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Mackenzie hangs up the boots

Gary Stocks  September 12, 2018 9:20 AM

Mackenzie press conference 12.09.18 Eagles key defender and club champion Eric Mackenzie speaks to the media announcing his retirement from the game.

West Coast Eagles defender Eric Mackenzie, a hero of the extra-time elimination final victory against Port Adelaide 12 months ago, has been forced into premature retirement.

Mackenzie, 30, a smart and instinctive defender, had the sense to ‘encourage’ a dribbling ball over the boundary line rather than allow a rushed behind in the dying seconds, which might have been enough for Port to clinch victory in normal time.

The Eagles defended for those remaining, desperate seconds before forcing the game into extra time, when Luke Shuey famously kicked the winning goal to break the deadlock in the second period of overtime.

That remarkably calculated action by Mackenzie, sadly, proved to be one of the final plays of his career with injuries to both of his big toes preventing him from playing any football at AFL level in 2018.

Mackenzie and the club’s medical staff tried every available option to remedy his problems but it was to no avail, leaving the affable key defender with no choice but to step away from football.

He informed his teammates of his decision this morning.

“I have been battling chronic pain in both big toes for the last two years,” Mackenzie revealed.

“We have tried everything, but it just didn’t get any better.

“This decision won’t come as a big shock because I haven’t played a game this year, but it was the right time to let the boys know.

“I’m obviously going to miss it. I loved playing with these guys, running out onto Subiaco Oval in front of the West Coast Eagles faithful was something really special.

“This playing group is special and it has been great coming to work with them every day. I won’t be able to run out with them anymore, but over the next few weeks I’ll do anything I can to help them.

“I have been at this club for 12 years and would like to thank everyone who has helped my so much over my career, from coaches, teammates and support staff to all the fans who so passionately support the Eagles.”

Mackenzie was one of the premier key defenders of his time, winning the John Worsfold Medal as Club Champion in 2014 and arguably should have been selected in both the 2013 and 2014 all-Australian teams after being selected in the squad of 40 in both years.

A wonderful athlete, strong and courageous, he had some memorable battles with the likes of Lance Franklin, Nick Riewoldt and Jonathan Brown.

Craig Vozzo, General Manager – Football, said it was a sad day for the football club.

“Eric has been a wonderful player at the club for a long time, joining us in the draft following the 2006 premiership,” he said.

“He was a bit understated and perhaps underrated outside the four walls of the club, but he is highly admired and universally respected at West Coast both as a player and person.

“Sadly, over the last three or four years, injuries have intervened and restricted his availability. It was great to have Eric available and at his best again in the back half of 2017. Following further foot problems at the end of last season, he did everything he could to get back out there again this year, but unfortunately it was not to be.

“Even when he wasn’t playing, he remained an important part of our group offering his leadership and knowledge particularly to our younger defenders.

Mackenzie will retire with 147 games against his name, playing just 26 matches after winning the Worsfold Medal four years ago.