CARLTON veteran Dale Thomas will hang up his boots knowing he has plenty left in the tank, but content that he gave himself every chance to extend his career.
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The 32-year-old's reluctant retirement comes after he was told he would not be contracted for 2020.
Thomas will play his final home game on Saturday against St Kilda at the MCG, taking his career tally to 257 appearances for Collingwood and the Blues.
Thomas will line up for his 100th game for the Blues this weekend. Picture: AFL Photos
Unlike many of his fellow retirees, Thomas has looked far from diminished.
Having finished fifth in last year's best and fairest, he has arguably been in even better form this season.
But with 35-year-old Kade Simpson set to play on next year and the Blues keen to develop their list, Thomas has been squeezed out.
It is particularly rough timing after David Teague was appointed full-time coach, having brought new life and the promise of success to Ikon Park.
"Obviously it was a bitter disappointment being told on Tuesday by the footy club that I wouldn't get another contract for next season," Thomas told reporters on Friday.
"I fully believe that we've got 'Teaguey' and the boys fully on board and with the improvement that we've shown, things can turn fairly quickly.
"Somewhat selfishly, I'm disappointed that I'm not going to be a part of that. In saying that, I feel that I've done everything I can to have given myself an opportunity to play next year."
Thomas and his teammates before Friday's final training session ahead of the clash with St Kilda. Picture: AFL Photos
Thomas added he was open to offers from rival clubs, but appeared relaxed about the likelihood of this being his final season.
Ever the larrikin, Thomas jokingly thanked his "sponsor" Penfolds, having copped a club suspension earlier in the year for drinking at a function 48 hours before a game.
A dashing wingman at Collingwood who was part of its 2010 premiership side, Thomas will retire as a rare Carlton player beloved by Magpies fans.
"For a long while they loved me, and then at the same time they loved me, the Carlton fans hated me. Then it swapped," Thomas said.
"Now, hopefully (I can) be loved by both of them."
I probably took for granted winning a lot when I was at Collingwood - Dale Thomas
The Blues have won five of their first nine games under Teague, and Thomas said they had been up there with his most enjoyable career moments.
"In a weird way, I probably took for granted winning a lot when I was at Collingwood," he said.
"When we did more recently start to get that success and reward for effort, and mentoring some of the young kids and seeing their improvement along that journey, it's a different enjoyment but something that I've loved."