ESSENDON veteran Brent Stanton has announced his retirement after a 255-game career with the Bombers.
A prolific midfielder who averaged more than 20 games for 10 consecutive seasons between 2006-15, Stanton has spent the second half of this year in the VFL.
The 31-year-old will hang up the boots after a 14-year career that started when he was recruited with pick No.13 in the 2003 NAB AFL Draft.
Stanton said he thought 2017 would be his last season soon after playing in the Bombers' win over Hawthorn in round one.
The 31-year-old said that victory made returning for this season worthwhile after he contemplated ending his career during the season-long ban in 2016.
"I have thought of it [retiring] ever since that day [when Essendon beat Hawthorn]," Stanton said.
"It has been a tough decision because you always want to play for as long as you can, but at some point you have got to give it away and move on with life.
"One chapter ends and another one opens."
One of the 34 past and present Bombers who were banned from the game last year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Stanton returned to the AFL this season and played six of the club's first seven games.
One of the Bombers' most durable players, he played at least 20 games a season between 2006-15.
He notched top-three finishes in the Bombers' best and fairest award four times (2005, 2008, 2009, 2001) but never won the Crichton Medal.
A true Bomber, a popular member of playing group & someone that always wanted the best for the Club. Take a bow, Stants. Tremendous career. pic.twitter.com/0OdSHFO6cj— Xavier Campbell (@XCampbell79) August 23, 2017
Stanton is a key part of Essendon's VFL team that has qualified for finals this year.
"It would have been nice to finish off on a different note but it has been an amazing experience and I have learnt a lot about myself in this year," Stanton said.
The much-maligned Don said he learned how to run after being matched up against Brisbane Lions star Nigel Lappin in just his fourth game admitting he was exhausted after the experience.
"That was when it clicked in my mind on how fit and how hard I had to work to become an elite footballer at AFL level," Stanton said.
"He ran me ragged and I slept for two days afterward."
Stanton polled 14 Brownlow votes in 2012 and at his best was a hard-running midfielder who racked up touches at will.
He said he had been passionate about teaching young players this season and was interested in potentially coaching in the future but would take a break before throwing himself into a new role.
During that time off he hopes to improve his golf and once again regain an edge over the club's other gun golfer, Brendon Goddard.
Brent Stanton in his first season in 2004. Picture: AFL Photos