TOUGH St Kilda midfielder Koby Stevens has been forced to announce his premature retirement after an ongoing battle with concussion.
Stevens made the announcement to his teammates on Monday afternoon after deciding to finish his career two weeks ago.
The 27-year-old suffered a head knock in a clash with Brisbane hard nut Mitch Robinson in round one and suffered blurred vision.
He finished the game impressively, limiting Lions star Dayne Zorko to 14 disposals. He then lined up the following week against North Melbourne despite having delayed concussion, which he didn't initially report to the club.
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Stevens was dropped after the Roos clash and did not play the following week after being named as an emergency against Adelaide.
He was then diagnosed with delayed onset concussion ahead of round four.
Stevens explained to reporters on Monday why he initially kept quiet about the concussion symptoms.
You're one of a kind, Koby ❤️⚪⚫— St Kilda FC (@stkildafc) July 23, 2018
Watch as he shares the news of his retirement with the playing group. pic.twitter.com/s2KdIgDzUG
"Prior to this year, I've hidden things before and gone out and played with symptoms, and that's just the person I was," Stevens said.
"I didn't like showing any signs of weakness and that's what I loved about the game, is that it's such a brutal game and something I'm going to miss.
"Looking back at it now, and everything that it's robbed me of the last three or four months, you've got to take care of your health first and concussion is a pretty serious issue."
It was a decision he had to make.
"The last three or four months have been a pretty brutal period in my life and I said to the boys I felt like I'd missed a lot of things in daily life that have been robbed of me through this injury," Stevens said
It was the eighth concussion of Stevens' career.
He hasn't been able to train with an elevated heart rate also causing problems. Even walking up the stairs at the club proved a challenge.
He said he had been largely confined to his house for the past three months.
Stevens has suffered persistent dizziness and headaches. Concentration has been an issue.
As a child I thought I wanted to define myself by all the pretty things and accolades of a long AFL career, 300 games , 1 club player, premierships, all the stuff you dream of as a kid . Now at 27 & 10 years into my AFL career things couldn’t of gone any different, I often pushed through injuries (like every other player has) to my detriment and broke down at crucial stages of my career when my best footy had come, and got back up and did it all again . I have learnt over the journey that I couldn’t care less about accolades (except flags ♂️)but more about the people I meet , relationships I make , the experiences I have, the person I might not of become if it all went perfect and the part of the week U got to sing the song with 22 of your brothers . This injury is different, it has taught me there is more to life and I’m not willing to simply push through this one and risk the simple things in life that mean most to me for any longer like the past 4 months has robbed me of. My body is in need of rest and time to heal and I’m satisfied i gave everything I did whilst I could and hope you understand. To my Family , my friends, my team mates, STKFC , WBFC, WCE and to you all I am forever indebted for your unwavering support and love. I will miss the game I have loved since I could walk, but I am now excited at what the future holds. ✌
St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said Stevens did everything he could to return.
"It's been a long time coming, the decision. He's done everything he could to try and get right but the reality is he needs to have a break. He needs to think about the next phase of his life," Richardson said.
Stevens' contract was set to expire at season's end. He left the Western Bulldogs at the end of 2016 to join the Saints in a swap of late NAB AFL Draft picks.
He was recruited to add hardness to St Kilda's midfield.
"Koby was every part of that, and it's probably to some extent been his downfall. He puts his head where others wouldn't. There's no doubt that we're a better group because of it," Richardson said.
"Some of the examples that he's set for our players have just been outstanding in the way that he plays but also the way that he prepares."
He was originally drafted by West Coast at No.23 in 2009 before going to the Dogs in an exchange that saw the Eagles receive pick No.44.
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The onballer lined up in 91 career matches, including 17 at the Saints.
Groin tendinitis hampered him at the Bulldogs in 2016, when the side went on to win the premiership.
The following season Stevens played out the campaign, despite carrying a torn adductor and eventually requiring surgery to both groins.
His time at St Kilda started inauspiciously when some dodgy chicken caused him to suffer salmonella poisoning, which meant he lost eight kilograms and was hospitalised for over a week.
Stevens is friends with Bulldog Liam Picken, who has not played this season as he deals with his own concussion battles.
"It's hard to express what you're actually feeling and to have Liam going through a similar thing, it's not great but it's been a good shoulder to lean on," Stevens said.
Sean Dempster retired after having his own concussion issues early in 2017, while Justin Clarke (Brisbane) and Jack Fitzpatrick (Hawthorn) faced similar problems.