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Veteran Giant hangs up boots after semi-final loss

Highlights: Collingwood v GWS The Magpies and Giants clash in the second semi final

FORMER Western Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen played his last AFL game in Greater Western Sydney's season-ending finals defeat to Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday night. 

Griffen led the Giants off the field after they fell short of a third consecutive preliminary final by 10 points.

The 32-year-old bows out after 257 games across 14 seasons, including 10 at the Bulldogs, where he played his best football, and four injury-marred years at GWS.

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Griffen regularly discussed his future throughout this season with coach Leon Cameron, who he first met while the Giants mentor was still a Western Bulldogs assistant.

"It's a pretty emotional sort of decision, but I just know that it was the end this year," he said.

"It's shattering we couldn't quite have the team success, but I just know it was my time to hang them up.

"I just think mentally the game's sort of got to me. I am slowing down a bit. These younger kids playing these days are fitter and stronger and faster and it does get harder."

Griffen made the All Australian team in 2013 and was a dual club champion at the Bulldogs, but he departed the club in the deal that brought No.1 pick Tom Boyd to the Kennel four years ago.

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His old side went on to win the 2016 premiership, one achievement he retires without.

There was speculation Griffen's decision was based on an acrimonious relationship with then-coach Brendan McCartney, who was sacked a day after his trade was completed.

The star midfielder, the No.3 pick in the 2004 National Draft, addressed those suggestions at the time, admitting it played a role but that the overriding reason was he had fallen out of love with the game.

"I don't have any regrets … I needed to change something in my life – and that was to move clubs," Griffen said.

"I knew they had talent there, and I was really close with all the Bulldogs boys. It's a fantastic club, it's a club I played for for 10 years (and) I still love the Western Bulldogs and the way they went about it.

"I had close relationships there, so I was happy when they won the flag. Obviously, that's probably going to be a bit of a dampener on my career, that I haven't won a flag.

"We all want to win premierships and I haven't been able to do that, but I've built relationships that will last a lifetime."

 

Cameron paid tribute to Griffen's contribution to the Giants and called him a "wonderful warrior".

"I know on the field Ryan will always be looked upon as a fantastic player at the Bulldogs," Cameron said.

"He probably didn't reach those heights at the Giants, but what he did do off the field was teach our young fellas what AFL footy is about.

"He's been terrific and it's disappointing to go out this way, but he's had a fantastic career."

Griffen plans to spend at least a year away from the sport to travel and relax before figuring out his long-term future.

One thing he was certain about was that GWS was on the cusp of doing something special.

"There's so much belief within the group. We've shown so much resilience over the last, even three years, with the injuries we've had, and they're a really close group," Griffen said.

"They're not far away and they're doing the right things and I said to them in there that success is just around the corner – and I think they know that.

"They'll get back to work and they've got a lot of care for each other, which is great and it's only going to build next year."