Western Bulldogs premiership player Clay Smith has announced his immediate retirement from the AFL.
The 25-year-old, who has had three knee reconstructions in his career, has not played a game in 2018 after battling a new knee injury.
Smith entered Bulldogs lore when he returned to the AFL in round 15, 2016 and played every game through to the grand final.
He kicked eight goals across the four finals, including four in the preliminary final against GWS and one in the triumph over Sydney at the MCG.
“It was a very difficult decision for me to retire at my age, but the right one to make given my knee hasn’t been able to fully recover,” Smith said.
“I’ve given everything to try to make it back this season, but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out the way I would’ve liked.
“I want to thank everyone at the Western Bulldogs for their support over my career, and especially the medical staff, physios and strength and rehab staff for their care and professionalism.
“It’s been a difficult road for me, but I was able to experience being in the premiership team and I wouldn’t swap that for anything.
“I’ve also met some great people, made some incredible friendships, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play AFL football.
“While life without footy will leave a big hole in my life, it has shaped me as a person and helped me grow and I’m thankful for that.”
Smith retires having played 55 games after his debut in 2012.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge paid tribute to the No.14, who said he “should be so proud” of his work to becoming a flag hero.
“It has been emotional time for all of us because Clay is such an admired and loved person around the place, and it’s sad his career has come to an end at just 25 years of age,” Beveridge said.
“To have the mental application and strength to work through all the setbacks he’s had to deal with has been inspirational to watch and his team-mates have been motivated by his determination.”