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Wakelin's season sacrifice


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 defending."

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 said.

"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 with it."

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."

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