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The 261 game veteran will hang up the boots at the end of the season.
He has been in and out of the side this season due to several concussions and recently lost his spot in the side, falling down the pecking order behind the likes of youngster Aliir Aliir.
“I teared up with my wife at home. Then I rang mum and dad because they have shared the journey with me,” Richards said.
“The decision was made before I had any head knocks this year.
“I am ready for a new challenge and I will step away from football.
“This announcement has given me some energy. I will be able to enjoy and share the memories with my teammates now.”
Coach John Longmire said praised Richards’ professionalism over his career at the Swans.
“Ted has been incredible – he’s really the epitome of a balanced footballer,” Longmire said.
“He has always trained really hard and worked really hard, but he also loves having a laugh and is a great family man.
“I still remember in 2010, he was in and out of the team at different times, so he was thinking about making plans to move overseas to live and thought his football career might have been finished.
“But instead, Ted dedicated himself to becoming the best defender he could possibly be and went to the whole 2010 finals series to study all of the best defenders in the competition.
“The following year, in 2011, Ted finished fifth in our Club Champion award. In our premiership year he finished Club Champion runner-up and was named the All Australian centre half-back – so he was able to drive his own career, set standards for himself and achieve those standards.”
The 33-year-old played 33 games with Essendon between 2001 and 2005 before joining Sydney in 2006.
He played 226 games for the Swans and established himself as one of the game’s most consistent key defenders, playing in the 2012 premiership side and earning a place in the 2012 All-Australia team.