Western Bulldogs premiership captain Easton Wood says a rapid decline in his physical capabilities and fear of letting down the AFL club were the driving factors behind his surprise retirement.
Wood, who famously skippered the Bulldogs' fairytale 2016 flag triumph, still had one season left to run on his contract and could have pushed on, with the 2021 runners-up well placed to challenge again next year.
But the 32-year-old conceded this month his body is no longer able to cope with the rigours of the game, prompting his selfless decision to call time on a career that spanned 188 games over 14 seasons.
Wood dealt with numerous injuries in recent years, including repeated hamstring setbacks and an ankle issue midway through the 2021 season.
He fought his way back into the side to play the final eight games of the season and helped the Dogs reach a second grand final under Luke Beveridge.
The 74-point defeat to Melbourne in last month's Optus Stadium decider was Wood's final match.
"Whilst it's been difficult to confront, the reality is I've athletically declined," Wood said.
"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."
Retirement first crossed Wood's mind after a hamstring injury in round nine this year - his third for the season and estimated 20th overall.
"I was well and truly sick and tired of doing hamstrings," Wood said, noting his leap and speed had suffered significantly this year.
"Particularly the way that one happened, I was just running in open field ... I thought my body was telling me that it might not be up for the rigours of footy anymore."
Wood kept those thoughts to a trusted inner circle but knew heading into the finals series it would quite possibly be his last, and informed the club of his decision to hang up the boots before the trade period began.
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.
Wood won a club best-and-fairest award and All Australian selection in 2015 but will be best remembered as one of only two AFL/VFL premiership captains in Bulldogs history so far.
He took the reins from injured teammate 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 flag drought.
Wood, who was initially selected by the Bulldogs with pick 43 in the 2007 national draft, took the captaincy from Murphy full-time for two seasons from 2018 before handing over to Marcus Bontempelli.
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 said it was a "real shame" he was unable to inform his teammates of his retirement decision in person because of Melbourne's COVID-19 lockdown, which ended on Friday.
He will be given the opportunity to address the entire playing group next year.
Australian Associated Press