St Kilda champion Leigh ‘Joey’ Montagna has today announced his retirement after 287 games in red, white and black.
The 33-year-old informed the playing group this afternoon of his decision, bringing to an end a distinguished career spanning 16 seasons.
Montagna said he was humbled by the opportunity to play out his career with Saints.
“For the past sixteen years, the St Kilda Football Club has been my home and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to play out my career as a one club player,” he said.
“I want to thank my friends and family, in particular my parents and wife Erinn for their unconditional support.
“To my teammates, past and present, it has been an honour to share the field and the changerooms with you and I will cherish the many life-long friendships I have made.
“To the St Kilda Football Club coaches, medical team and staff, thank you for allowing me to get the very best out of myself and for always treating me respect.
“And finally to St Kilda fans, thank you for your support through the highs and lows over the past 16 years. It has meant the world to me.”
Montagna said he would leave the game content knowing he had given everything he could.
“As I wasn’t a chance to play again this season there was no rush in making a decision,” he said.
“I wanted to take my time and weigh up my options which I have done. Ultimately I have decided that the time is right to retire.
“If this club is to achieve what we are striving for, I feel the time is right for me to step aside and provide more opportunity to our younger players and allow them to flourish.”
“I feel incredibly lucky to have played for as long as I have, but I am ready for, and looking forward to, the next chapter of my life.”
Drafted with pick number 37 in the 2001 ‘super draft’, Montagna set a remarkable benchmark for consistency throughout his career, demonstrated by nine top four finishes in the Trevor Barker Award in the past 10 seasons.
Renowned for his poise and class, he became one of the premier midfielders in the competition before transitioning into a running defender in the latter stages of his career.
A key figure in the Saints’ three Grand Final appearances in 2009 and 2010, Montagna achieved All-Australian honours in both seasons and retires the seventh most capped player in the club’s history.
St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said Montagna was player of immense ability and character.
“Composed, skilful and incredibly consistent, Joey’s record speaks for itself,” Richardson said.
“But what he added in terms of leadership and the ability to communicate with his teammates was what set him apart as a player.
“His understanding of the game was matched only by his skill at being able to provide the right message at the right time to teammates and coaches on and off the field.
“His impact on St Kilda over the past 16 years has been enormous, as has his role in the development of the current group.
“The standards he set for consistency will continue to drive our club forward for many years to come.”