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Dustin Fletcher retires after 400 games and 23 years

Stevie's exit, Paddy arrives, Murph doubt Matt Thompson with Footy Feed
Dustin Fletcher has retired after 23 season and 400 games - ${keywords}
Dustin Fletcher has retired after 23 season and 400 games
I can walk away knowing I gave everything I could for this club
Dustin Fletcher

ESSENDON is uncertain whether retiring great Dustin Fletcher will agree to a send-off for Bombers fans at Sunday's game against Collingwood.
 
Fletcher, 40, announced his retirement on Friday, ending a career that spanned 23 seasons and 400 games.

The veteran pushed himself in the past few weeks to overcome an abdominal injury that has sidelined him since he reached the games landmark in round nine against Richmond but could not recover sufficiently for a farewell match.
 
"It's disappointing we couldn't get him up," interim Bombers coach Matthew Egan said. "He did try over the last few weeks.
 
"It's disappointing he doesn't get to be the sub or something and just finish off for the club, but hopefully he does something Sunday and if not I think we just respect his decision that he needs some time to think about it."
 
Egan said the Dons gave Fletcher every chance to play on Sunday but he ruled himself out this week.
 
"He got close, maybe a 50 per cent chance. But the last few weeks he's really tried to push his rehab and see if he can get to the level and probably just didn't get close enough to even consider being the sub or anything," Egan said.
 
"He worked really hard, but just missed out.
 
"He's missed a lot of footy and he tried to get to the level where he could run repeat speed and things like that and just couldn't get the body to the level where he thought he could perform."

• How well do you know 2015's retirees? Take the quiz

Fletcher walks away from the game as one of only four players to have crossed the 400-game threshold, a dual premiership player (1993 and 2000) and two-time Crichton medallist.

The 198cm defender showed remarkable versatility to adapt to the changing nature of AFL over his 23-season career.

The former 'Baby Bomber' regularly did battle with some of the game's greatest ever forwards such as Tony Lockett and Wayne Carey, while in latter years Fletcher dropped weight to keep pace with a faster game.

"His positioning on his direct opponent I think is the best I've ever seen," said Egan, the Dons' defensive coach.

"He could play in front 20 metres and still be able to get back and spoil. He'd know who to play behind, how to adjust to get from being in front to get behind."

Egan said Fletcher, who is yet to address his teammates with the Bombers on a day off on Friday, commanded respect in a similar vein to Geelong champion Matthew Scarlett.

"He's not a really loud speaker in meetings … but when he speaks, he's a little bit like Matt Scarlett at Geelong, when they speak every single person listens," Egan said.

"He's obviously got great knowledge and he's someone that would pull players aside and talk to them about one-on-one things. Often on the track you would see him having a quiet conversation with a young player and trying to educate him."

Meanwhile, Egan declared the 15th-placed Bombers still had plenty on the line in round 23, with some players' careers still to be decided.

Essendon is also on the hunt for a new senior coach after completing a football department review, although Egan ruled himself out of contention after his three games in charge.

"I've really enjoyed the experience. At this stage I don't think I'll apply for the job," the 32-year-old said.

"I just think I need some more years' experience and, I've mentioned it before, but the group needs a new voice, and that's someone that I can learn off as well."