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Power veteran Wilson calls it quits

By Katrina Gill 10:18 AM Tue 05 August, 2008

Michael Wilson has retired from AFL football

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ON TUESDAY, a misty-eyed Michael Wilson thanked supporters and the media for never saying a bad word about him. But the truth is, there was never anything bad to say.

Wilson, renowned for his leadership, courage, loyalty and team-first attitude, gave everything in his 12-year, injury-plagued career and will walk away from football an agonising eight games shy of the 200 milestone.

For Wilson, 31, there will be no swansong. Instead, fans will be given the opportunity to farewell their hero when he embarks on a lap of AAMI Stadium prior to next Friday night's clash with Collingwood.

It doesn't seem a fitting swansong for such an admired player, but Wilson, who has finally given in to injury, wouldn't have it any other way.

"I would play one more game if I could play up to the standard that I'd like to. I don't think I'd get through one more game; I'd be more of a liability than anything else," Wilson said.

"I'm quietly happy just to sneak out the back door now and watch the games."

Coach Mark Williams revealed he had given Wilson, whom he described as one of the club's "greatest-ever champions", the opportunity for a final hurrah.

"I told him I'd be prepared to play him for 10 minutes in the last quarter of any of our upcoming home games and he said, 'No, it's not the best thing for Port Adelaide. It's best to play a young player'," Williams said.

"That just shows how selfless Michael is."

Wilson's career came to an abrupt end two weeks ago after an all-too-regular meeting with Port Adelaide club doctor, Peter Barnes.

The gutsy premiership player, who spent the summer recovering from a torn achilles tendon, returned to the Power line up in round nine and was even looking towards a career beyond 2008 when injury struck the battle-weary warrior again.

"Everything seemed to be going okay, but three or four weeks ago at training I stepped out to the side and heard a squelch, crack and a pop," Wilson said.

"After that, and also having my knee drained a number of times, I tried to train and ended up not being able to walk for 10 days, so that was a pretty good indicator my knee was no good.

"In the past, it felt like a bit of the Monty Python 'it's just a flesh wound', kind of thing and I thought I'd get through it no worries, but Barnesy sat me down two weeks ago and said, 'Look, if you want to play again you'll have to undergo some serious surgery, which you wouldn't want to do at the 'young' age of 31'.

"With every other operation and procedure I've had, he'd always say, 'We can come back from this' and he showed me the way, but with this one he sort of told me I would be stupid to go ahead with it and that he couldn't, professionally, say I should go ahead with it.

"That was pretty much the time I knew it was over."

Williams revealed there had been a plan in place for Wilson to play on next season.

"Michael trained on the Friday of the Showdown, but after that, his knee blew up," he said.

"Michael and I sat down and had a plan to get him back. We probably thought we brought him back a little early from his achilles injury over the summer, so we thought we'd give him a couple of games in the SANFL to get his form and confidence back.

"If he'd played one or two more SANFL games, he would've come back and played the last three games with us [the Power] and that would have given him the opportunity to play again next year.

"That was our plan, but unfortunately … it didn't go to plan."

Wilson, who underwent an incredible nine operations during his career, including two knee and two shoulder reconstructions, missed more than 100 games (the equivalent of nearly five full seasons) with injury.

He conceded he was disappointed not to reach the 200-milestone, but said he was proud of what he'd achieved.

"I'm very grateful I got to 192. I would've loved to get to 200 games and I tried to get back and try and play the 200, but as I've told a few of the boys, I didn't want to hang around like a bad smell and just fall over the line," he said with a laugh.

"I actually wanted to finish playing well and to finish playing well on 200 games would've been fantastic, but unfortunately, the body won't let me do it, so that's where I've got to hang up the boots."
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