RETIRING Richmond veteran Nathan Foley has told his young teammates to "shop early and beat the rush" after a degenerative knee injury forced him to call time on his 154-game career.

Foley, who has not played this season after having arthroscopic surgery in May, told teammates of his decision to retire immediately in an emotional address on Thursday on Punt Road Oval.

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A quick and dynamic midfielder in his prime between 2007-09, injuries have cruelled Foley since and he wanted his young teammates to learn from his career.

"To the young blokes in the room, be in a hurry to succeed," Foley said on Thursday.

"It does go quick and it can end abruptly, so always make the most of your opportunities.

"I've got no doubt that with hard work and a steely resolve you guys can achieve something huge.

"The time is now though, and I love the quote 'Ivvy' (Ivan Maric) uses around the stoppages – ‘shop early and beat the rush’. I think that applies to careers as well."

Foley, who was recruited as a rookie in 2004, finished second in the Tigers' best and fairest in 2007 and was leading the count in 2009 when the first serious injury of his career hit.

He missed the rest of that season with an ankle injury and has played 70 of a possible 119 games since because of ankle, leg, knee and Achilles tendon problems.

"While injuries have caught up with me, I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ve always exhausted everything possible to get the most out of myself," he said.

"This year has been incredibly frustrating and disappointing the way it's panned out and I certainly didn't see it happening like this."

The highlight of Foley's career was playing in the elimination final against Port Adelaide last season after featuring in the team's miraculous run to qualify for September action.

He was famously overlooked for the Tigers' elimination final against Carlton the previous year in a selection decision coach Damien Hardwick later regretted.

"It was unbelievable to play in those nine straight wins, which resulted my first final," he said.

"That's something, more so now, that I'm more than ever grateful for.

"I spent the last few minutes of the (round 23) Sydney game on the bench … and the feeling when the siren went in Sydney was the best feeling I've ever had on a football field."

Foley reserved special thanks for the Richmond medical staff, who have been a constant in his life in recent seasons, Hardwick, and the club's senior players.

"We've been through a lot together, so thanks for the mateship," he said.

"I can't explain how many fond memories I've got from all my teammates over 12 years.

"Without a doubt the one thing I'll miss the most is putting on the armour on game day with you boys and running out to play.

"That feeling is something very special and something I'll never forget."