RETIRED Melbourne midfielder Luke Dunstan has opened up about the devastation of ending his rollercoaster career through injury, revealing he "spent 45 minutes in the rooms crying" after rupturing his ACL.
Dunstan sustained the dreaded knee injury playing for Casey in a VFL clash against North Melbourne in late August.
The 28-year-old left the ground before half-time knowing his career was over.
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"I definitely wasn't expecting that to happen," Dunstan told AFL Trade Radio on Tuesday.
"When it does, it obviously shocks your system a bit. On top of that, I was looking forward to next year and wherever I was going to play footy, whether that be locally, or in the country, to just enjoy it and have some fun.
"I did my knee and spent 45 minutes in the rooms crying."
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Dunstan was drafted to St Kilda with pick 18 in the 2013 NAB AFL National Draft and claimed a Rising Star nomination in his debut against Melbourne.
Melbourne would ultimately be the club he finished his career at a decade later – Dunstan moved to the Demons as an unrestricted free agent after falling out of favour at St Kilda at the end of 2021.
He says he was unlucky not to feature in more Melbourne games at AFL level – five in 2022 and none in 2023 – but ended his time grateful for the opportunity to play for a "good club with a great culture".
"I was extremely fortunate to get in a position to go to Melbourne for two years," Dunstan said.
"I think I was a little bit unlucky. I had a few injuries I’d never had in my career before when I was at Melbourne, and timed them badly. When one of the other mids did go down, I was injured as well, so it didn’t marry up, but that’s football."
Dunstan tore his ACL just before Jake Melksham suffered the same fate in the Dees' round 24 AFL clash against Sydney on the same Sunday afternoon.
The pair have helped one another through the experience, with Inside Trading on Monday reporting the uncontracted Melksham will be offered a new deal to play on with Melbourne despite suffering the 12-month injury.
"I got home, flicked the TV on and saw 'Melky' had literally just gone down as well," Dunstan said, reflecting on his fateful day.
"We at least had someone to talk to and we did all our appointments with the surgeon together.
"He went in a couple of days before me. I spoke to Melky, he wasn't quite the same (emotionally) as me, but maybe it hit him a couple of days later."
Dunstan now has his sights set on a post-footy career in commercial real estate.