Shepparton News

Jones hangs up boots



Melbourne stalwart Nathan Jones is being hailed as a Demons great and vital part of the club’s rise up the AFL ladder after telling teammates he is retiring.

The hard-luck story of the Demons’ first grand final since 2000, Jones is calling it quits after 302 games — the second most in the club’s history, only behind alltime leading goal-kicker David Neitz (306).

The universall­y popular Jones opted to return home from Perth on Saturday, with wife Jerri giving birth to Odie and Dove on Sunday morning.

The 33-year-old has not featured in the Demons’ senior line-up since round 15, when he was an unused sub, and was extremely unlikely to be recalled for the decider against the Western Bulldogs.

Due to Western Australia’s border restrictio­ns, it would have been impossible for him to return for the grand final at Optus Stadium on September 25.

Jones, who captained Melbourne between 2014 and 2019, said it was a bitterswee­t way to bow out.

The dual Demons best-andfairest winner told his teammates of his decision during a Zoom catchup.

Jones stayed loyal to Melbourne in one of the most tumultuous periods in the club’s history when he could have chased success elsewhere.

His career, which started under inspiratio­nal coach Neale Daniher in 2006, finishes with 101 wins, 198 defeats and three draws.

‘‘Personally I’ve had a lot of emotions go through my mind from how it’s all unfolded,’’ Jones said.

‘‘From an individual perspectiv­e, it’s been disappoint­ing, to say the least, knowing the work I’ve put in.

‘‘But what I want to stress is that regardless of that I am still filled with the utmost amount of joy, happiness and pride for the position the club is now in.

‘‘From my experience­s, footy is a ruthless game and we shouldn’t take what we’ve built and created this season for granted.

‘‘Over the years, the two things that have driven me to stay committed to this footy club have been firstly, the chance to play in a premiershi­p one day and secondly, to ensure that no young player coming into Melbourne would have the experience I did for many years, I wanted to leave the club in a better place.

‘‘Looking at where the club is now, I am proud of where we are and I’m so excited for the opportunit­y that my teammates have ahead of them, to write a new chapter in the club’s history.’’

Demons coach Simon Goodwin told his players that Jones’ legacy at the club would last forever.

‘‘One of the hardest things to do as a player is go through cultural change,’’ Goodwin said.

‘‘And we’re talking about a culture that was at rock-bottom.

‘‘He’s seen that journey through and he leaves the club today a proud man.’’

Demons defender Christian Salem described Jones as a ‘‘massive’’ part of the club’s culture.

‘‘It’s sad to see him retire, and the circumstan­ces he did that are pretty unfortunat­e in terms of the situation we’re in, in terms of COVID,’’ Salem said.

 ?? Picture: AAP ?? Cheerio: Nathan Jones waves to fans as he is chaired off the ground after his 300th game.
Picture: AAP Cheerio: Nathan Jones waves to fans as he is chaired off the ground after his 300th game.

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