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Clay Smith calls time on career

The Best of Clay After Clay Smith announced his retirement today, take a look back at some of the career highlights of Clay Smith

Western Bulldogs forward Clay Smith has announced his retirement from AFL football, effective immediately.

Smith, who has been battling a knee injury which has forced him to remain on the sidelines in 2018, told his team-mates and Club staff today that his seven-year career has come to an end.

A much-loved player at the Bulldogs who has endured the agony of injury and the ecstasy of premiership success, finishes his time at the highest level with 55 games and 43 goals for the Club.

“It was a very difficult decision for me to retire at my age, but the right one to make given my knee hasn’t been able to fully recover,” Smith said.

“I’ve given everything to try to make it back this season, but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out the way I would’ve liked.

“I want to thank everyone at the Western Bulldogs for their support over my career, and especially the medical staff, physios and strength and rehab staff for their care and professionalism.

“It’s been a difficult road for me, but I was able to experience being in the premiership team and I wouldn’t swap that for anything.

“I’ve also met some great people, made some incredible friendships, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play AFL football.

“While life without footy will leave a big hole in my life, it has shaped me as a person and helped me grow and I’m thankful for that.”

Smith was recruited to the Bulldogs with pick 17 in the 2011 National Draft from Gippsland Power and burst onto the scene in Round 1 the following year with a four-goal debut against West Coast.

The 16 games he registered in 2012 would be the most he would play in a season, with a series of knee injuries interrupting his career.

He ruptured his ACL three times in the next three seasons, robbing him of the opportunity to establish himself at AFL level.

After three gruelling 12-month rehabilitations, Smith returned in Round 15, 2016, and became a crucial member of the Bulldogs’ premiership run.

He kicked eight goals and averaged 18 disposals in the four finals, including four goals and 26 possessions in the preliminary final win over GWS.

“It has been emotional time for all of us because Clay is such an admired and loved person around the place, and it’s sad his career has come to an end at just 25 years of age,” said Bulldogs’ senior coach Luke Beveridge.

“To have the mental application and strength to work through all the setbacks he’s had to deal with has been inspirational to watch and his team-mates have been motivated by his determination.

“He should be so proud of what he did to overcome all of his challenges, and content that he will always be a Western Bulldogs premiership player.

“We will miss him dearly when he leaves the building, but we will always be connected.”