Dal Santo was delisted by the Kangaroos at the end of last season after three years and 62 games at Arden Street.
The former Saint, who joined North in 2014 after 260 games, averaged 24.8 disposals in 2016, the most of any Roos player.
However, at 32 years of age, the club felt he was no longer a required a player and informed him that his time was up. The news shocked Dal Santo, who felt he still a few years of good footy left in him, and he admits it still hurts.
“I do think about it and I’m still sort of going through that process in some ways,” Dal Santo said.
“It was a little bit of a shock and a bit sudden. But by saying that, I honestly have no hard feelings. I can completely understand where North Melbourne are heading in that direction.
“It doesn’t mean that I agree with it and, to be brutally honest, I didn’t agree with it at the time.”
Despite some interest from Collingwood, Dal Santo admitted he knew the elimination final loss to Adelaide last year was going to be his final game after being told he would be delisted towards the end of the season.
“Walking off the ground after we lost that final in Adelaide, knowing that it was probably and realistically the last time I was going to play footy at AFL level, it was, in some ways, a nice closure to know that my wife, my son and my family were all there. It was a nice way to say goodbye and say, ‘That’s the end’,” he said.
“I was conscious that that was probably the last time. I was still open to the idea of playing on, as I felt like my body and my mind could have gone on for at least 12 more months and I felt like I had solid football left in me.
“But I remember Rory Sloane shaking my hand and saying a couple of really nice words and I thought, ‘OK, that’s probably it for me’.
“It had been 15 years, I’d played over 320 games, made some friends that will be friends forever, some memories that I will never forget. It’s been a pretty good ride.”
The Pies, who recruited Dal Santo’s former teammate, Daniel Wells, lost interest in the 230-game veteran as the end of the season neared.
“There were definitely conversations early, but it just didn’t progress very far at all. And when they sort of died off, that was it,” he said.
“At that stage, my priority was having a bit of downtime, spending some time with the family and saying thank you to a lot of people who have done a lot for me over the years. As that time went on, we just worked through it and I had to retire. That’s the way it goes.
“There’s not that many guys that get to walk out on their own terms. It wasn’t necessarily on my own terms, but it was pretty close.”
Dal Santo officially announced his retirement after the end of the trade and delisted free agency period in November.