NATHAN Djerrkura has retired from the Western Bulldogs, deciding to head home to the Northern Territory rather than play out the final year of his contract, and with the blessing of the club.
Djerrkura told teammates this week that, after 10 years in Victoria - at Scotch College, Geelong and the Whitten Oval - he planned to move back to the Gove Peninsula in Arnhem Land, feeling a sense of responsibility to the community he left as a schoolboy.
After struggling to break into the Geelong line-up following his drafting in 2006, Djerrkura has played 21 games for the Bulldogs over the past two seasons. He played 13 games this year - his most productive.
The 23-year-old, whose late father, Gatjil, was a former chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and a prominent Aboriginal activist, already runs youth leadership workshops in Gove.
''My decision to retire from AFL football and return home after 10 years away was a difficult one but one I feel comfortable with,'' he said.
''I have given the best part of my life, wholeheartedly, to playing AFL football and have had some terrific experiences, but being away from my family, community and the cultural responsibilities I hold, are reasons enough to head home.
''The Western Bulldogs have been terrific to me throughout my time here. I know the club is heading in the right direction under Brendan [McCartney] and I want to thank the club, my teammates and especially Brett Goodes [player wellbeing manager] for his counsel and friendship.''
James Fantasia, the Bulldogs' football manager, said Djerrkura had made a strong impression in his two years at the club and they had mutually agreed to part ways.
''You could never have questioned his commitment, but he's obviously come to a point in his own mind where he thinks it's time for him to move home, and we respect that and wish him all the best,'' he said.
''I think it's played on his mind a bit. He always knew there would be a time when he would want to go back to his family and to give a little more back from a community and cultural point of view. He's not someone who makes rushed decisions, he's given this a fair bit of consideration and he was certainly very well regarded around the footy club and very popular amongst the guys.''
The Dogs yesterday delisted another three players - former rookies Brodie Moles, James Mulligan and Andrew Hooper - and will wait until after the trade period before making any further changes.
Ryan Hargrave and Lindsay Gilbee have retired, meaning the Bulldogs, who are likely to upgrade at least two rookies, have six open spots on their list. The club, which holds picks five and six in the national draft, is well positioned to secure talented young West Australian midfielder Jack Martin by dealing with Greater Western Sydney for a choice in the final 17-year-old mini-draft.