Niall McKeever will return home to Ireland next month
NIALL McKeever has shelved ambitions of continuing his playing career and will head back to Ireland next month after being delisted by the Brisbane Lions.
McKeever played 22 games in four seasons with the Lions after being drafted as an international rookie at the end of 2009, but his career is now over.
The 24-year-old said he was disappointed, but would now return to Belfast to study sports science.
McKeever will finish his playing duties on Saturday when the Lions reserves play the Sydney Swans reserves in the NEAFL cross conference Grand Final in Brisbane.
He said pondering his future had weighed heavily for most of the season.
"I just feel I'm at a stage in my life where I maybe need to get something more concrete in terms of what I'm going to do for the rest of my life," McKeever said.
"I've made some unbelievable mates here but I didn't feel like I wanted to go ahead with another club. I didn't even ask my manager to look for other clubs."
McKeever played predominantly in defence during his career and won a reputation as a terrific athlete and never-say-die competitor.
Lions fans will long remember the sprint and rushed behind from a Jack Darling soccer kick that kept them alive deep in the fourth quarter of an upset win over West Coast at the Gabba in 2012.
But it wasn't enough to earn a new contract.
McKeever played just three games this season and felt more exposure at the top level would have helped his game develop even further.
"I've had an unbelievable four years," he said.
"I'm proud I've played the games I've played, but I came out here to make a career out of it and I'm still disappointed I haven't. Football's a ruthless sport and it's a business as well."
McKeever said he had spoken to teammate Pearce Hanley and Swans premiership player Tadhg Kennelly – both big influences - since his decision
He will return to Ireland in October and resume playing gaelic football.