FREMANTLE big man Michael Apeness has retired after five injury-riddled seasons at the Dockers.
The 23-year-old Victorian was contracted for 2019 and returned to Perth after spending the off-season break with family and friends, but was absent from training at Cockburn on Monday.
After being delisted last month, Apeness was set to be redrafted as a rookie on Friday, however he has instead decided to hang up the boots.
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"Retiring is not a decision I’m taking lightly and I thank the Fremantle Football Club for their support in this process," Apeness said.
"It’s been a long journey, considering all of the injuries I’ve had, and I thank my teammates, coaches and the Fremantle fans for their support throughout my career."
Apeness' promising career was severely hampered by injuries, with the 200cm forward-ruck unable to fulfil the potential which saw him touted as Matthew Pavlich's successor in attack.
The former first-round draft pick – he was taken with pick 17 overall in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft – only managed 12 games for Freo, and never more than five in the same season.
His 2017 was all-but wiped out by PCL problems, while his 2015 and '16 campaigns were also curtailed by more knee and shoulder issues.
Apeness finally appeared to have his career on track this season after five consecutive games between round 11-16 before suffering a season-ending hamstring tendon tear after being dropped to WAFL affiliate Peel.
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"We were very sad when Michael came to us to tell about his intentions to retire, it was a really difficult decision for him but we respect that decision," general manager of football Peter Bell said.
"He clearly has had a lot of injuries to deal with over his five years at the football club. He’s been a wonderful servant for Fremantle who didn’t get a lot of luck.
"Michael decided that he wanted to retire and although that was very sad and we wish him all the best, it does mean it allows us to select another player in Friday’s rookie draft."
After Apeness' retirement, the Dockers will bring in five players via the drafts – including four in the national draft.
Freo has also committed to redrafting delisted duo Ethan Hughes and Ryan Nyhuis as rookies.
The Dockers hold picks 14, 31, 43 and 65 in the national draft starting Thursday.