WESTERN Bulldogs captain Robert Murphy says 2017 will be his last season at AFL level.
He announced his impending retirement at a media conference with coach Luke Beveridge, saying his decision had "been coming for quite a while".
Murphy said he came "that close" to retiring at the end of last season that 2017 "was always going to be the last year, and when winter hit, my body started to let me know I would not be able to complete another season.
"When I got to the halfway point this season, and my body really started letting me know it couldn't go again, it was a relief.
"I probably retired three times last year but didn't tell the rest of the world."
In an eccentric introduction, Murphy thanked a range of influences from family and friends to rock stars and journalists, and name-checked all the football clubs he has played for, including the Espy Rockdogs, who play in an annual charity match.
Of the Bulldogs, he said, "I'm just proud to be a part of this footy club.
"We know how dire it has been a few times, and irrelevant and forgotten ... you never quite get over those bruises.
"My part (in the renaissance) has only been a small part, but I'm pretty proud of that."
Murphy also paid tribute to his teammates: "It's been a privilege to be among you for 18 years, and an even greater thrill to lead you for the last three."
Beveridge said Murphy's departure was an emotional time for the club, but that he had impressed on his players that it was not yet "time for tributes ... we still have still got a bit to go".
"Bob is a once in a generation type character in what he has achieved both on and off the field," Beveridge said.
"He has been one of the most consistent performers for the club in the last 18 seasons, because on top of his natural ability he has driven himself to continually improve and get the best out of himself.
"But it's the impact he's had off the field, in terms of setting standards for his team-mates, leading by example and driving the right culture, which is difficult for those outside the club to fully appreciate.
"The Bulldogs have been lucky to have Bob Murphy, and he leaves an incredibly strong legacy."
The 35-year-old has played 310 games for the Dogs since being recruited with pick 13 in the 1999 NAB AFL Draft.
Murphy famously missed last season's historic premiership after tearing his ACL against Hawthorn in round three, and while form hasn't been an issue for him this season, hamstring problems have restricted him to 15 matches.
"If I'm not a premiership player there will be a sense of emptiness there, but I gave it everything I had," he said.
"There's a bit of a hole in the heart there."
However, with the Bulldogs still in the finals mix this season, Murphy said, "(I've) still got a bit of life left in me this year. I feel the team has a few cards to play in this hand.
"But I'll finish this year knowing I've run the tank dry."
Bob Murphy with his family after announcing his retirement. Picture: AFL Photos
One of the more skilful players to grace the AFL in recent times, Murphy earned All Australian honours in 2011 and was named that side's skipper in 2015.
Murphy took over the Bulldogs captaincy amid turmoil at the end of 2014 season, when then skipper Ryan Griffen walked out on the club to join Greater Western Sydney and Brendan McCartney was sacked as coach.
Murphy joins fellow club great and 300-gamer Matthew Boyd in announcing his retirement, and adds his name to a rich list of retirees, including Jobe Watson, Nick Riewoldt, Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Steve Johnson, Matt Priddis and Scott Thompson, in hanging up the boots at the end of the season.
The Bulldogs remain in the race for the final eight, sitting ninth on the ladder on 11 wins with two matches remaining.
The Dogs will have to beat Port Adelaide at Mars Stadium in Ballarat this week and then Hawthorn in round 23 to have any hope of defending their 2016 title.
The final-round clash against the Hawks may prove to be the last AFL match for both former Hawthorn captain Hodge, who has announced his retirement, and Murphy.
Bob Murphy with acting captain Easton Wood after the 2016 Grand Final win. Picture: AFL Photos