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Veteran Eagles defender hangs up the boots

Cats get wacky, Pendles' care factor Footy Feed with Matt Thompson, Mitch Cleary and Jen Phelan

WEST Coast full-back Eric Mackenzie has revealed the extent of his battle with his troublesome feet, which has forced him to hang up the boots and "put the health before playing football".

In an emotional press conference on Wednesday, the 2014 club champion described the "day-to-day" pain he has endured from stress fractures in both big toes which have kept him off the park all season.

"My feet have given me a lot of grief. I've been in pain for the last two years, so it's a chance to actually let them heal and move on with my life," Mackenzie said.

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"Hopefully not being on my feet all day every day will actually give them a chance to heal.

"I'd love to be able to run around with family and that later in life."

Mackenzie had a scan last Friday which showed no improvement in the past three months, taking the decision to retire out of his hands.

Doctors are still unsure what caused his problems, and short of fusing his toes there is nothing more they can do.

"There's no guarantees it will heal completely. It's something I'm going to have to deal with going forward and being able to manage the pain," Mackenzie said.

"We've tried everything. The docs here have been great at exploring all the different options.

"Nothing seems to have worked."

The 30-year-old finishes on 147 games – three shy of life membership – and with one of his last acts on the field the heroic match-saving collision with the behind post when he avoided rushing a score in last season's epic extra time elimination final against Port Adelaide.

"It's probably something now I can reflect on a lot more," Mackenzie said. "I didn't want that to be my last act on a footy field, but it kind of ended up that was the way it was.

"It's something I can look back on with a lot of pride.

"I'd like to think that's how I will be remembered, just doing what I could for the team."

Mackenzie was crowned the John Worsfold medallist in Adam Simpson's first season as coach, when he earned his second All Australian squad nomination and was among the AFL's elite key defenders.

The 197cm big man had speed and strength, which enabled him to lock down on the best tall and small forwards in the competition, and counted Lance Franklin and Matthew Pavlich among his toughest opponents.

"It was just 'Who is the best player? 'Ezy', can you take care of that and we'll worry about the rest of the team'," Simpson said.

"I didn't take it for granted, but it was such a pleasing thing to have.

"No doubt he's in our best 18 if he's fit and available."

But from the highs of 2014, Mackenzie's career took a turn for the worst when he ruptured his ACL the next pre-season.

He missed the Eagles' stunning run to the 2015 Grand Final and was never the same player.

"We saw the best of him, but not for long enough," Simpson said.

 

Mackenzie is one of four first-choice Eagles sidelined from their flag tilt this year, and would use his experience of missing out three years ago to help Nic Naitanui, Andrew Gaff and Brad Sheppard handle their disappointment.

"Obviously there will be a few boys, the further we go, who are in a tough spot as well not being able to play," Mackenzie said.

"I did that in '15, so I've got a bit of experience not playing finals. 

"Any way I can help them and help our around the club, I'm here for that."