Former Adelaide Crows captain Rory Sloane has announced his retirement from the AFL after 255 games over 16 seasons, saying the decision followed medical advice about the potential impact on his eyesight.

In a statement, the club said Sloane’s “difficult decision” was in the best interests of his long-term health, following a second round of surgery on a detached retina earlier this year.

The 34-year-old veteran did attempt to wear protective glasses during training sessions this season in a bid to return to playing football, but said life after football was too important to risk.

The former club champion and All Australian informed teammates of his decision this morning, after extensive consultation with doctors and eye specialists in recent months.

Adelaide Crows coach Matthew Nicks alongside former captain Rory Sloane at the media conference announcing the latter’s retirement.(ABC News: Camron Slessor)

At a packed media conference attended not only by journalists but by his teammates, wife and children, Sloane reflected with both sadness and pride.

“I’ve really wanted to make sure I’ve left nothing in the tank and I tried absolutely everything to get back — I was close, far out I was close,” he said.

“I love my job, I’ve loved being a part of this for 16 years, and it’s probably the realisation you’ve got to let that go at some point for the betterment of my future health.”

He said he had been “weighing up the risk of playing again” for the past couple of months, and that the overwhelming factor in his decision was the fear of losing sight in his eye.

“I love my vision, I love seeing things, there’s so much I still want to do in life,” he said.

“There’s certainly people I’ve chatted to along the way who have probably been on the other side of detached retinas [and] that has definitely spooked me as well.

“I’ve had all the medical advice you could possibly receive and to continue playing would probably have meant ignoring that advice.

“Goggles weren’t going to protect me from detached retinas — detached retinas don’t form from a poke in the eye. It’s normally when you cop whacks to the head.”

Renowned for his on-field fearlessness, Sloane said he would miss “laying those tackles and playing in front of that crowd” and joked that he “probably had half a Norm Smith at half-time” of the 2017 grand final.

“I was a boy when I came here, turned into a man, got married, had kids. I don’t think I’ve grown — I think the footy club helps you grow,” he said.

While Sloane said he had “never really cared for milestones or farewell games”, the Crows will be treating the upcoming Showdown as a valedictory clash of sorts, to celebrate his career and contributions to the club.

Sloane, who ends his career as a one-club player, debuted for the Crows in 2009, winning his first Malcolm Blight Medal as Adelaide’s Club Champion in 2013 and his second in 2016 — the same year in which he finished fourth in the Brownlow Medal count.

Sloane was named co-captain alongside Taylor Walker in 2019 and was the club’s solo captain from 2020 to 2022.

In 2021 he had his first surgery for a detached retina, and in 2022 his season was cut short after rupturing his ACL.

He returned in 2023 and signed on for another year, but did not play a game this season due to the recurring eye injury.

He said he was intent on remaining in football, and was keen to spend the next six months exploring the option of a coaching role.

“I can put the head down and discover what I’m really passionate about and what I want to go after and certainly coaching and helping our crew get back on track is one of those passions,” he said.

“If I’m not going to be able to help this year on the field then I’ll certainly do everything I can to help off the field and help us get back on track to the type of football I know we’re capable of.”

‘I challenge anyone to find a more positive person’: Nicks

Adelaide Coach Matthew Nicks said Sloane’s impact on the football club was hard to describe.

Coach Matthew Nicks wished the Sloane family all the best for the future.(ABC News)

“It’s hard to actually come up with the appropriate words to describe Sloaney’s impact on our club, other than to say he will go down as one of the most influential people to have ever come through the doors,” Nicks said.

“I challenge anyone to find a more positive person and his courage and strength of leadership – in good and tough times – is right up there with the very best.

“His on-field achievements speak for themselves, but it’s also his genuine care for others which stands out, and it’s one of the fundamental values at our club.”

He said the moment Sloane revealed his intentions to his teammates had been “tough” for the club.

“But at the same time it was a celebration of what Rory’s brought to this footy club — not only to the footy club but I’d say to the state,” Nicks said.

“Anyone who follows football in South Australia would have a huge amount of respect for what Sloaney’s been able to do across 16 years.”

Nicks said Sloane’s career had brimmed with material for one of the “greatest highlights videos you’ll ever see”.

“I probably wouldn’t be here at the moment if I didn’t have Sloaney in those first couple of years. He’s an incredible leader, leads by example, has everyone’s back,” Nicks said.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to work alongside him.”

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