Ben Cunnington will retire from the AFL this Saturday, almost a year to the day since he returned to the senior side after beating cancer for the second time.
The two-time North Melbourne best and fairest winner will play his final game against Essendon on Saturday at Marvel Stadium.
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He announced his retirement in an emotional speech to teammates on Tuesday morning.
The 32-year-old broke down in tears and his teammates were visibly moved by the speech as well.
Cunnington is a revered figure at Arden St and, along with Alastair Clarkson’s return to coaching the team last weekend, North now have ample motivation for upsetting their fierce rivals.
Luke McDonald reacts as Ben Cunnington announces his retirement. Credit: North Melbourne Media
The Kangaroos are on an 18-game losing streak.
Cunnington, has played 237 games for North, but he has been out of the senior side since playing the first eight matches this season.
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He made an emotional comeback in round 22 last season after recovering from a second bout of testicular cancer.
Cunnington was sidelined for more than a year because of his illness and needed surgery and chemotherapy.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve achieved on and off the field in the 14 years at this level,” Cunnington told teammates on Tuesday morning.
“From the moment the club drafted me, it was a dream come true as we were surrounded by interstate clubs on draft night.
“Then to walk into a club that suited my personality, and allowed me to be myself, I couldn’t have asked for a better recipe to get the best out of myself.”
Cunnington said in the wake of his comeback, he had lost the desire to keep playing in the AFL.
North Melbourne great Ben Cunnington will retire from the AFL this Saturday. Credit: AAP
“I’m proud and grateful of what I’ve overcome in the past few years and for the club to give me the best chance and opportunity to play AFL footy again,” he said.
“But I felt I lost my hunger once I returned, my perspective in life was too great. Then when I fell out of the senior team, I struggled to have the motivation or drive to get back in.
“That’s when I knew it wasn’t fair on myself or you blokes that I continued on next year without being able to give my 100 per cent effort, especially when there are hungry young kids out there that would do anything for the opportunity and to help this team get better.”
At his peak, Cunnington was one of the AFL’s most reliable midfielders and he racked up an incredible 32 contested possessions in a 2018 match against Richmond.
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