Gold Coast midfielder Connor Blakely has decided that 2023 will represent his last season in the AFL, making the call on Wednesday morning to officially retire after the conclusion of the Suns' VFL season this weekend.
The 27-year-old debuted back in 2015 for Fremantle, playing 78 games in his seven years at Cockburn before being delisted after missing the entire 2022 season.
Blakely was offered a second chance by the Suns with the seventh pick in the 2023 Rookie Draft. However, the on-baller did not feature in the primary side on the Sunshine Coast but became a crucial part of their crusade to this year's VFL Grand Final.
The VFL Suns dominated the expanding competition this season, finishing with the minor premiership in hand before progressing to the final weekend of the year.
The Western Australian was selected with the No. 34 selection in the 2014 National Draft after featuring in the Under 18's Western Australian side and earning a position in that tournament's All-Australian team.
Early in his Dockers tenure, Blakely took home Peel Thunder's 2015 best and fairest award, before being nominated for the Rising Star Award in his second season in 2016. He also won the Simpson Medal; awarded to the best-on-ground in the WAFL Grand Final.
Blakely spoke about how grateful he was to have had the opportunity to play in the AFL, though noted it was time to shift his main focus in life.
"I've had so many ups and downs and challenges along the way throughout my career but I'm very appreciative of the opportunities and experiences that I've had," Blakely said via Gold Coast Suns Media on Tuesday.
"I'm at a point of time in my life where I'm ready to let go of football but would love to finish off on a massive high by winning a VFL flag with my teammates after all the work we've put in this year.
"I'm very proud to have played at the top level for 78 games and live out my childhood dream for nine years and am extremely appreciative to Fremantle and the Gold Coast Suns for the opportunities they have given me."
General Manager of Football Performance for the Suns, Wayne Campbell, shared his thanks and congratulations on the commitment Blakely made to the club during his brief stint at Carrara.
"On behalf of the entire football club I'd like to thank Connor for his dedication to the club this year," Campbell said as part of Tuesday's club release.
"Despite not getting the opportunity he would have desired at AFL level, Connor has provided invaluable experience to our group at VFL level which will see us play in the Grand Final this weekend.
"We look forward to hopefully sending Connor off as a VFL premiership player in his final match this weekend."
Blakely averaged 23 disposals per game in the VFL season this year, with the Grand Final set to be his final professional football outing.