Retiring Bomber Adam Cooney.After eight years of constant pain caused by a degenerative knee condition, Essendon veteran Adam Cooney has announced his retirement.

Fittingly, Cooney will play his 250th game against his old side the Bulldogs on Sunday at Etihad Stadium, but it’s unclear whether it will be his last.

Cooney spent 11 of his 13 seasons in the AFL with the Dogs.

At the height of his powers, the former No.1 pick was one of the game’s best midfielders, as evidenced by the fact that he won the 2008 Brownlow Medal.

He also earned All-Australian honours in 2008 but it was a knee injury suffered in the same year that robbed him of the chance to reach his full potential in the second half of his career and brought him to the brink of early retirement in 2012 at just 26 years of age.

“In 2009 and 2010 I was in a fair bit of pain but was still able to play decent footy,” Cooney said.

“Then in 2011 and 2012 I pretty much couldn’t run or do anything so I was pretty close to retiring at the end of 2012, had some treatment and then was able to actually come back and play OK.

“But in terms of playing at the high level that I would’ve liked to, (I was) probably a little way off.

“I played in pain and trained in pain in pretty much every session since I did it in 2008 so it hasn’t been ideal but I’m pleased that I was able to play in pain for that long and still be able to play at the highest level.

“This is the first year that I’ve played I haven’t missed a game from injury since 2008 so to be able to play a full year without being injured is pleasing.”

Cooney was serviceable for the Dons this year, averaging 23 touches (seven contested) a game, but he believed he would have been “selfish” if he decided to play on again in 2017.

“I probably thought originally last year that this would be my final season,” Cooney said.

“Halfway through the year I was actually playing some OK footy and was weighing up whether to go on again, but towards the end of the season I probably started to slow down a little bit, probably not playing the footy that I would have liked.”

Cooney admitted he was “pretty unsatisfied” to end his career without a flag.

“Obviously you play footy to win a premiership, not win individual accolades, although you take them when they come along,” he said.

“It’s bittersweet I suppose … in a way it’s a little bit disappointing not to be able to play in a premiership.”

After 219 games with the Bulldogs, Cooney left Whitten Oval at the end of 2014 to join Essendon and he described his time at Tullamarine as a “great two years”.

“It’s been the most enjoyable two-win season I’ve ever had, this year,” he said.

“I suppose it’s not the greatest way to go out winning two games for the year but to all the boys that I’ve met along the journey, I’ve got some great mates here and hopefully that’ll continue on into the future.”

The 30-year-old said his short stint with the Bombers had revitalised his love for the game.

“When I left the Bulldogs I was looking for a change in my career and an opportunity to develop in a new environment,” he said.

“The Essendon Football Club has given me that with first-class facilities, a great culture of leadership and great teammates who I have continued to learn a lot from.

“It seems a fitting tribute to be able to play against the Dogs this week to celebrate not only my 250-game milestone but also celebrate the career I have enjoyed at both clubs.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to also say thank you to the fans from both clubs who have showed me enormous support throughout my career.

“After many tough pre-seasons, gruelling training sessions, a few injuries and plenty of wonderful memories, I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.

“I’d like to thank my incredible wife, Haylea, and my kids Ash, Jax and Evie, for their enduring support over the years.”

Essendon coach John Worfold said Cooney made a significant contribution to the club’s culture and the development of the playing list.

“Adam has had an incredible career, he’s achieved some of the game’s highest accolades including a Brownlow Medal and All-Australian selection, and the way he worked his way back after some serious injuries has been a highlight for me,” Worsfold said.

“In a year where we needed people to help guide our young list, Adam’s experience, leadership and team care has been really vital, and he also brings a lighter mood to the group which has been particularly important at times this year.

“We wish Adam and his family all the best for the future and I’d encourage Essendon and Bulldog supporters to get along Sunday to pay tribute to his impressive career.”

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