Published by Sarah Olle, 12 Spetember on foxsports.com.au
AN EMOTIONAL Eric Mackenzie has announced his retirement, after a frustrating four years that have been disrupted by crippling injuries.
At the height of his career in 2013 and 2014 the West Coast defender was on the precipice of All-Australian selection, having been named in the 40-man squad on both occasions.
And in 2014 he claimed the Eagles’ best and fairest award, cementing him forever in the history of the club.
But things turned awry for the 30-year-old in 2015 – the same year the Eagles made the Grand Final – when he succumbed to an ACL injury.
A plethora of foot issues followed, his best footy in the rear vision mirror.
“The time has come to put my health before trying to play football,” Mackenzie said while fighting back tears.
“The feet have given me a lot of grief. I’ve been in pain for the last two years. It’s now a chance to let them heal and move on with my life.”
Mackenzie – who hasn’t played for the Eagles this season – was visibly distraught as he detailed the agony his feet had caused him.
But he also acknowledged injuries were inextricably linked to a professional sporting career.
“They hurt not just with football, but in day-to-day life,” Mackenzie said of his feet.
“There has been no improvement in the last 12 weeks since my last scan and there’s no change.
“My last four years have been very much interrupted. I’m frustrated, but it’s all part of the journey. I’m not the only bloke who’s had injuries.
“I can’t feel sorry for myself at all.”
West Coast coach Adam Simpson lamented a career cut short.
“In my first year in 2014 ‘Ezy’ won our best and fairest, was in the All-Australian squad and was one of the premier defenders of the competition,” Simpson said.
“He’s the type of player who you’d just put on the best player in the opposition forward line and he’d get the job done every week.
“It’s just really disappointing his body hasn’t held up because the type of man he’s grown into – the cultural aspect of what he’s done behind closed doors, the development he’s done in helping grow our kids – has been first class
“He’s going to be sorely missed.”
Mackenzie said he’d continue to stick around the club, helping those injured players – including Brad Sheppard – navigate a finals series from the stands.
It was a sentiment that encapsulated everything his coach had said about him.
“The further the we go, they’re going to be in a tough spot, not being able to play,” MacKenzie said.
“I did that in ‘15 so I’ve got a bit of experience not playing finals. Any way I can help them and help out around the club I’m here for that.”
Mackenzie will retire three games shy of his 150th milestone in the same manner he played his career, putting the collective ahead of the individual.
“Everything I did on the field was for the team,” Mackenzie said.
“Playing as a fullback, I think that’s what you kind of have to do. You always put the team first.”