josh Kennedy, West Coast forward Josh Kennedy, Fremantle great David Mundy and Port Adelaide's Steven Motlop.

Sydney Swans laud Josh Kennedy after AFL retirement

Retiring Sydney Swans champion Josh Kennedy hasn't given up hope of a fairytale return during the AFL finals, but he doesn't expect it to come to fruition.

Kennedy announced on Tuesday he will be retiring at the end of the season.

The 34-year-old made the decision last week and just days later injured his left hamstring while playing in the VFL.

Kennedy missed eight weeks earlier this season after tearing his right hamstring in round 10 and it remains to be seen how severe his latest setback is.

The 290-game veteran wasn't able to break back into the AFL side in recent weeks and faces an uphill battle to win back a senior spot in the finals even if his latest hamstring injury isn't a serious one.

Kennedy says he's at peace with his fate, no matter what happens over the next seven weeks.

Sydney Swans midfielder Josh Kennedy gives fans a thumbs up as he walks from the field.
Sydney Swans midfielder Josh Kennedy is holding onto the faint hope of a finals appearance this season, but will retire at season's end regardless. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

"It's a hope, not an expectation," Kennedy replied when asked about his bid to play again this year.

"If it doesn't happen it doesn't change anything. I've got nothing but love and admiration for the footy club.

"I'm very content with where I sit right now. At least I'd love to finish the year and train and feel part of it that way.

"I am (at peace). It's as simple as that."

If it was up to Kennedy he would have quietly walked away from the game at the end of the season and faded off "into the sunset".

But coach John Longmire was having none of it.

"We just wanted to bring him out of himself because there's so many people who want to say thank you and recognise his contribution to the footy club," Longmire said.

"He's been one of the greats and he deserves a terrific send-off.

"He is a big game player. He's been fortunate enough to play 22 finals games and 16 of those times he's had 15-plus contested possessions."

With AAP

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