Veteran Richmond midfielder Nathan Foley has announced his retirement from league football, effective immediately.
Foley, who turns 30 in September, told the Tigers’ playing group this morning that he had decided to retire due to a degenerative knee.
He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery back in May, but has been unable to overcome the problem and return to the playing field, despite being typically diligent throughout his rehabilitation.
The knee complaint is the latest in a long line of injuries that have severely hampered Foley in recent years.
He was, however, able to play 18 senior games in 2014, which was his best return in a season for three years.
Foley’s last game was in Richmond’s 2014 elimination final loss to Port Adelaide.
“It’s been a huge honor to represent this club and something that I’m very proud of,” Foley said.
“Pulling on the Richmond jumper to run out and play is a feeling that I’ll never forget, and something that I’m very grateful for.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time here and consider myself lucky to have been around the Club for so long.
“And, while injuries have caught up with me, I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ve always exhausted everything possible to get the most out of myself.
“It’s been ridiculously hard at times, but more so unbelievably rewarding.”
Foley, who finished his league career on 154 games, is one of the great success stories of the AFL’s rookie draft system.
He was selected by the Tigers with their first pick (No. 4 overall) in the 2004 rookie draft.
Foley spent the entire 2004 season with Richmond’s VFL affiliate Coburg, displaying a maturity well beyond his years, and impressing in the midfield, defence and up forward, with the ability to win his own ball, break the lines, and use his slick skills to create opportunities for teammates.
Then, during the opening half of the 2005 season, Foley’s form simply demanded that he be elevated to the primary list at Richmond.
Finally, in the lead-up to the Round 10 clash with Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, the then 19-year-old received his senior promotion.
Foley made his league debut against the Demons on a Friday night that was memorable for all the wrong reasons . . .
Richmond, sitting third on the ladder with seven wins from nine games, was smashed by 57 points, with star forward Nathan Brown suffering that horrific broken leg, which ended his (and, effectively, the team’s) season and curtailed his league career.
Young Foley had two kicks, six handballs and took one mark in a fairly quiet debut display that gave little indication of the influence he would subsequently exert in the Tiger team.
Foley played six league games all-up in 2005, but the following season he became a permanent member of the side, missing just one match and receiving an AFL Rising Star nomination.
In 2007, Foley blossomed into one of the best young midfielders in the competition.
He played every game, excelled at the stoppages, was ranked No. 1 at the Club for handballs and tackles, and finished a close second in the Jack Dyer Medal.
That striking form continued into 2008, with Foley winning selection for Victoria in the special tribute match against the Dream Team, as part of the 150-year anniversary celebrations of Australian Football.
Foley was one of Victoria’s best in its 17-point win before nearly 70,000 fans at the MCG, showcasing his contested ball-winning ability, hard running and polished disposal.
With an average of 22.2 disposals per game in his 21 appearances for Richmond in season 2008, Foley again was a driving force in the Tigers’ line-up.
He maintained that imposing form into the second half of 2009, before an ankle injury brought a premature end to his season.
Unfortunately, that was to be the start of a horror injury run for Foley, who managed only four games in 2010, as he struggled to overcome persistent ankle problems.
Displaying trademark professionalism and determination, Foley fought back to play all 22 games in the 2011 season, finishing a creditable eighth in the Jack Dyer Medal.
Then, in the first half of 2012, Foley was flying, before further injury problems resurfaced.
A ruptured Achilles tendon ruled Foley out for the rest of the season in July, and it was a long road to recovery from there for him.
At all times, however, he displayed a level of professionalism and determination to overcome the various obstacles that confronted him, which was first class.