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Collingwood's Luke Ball to retire at end of the season

Calling time: Luke Ball

Calling time: Luke Ball Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

An awareness of of his physical limitations and discussions with coach Nathan Buckley about the demands of a looming pre-season, have combined to spell an end to the career of Collingwood midfielder Luke Ball.

Ball will on Friday night take to the MCG and try to haul the injury-riddled Magpies into the finals against second-placed Hawthorn, a game which will be his last unless Collingwood can produce an unlikely victory. The club released a statement on Thursday outlining that the 30-year-old will retire at season's end after a year in which calf injuries restricted him to just 16 games so far.

"I still have the competitive will to play on but the team is evolving and physically I know I need everything to go right to meet my expectations and the standard required by the team," Ball said.

Calling time... a number of players are hanging up their AFL boots.

Calling time... a number of players are hanging up their AFL boots.

"To be honest, I'm at peace with the decision. If I step back and consider the sweep of my career, I've got so much to appreciate and be thankful for.

"I love the game and I want to leave loving it."

The 2010 premiership player and former St Kilda captain has played 222 games since his debut in 2003.

Buckley paid tribute to Ball. "It was always going to take a train to stop him, and in the end, it did," Buckley said.

"You could never ask for more from 'Bally' in terms of his preparation, the example he sets, the standard he holds himself to and the effort he brings."

Former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas heaped praise on Ball, but questioned whether Collingwood had made the right call in encouraging him to retire. 

"I hope to hell Collingwood knows what it's doing because I'm not convinced that Luke doesn't have another year to offer. Where they're posed at the moment is quite delicate, and they are in my view massively unders in relation to team leadership and experience. I would be really surprised if Luke Ball wasn't in the top ten of the competition for credidibility, charcter, integrity, leadership. In fact I think he'd be nearly be number one," Thomas said.

"Football is a reflection of who you are as a person, what you stand for and who you represent."

"I'm bitterly disappointed that Luke's finishing."

Thomas suggested he would have tried to persuade Ball to play on had he known about his plans.

Ball was made Saints skipper by Thomas for the 2006 season, when the former no.2 draft pick was just 21. He subsequently struggled to rekindle the heights of 2005- a year in which he was named All-Australian and shared St Kilda's best and fairest award with Steven Baker. Unable to reach a new deal with the Saints at the end of 2009, he was acquired by Collingwood in the national draft, and was typically industrious in the Magpies' triumph over his former club in the 2010 Grand Final replay.

Collingwood must defeat the Hawks, and hope Sydney defeats Richmond on Saturday to make the finals.

Luke Ball:

St Kilda (2002-2009) 142 games

Collingwood (2010-2014) 80 games so far

Taken by St Kilda at pick two of 2001 national draft, and by Collingwood at pick 30 of 2009 national draft.

Debuted 2003

Captain of St Kilda 2006, 2007(joint)

Best and Fairest 2005 (joint)

Premiership player 2010

All-Australian 2005

"It was always going to take a train to stop him, and in the end, it did," Collingwood senior coach Nathan Buckley said.

"You could never ask for more from 'Bally' in terms of his preparation, the example he sets, the standard he holds himself to and the effort he brings.

"He has been an inspiration for his team-mates, a wonderful player and a person of great integrity. We were fortunate to have him play in a black and white jumper."

"It was always going to take a train to stop him, and in the end, it did," Collingwood senior coach Nathan Buckley said.

"You could never ask for more from 'Bally' in terms of his preparation, the example he sets, the standard he holds himself to and the effort he brings.

"He has been an inspiration for his team-mates, a wonderful player and a person of great integrity. We were fortunate to have him play in a black and white jumper."

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