PORT ADELAIDE defender Darryl Wakelin entered the 2007
season with the expectation he wouldn't play more than a handful of AFL games.
Sitting alongside Wakelin on Wednesday as the 33-year-old
announced his retirement, coach Mark Williams revealed the veteran served a
greater purpose at Alberton this season.
"This time last year I talked to Darryl and asked if he
wanted to take on the opportunity of maybe a five- or 10-game season this year,
having the ability to help the younger players develop," Williams said.
"Darryl put his hand up to help develop those guys and
make sure we had a viable backline coming through for the future of our club.
"He's done a wonderful job mentoring players like
Alipate Carlile, Troy Chaplin and Michael Pettigrew and he works selflessly to
make sure those guys are understanding the requirements of modern day
Wakelin admitted his success in developing Port Adelaide's
inexperienced defence had backfired on him a little and contributed to his
decision to end his 259-game career.
"With the direction our club has taken in the last
12-18 months and the development of the younger players, the decision has been
in the pipeline for a while and I've been realistic about that," Wakelin
"It hasn't come like a lightning bolt out of the sky,
as some players say, but it's never easy when that day comes and you have to
tell your teammates."
In preparation for Port Adelaide's finals campaign, Wakelin
returned to the Power line-up for his 13th game of the season, last
week against Geelong.
His return didn't go to plan and the former St Kilda backman
broke down in tears when he feared his season and, ultimately his career, had
come to an end when he injured an adductor muscle.
"It's a little bit embarrassing looking back on it, to
tell you the truth. I probably ruined the boys' celebration a bit, in such a
special win," Wakelin said with a laugh.
"When you think your career is going to come to an end
like that, you don't really expect it to finish that way. It's a feeling of
frustration and overwhelming emotion, I suppose, but you get over it and get on
Wakelin's injury is not as bad as first feared, meaning the
respected defender could still play a role in Port Adelaide's finals campaign.
The former Port Adelaide Magpies junior has already played
in one premiership with the Power and Williams identified the memory of Wakelin's
performance in the 2004 grand final as his fondest of the mentor's long career.
Wakelin played on Lions' forward, Alastair Lynch, who went
out swinging in his final AFL game. The pair was involved in several-heated incidents,
which eventually resulted in Lynch's 10-match suspension.
"The major highlight for me is the way Darryl stood up
to and played on Alastair Lynch in the 2004 Grand Final," Williams said.
"I thought it was really important for the rest of the
group to see us standing up against the Lions, who were such a dominant club at
that time. For him to come out still standing at the end of the game was pretty
important for us."
Wakelin also recalled the grand final victory as the
highlight of his career.
"It's hard to go past 2004. For me it came at a great
age, I was 30 that year," he said.
"I'd been through some disappointments leading into it,
so it made it that much more rewarding when it did come and to be here at this
footy club, where it all started, is very special."
Darryl expected his twin brother at Collingwood to follow
suit, despite Shane's wishful thinking.
"I haven't spoken to Shane this week to be honest, but
I asked him last week, 'What are you doing? Are you retiring next week?' and he
said, 'I haven't really thought about it'.
"I think he's maybe hoping Mick might give him another
year," Wakelin laughed.
"No, I think he's in a similar situation to me
where he's ready to move on."