In the modern age, the average age at which a player retires is becoming higher and higher. Players such as Dustin Fletcher, Adam Goodes and Brent Harvey are setting the bar high for future players as they play on into their mid-to-late 30s. However, there are many players that continue to retire in their early 30s. We take a club-by-club analysis of veteran players, determining who should play on next season and who is likely to call it quits.
Club veteran Scott Thompson has a wealth of experience behind him and is a valuable midfielder at Adelaide. The 31-year-old still has plenty left in the tank and, after playing every game for the Crows last year, does not look to be slowing down. A crucial member of Adelaide’s midfield setup alongside Partick Dangerfield, Thompson should play on after this year.
The oldest player currently wearing the Adelaide jumper is former Geelong forward James Podsiadly. Selected by Adelaide as a free agent in 2013, the 32-year-old is likely to play on beyond this year. With only 84 games under his belt Podsiadly still has the ability to kick goals, and while Adelaide need a strong, experienced forward, he fits the bill well.
Coming into his 15th AFL season, Jonathan Brown’s pre season has been hampered by a persistent foot injury. After signing a one-year deal with the Lions to extend his contract to the end of 2014, this season may very well be the last for Brown. Depending on injury and fitness, the 32-year-old is likely to play his last season of AFL this year.
After playing only 14 games for the Blues in 2013, 31-year-old forward Jarrad Waite will be coming to the end of his career either this year or next. Despite having completed a full pre-season this year, Waite will have to compete for his spot in the team, and prove his reliability to his teammates and coach. If he plays well this season, Waite should continue to play next year.
While Waite’s future is undetermined, speculation continues to surround Brownlow Medallist Chris Judd, and whether he will play on at Carlton after this year. The injury ridden midfielder is expected to return in round three this season following surgery on his Achilles. While he still shows plenty of class each time he plays, it is likely that the 2015 AFL season will be his last. Rookie listed player Heath Scotland is a possibility to play on for Carlton after this year, however it is extremely likely that this year will be the last for the 33-year-old midfielder.
Following the delisting of Collingwood ruckman Darren Jolly, 31-year-old Quinten Lynch should find some game time in the 2014 AFL season. However, with young gun Brodie Grundy coming up through the ranks, as well as a set forward line it is likely we may see less of Lynch throughout the season. As a free agent, and with his two-year contract with Collingwood to end in 2014, Lynch may well play in his last AFL season this year.
At 35 years old Ben Hudson has been given a second chance with Collingwood as a rookie for the 2014 season. In taking on a role as a mentor for upcoming ruckmen within the squad, this is likely to be his last season as a player.
Having just broken the club record for most games played, 379 gamer Dustin Fletcher is the oldest player in the AFL at 38 years old. There are persistent questions surrounding when Fletcher will retire, which has been the case constantly in recent years. If he does not hang up the boots this year, it is almost certain the 2015 season will be his last at 40 years of age.
Free agent recruit Paul Chapman has proven his worth in his first game for Essendon this year. The 32-year-old had a stellar debut game for the club, and is looking to be an asset in the forward line this season. He should play on next year.
Club veterans Luke McPharlin and Matthew Pavlich continued to prove their worth as valued players within the Fremantle side last year. With the club looking to make the Grand Final again this year and at least finals in 2015, it is unlikely this year will be their last. As the teams most experienced players with 518 games between them, both players should continue into next season.
Greater Western Sydney
The club’s oldest player, 32-year-old recruit Josh Hunt, will provide valuable experience to the young GWS side after being delisted by Geelong in 2013. His one year deal will see him play with GWS until the end of 2014, which will most likely be his last year.
Premiership players Corey Enright and Steve Johnson provide premiership experience to a developing Geelong side. Steve Johnson’s renowned goal kicking style and Enright’s class in defence continues to provide depth to the successful side. At 32 and 30 years of age respectively, both should play on into next season.
Providing experience in a young side, former Crows player Nathan Bock has signed a contract to stay with the Suns until the end of 2014, which may extend into 2015. An integral part of the club’s leadership group, Bock is still a valued player. If this year is not his last, there is a strong chance 2015 may be the year the 31-year-old retires.
Brian Lake had a stellar season last year for Hawthorn. After claiming the Norm Smith medal in Hawthorn’s 2013 Grand Final win, there is a slim chance that he will retire any time soon. The 32-year-old looked to be on his last legs when he parted ways with the Western Bulldogs in 2012, however he has become a strong player within the Hawthorn side. Lake should play on into next season.
Former Hawthorn skipper Sam Mitchell has signed on with the club until the end of 2015, proving the 31-year-old is not ready to retire yet. Still an integral part of the Hawthorn midfield, he is a valuable asset, especially alongside Luke Hodge.
Melbourne’s most experienced player, former Bulldog Daniel Cross will bolster the Demons midfield in 2014. After being delisted by the Bulldogs in 2013, Cross signed a deal to stay with Melbourne until the end of 2014. With his best football behind him, it is likely Cross will retire at the end of this season, unless given further opportunity by Melbourne.
Brent Harvey has showed no signs of slowing down in recent years, continuing to prove his worth in North Melbourne’s senior side. The 35-year-old stepped down from the leadership group this year, and will continue to mentor upcoming players. In his current form, it is likely that he will be able to play into the 2015 season.
Veteran midfielders Kane Cornes and Domenic Cassisi may be playing in their last seasons with Port Adelaide. Cornes is signed until the end of this year and provides much needed experience to an up and coming team, while it is increasingly likely that Cassisi will play in his last season of AFL this year.
It is predicted that much loved Richmond veteran Chris Newman could play his last season of AFL this year, if not next. After finally playing in the first final of his career in 2013, it is clear Newman continues to provide much needed experience to the Richmond defence as a consistent, reliable player alongside Alex Rance. Fitness and injury allowing, Newman should play on into next season.
Former St Kilda captain Lenny Hayes will play out a one-year contract extension this year, with his future beyond this year unknown. The 34-year-old remains an integral part of the St Kilda midfield as both a player and a mentor for young players. Fitness and injury permitting, Hayes should play on into next season, providing the young side with much needed experience.
Recently named Australian of the Year for 2014, Adam Goodes now sets his sights on playing his 16th season with the Swans. Following a long stint on the sidelines last year due to injury, Goodes will need to have a consistent year if he wishes to play on in 2015. If he has a good year this year, Goodes should play on into next season, as he is one of the most consistent players in the game.
Continuing as the captain of the West Coast Eagles in 2014, Darren Glass is unlikely to retire at the end of this season, yet has admitted he himself is unsure of when he will retire. The 32-year-old remains a strong player within the Eagles side, and should play on into next season.
Dean Cox still stands as one of the strongest ruckman in the game, and is an asset to the West Coast side. Playing alongside Nic Naitanui while mentoring Callum Sinclair, Cox provides the Eagles with the possibility of playing three ruckman in games that require. If his fitness allows, Cox should play on into next season.
It has been confirmed Bulldogs veteran Daniel Giansiracusa will enter his last season with the club this year. Dubbed the club’s ‘super-sub’ last season, Giansiracusa will move into a coaching role at the end of the year.