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Hawks' Joel Smith retires

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HAWTHORN veteran Joel Smith has decided to call it a day on a senior career spanning 13 years, two clubs, and 221 senior games.

The two-time All-Australian and Hawks best and fairest informed the club on Tuesday.

“Retirement is one of the biggest decisions you can make, one that can’t be taken lightly and I thought the time was right – and it’s time to move on,” Smith said.

“It was a decision done in conjunction with several people. Over a 13-year footy career you have a lot of people that come along for the ride – like family – and there are a lot of people to consider. I’ve been discussing it with them for a little while.

“I’ve played 13 seasons – and I’m 30 now and we’ve got a great young list.”

Smith is the Hawks' third senior player to retire in 2007, following skipper Richie Vandenberg and forward Ben Dixon.

“Part of my decision was made up after going through the list and thinking about where that leaves me with my footy – knowing that there probably were only going to be limited opportunities for me next year.

“Finishing off this season in a final at the MCG in front of 75,000 people – even though we lost – it wasn’t a bad way to end my career – and all that went through my mind.”

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said Smith was a valuable and versatile player with a mature head and the ability to play small or tall across the ground.

“Joel has been a strong role model for young men who want to battle to make it in football,” he said.

“He has played a significant part in getting this club back to competing in September and we wish him well with all of his future endeavours.”

Hailing from the border town of Yarrawonga, Smith began his AFL career at St Kilda when selected at No.5 in the 1994 National Draft.

He played 58 matches for the Saints before being traded to Hawthorn in a 1998 pre-season draft deal involving Tony Lockett shifting from Moorabbin to Sydney.

After playing in the Saints’ 1996 pre-season premiership, the then running forward severely injured his knee which forced him out of the game for two seasons.

He did not play a senior match until round two of the 1999 season.

“Hawthorn took a punt on me 10 years ago when I had that train wreck of a knee and missed 20 months of footy. I am forever grateful for that,” Smith said.

Hawthorn club champion in 2001, vice-captain in 2005, All-Australian in 2001 and 2003 are among Smith’s personal achievements.

However he rates the Hawks’ finals appearances in 2001 and 2007, as his greatest footy moments.

“My two highlights are the Port Adelaide 2001 semi-final win over there. The travel – going over on there in a cargo plane – the momentum - the amazing energy that we were playing on …,” he reflected.

“And the second was the first final this season against Adelaide at Telstra Dome. The spectators were amazing. The atmosphere was electric. Playing down the defensive end and what the young guys down the other end doing what they did to win the game – it was just an amazing thing to be part of.

“I’m a little bit nervous about what’s ahead – but that’s also exciting. There is life after footy and for me - that’s the next chapter.”

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