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Western Bulldogs premiership star Easton Wood has announced his surprise retirement from the AFL, despite having a year to run on his lucrative contract.
The move has left both Bulldogs fans and the wider AFL world in shock, with many expecting Wood to at least see through the final year of his contract.
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However a 2021 season spent battling nagging hamstring injuries, as well as an ankle injury, indicated to the 32-year-old defender that it was time to give the game away.
In a selfless move, Wood said he was partly motivated by a desire not to detract from the Bulldogs' premiership chances next season.
He fought his way back into the side in time to help the Dogs reach a second grand final under Luke Beveridge.
The 74-point defeat to Melbourne in the Optus Stadium decider was Wood's final match.
After famously skippering the Dogs' fairytale 2016 flag triumph, Wood had one season left to run on a two-year contract but on Friday announced he had called time on a career that spanned 188 games over 14 seasons.
All Australian. Best + Fairest. Premiership Captain. Forever a Bulldog.
Thank you, @easton_wood. For everything ❤️
— Western Bulldogs (@westernbulldogs) October 22, 2021
"After much thought I've decided to retire from the game I love so much, at a club which has been my home for 14 years," Wood said.
"Whilst it's been difficult to confront, the reality is I've athletically declined.
"I wanted to finish up on my own terms and I felt that if I declined further next year, I wouldn't have that opportunity.
"I'm proud to go out as a member of the team and being part of an amazing run to get to the grand final."
Wood won a club best-and-fairest award and All Australian selection in 2015 but will be best remembered as one of only two premiership captains in Bulldogs history so far.
AFL world stunned by sudden Easton Wood retirement
Wood said he is "at peace with the decision" and "looking forward to the next chapter in my life", which will include spending more time with wife Tiff and their two young children
He took the reins from injured regular skipper Bob Murphy early in 2016 and steered the Dogs to four consecutive finals wins that season as they rose from seventh to end a 62-year wait for an AFL/VFL premiership.
Wood assumed the captaincy full-time for two seasons from 2018 before handing over to Marcus Bontempelli.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said Wood has been admired for both his football ability and impact off the field.
"We've been extremely fortunate to have Easton as part of our organisation for as long as we have," Beveridge said.
Wood was initially selected by the Bulldogs with pick 43 in the 2007 national draft.
Western Bulldogs fans took to social media to pay tribute to the fan-favourite former skipper.
— Bridget Davies (@_bridgetdavies) October 22, 2021
Congratulations on a fantastic and successful career @easton_wood loved watching you play each week, and thank you for bringing the most unexpected jubilation to our family, and so many @westernbulldogs supporters in 2016. Enjoy retirement mate, I owe you a beer one day 🍻 pic.twitter.com/pkfsDl0ze0
— Chris Anstey (@ChrisAnstey13) October 22, 2021
Easton Wood may be one of the most underrated players of the last decade. What a career, and what a list of achievements he has. A humble champion.
— James Mottershead (@mottersjames) October 22, 2021
From a Hawthorn supporter, congrats and well played Easton. You’re a class act on and off the field. All the best for your next steps.
— TJ41 (@TJC414) October 22, 2021
— Jamie Horne 🔴⚪️🔵🐶 (@JamieHorneFFX) October 22, 2021
Meanwhile, dual All-Australian defender Daniel Talia has also retired after 200 AFL games for Adelaide.
Talia wasn't offered a new contract by the Crows and had initially been expected to continue his career elsewhere, with Richmond showing interest before instead recruiting Robbie Tarrant.
The fullback was limited to 14 games this year due to a foot tendon injury.
On Thursday, Talia's manager Liam Pickering told SEN he would require more surgery and would sit out 2022, but the 30-year-old confirmed overnight he would retire completely.
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