The AFL career of pugnacious Richmond forward Jake King has come to an end after the 30-year-old announced his retirement on Monday afternoon.
King had been hampered by a persistent toe injury throughout 2014, playing just two games and none since round three. The ailment meant he had nerve endings burnt off one toe.
‘‘We’ve spoken about it over the last couple of days,’’ King told a media conference on Monday.
‘‘The foot has been too much. We tried everything we could, five or six procedures.’’
It was a lighthearted press conference, as King joked that he hadn't chosen to retire.
‘‘I’m not here by choice. Dimma’s sacked me,’’ King said, grinning at coach Damien Hardwick.
He said he could not kick a footy or change direction without pain and will now have surgery.But in typical fashion, the push-up King was able to make light of the career-ending injury.
‘‘But I’m not going to die,’’ he smiled.
‘‘Time was up. I’ve gotten everything out of my body I can.’’
Recruited from the Tigers' then VFL affiliate Coburg after sharing that club's 2006 best and fairest award, the mature-age rookie made his AFL debut in round four, 2007, and didn't miss a game until midway through the next year.
He won acclaim as a close-checking and pacy small defender and won the 2007 grand final sprint.
King showed his versatility when moved to a role in the forward line midway through 2010 - a position in which he was able to combine his goal sense and impressive tackling ability.
His career was not without controversy. Suspended in every season from 2009 to 2012, he was criticised for his friendship with former bikie gang boss Toby Mitchell, and warned by senior Richmond staff against bringing Mitchell into the club's rooms after doing so during a game in 2013.
King remains unruffled.
‘‘The headlines are the headlines,’’ he said.
‘‘I live life and that’s all there is to it... I don’t turn my back on mates, I support my friends and family.
‘‘I don’t regret any of it, wouldn’t change anything for the world and can’t thank the playing group and the club enough.’’
Hardwick suggested King’s bad-boy ways was a myth existing outside Punt Road.
‘‘We realise how important a person he is. He’s a great player but more importantly he’s an outstanding individual,’’ he said.
‘‘Players play taller knowing that he’s around.
‘‘When we were playing our best footy, Jake was certainly a part of that.
‘‘We’re going to miss the little fella.’’
The two share a tight bond and King said the closest he got to shedding a tear was telling Hardwick his decision to retire.
‘‘To be honest, I probably just held it together. I said I can’t talk any more, enough’s enough.’’
And Hardwick’s reaction according to King?
‘‘He was rapt. He’s been trying to get me out for five years and it’s finally happened,’’ he joked.
Hardwick said King had the skills to achieve anything - including taking a coaching role - but King kept his future plans close to his chest.
‘‘Time will tell,’’ King said.
The only disappointment was the push-up King declined to drop and give twenty for old times’ sake.
King adds his name to an already vintage list of AFL players to retire this season, including Jonathan Brown, Lenny Hayes, Dean Cox, Darren Glass, Nick Maxwell and Dominic Cassisi.
King retires having played 107 games and kicked 79 goals.