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Justin Clarke says goodbye

Retirement Speech: Justin Clarke Justin Clarke spoke at the 2016 Club Champions after retiring earlier this year. Thank you for all that you've done for the Brisbane Lions Clarke and we wish you all the best for the future.

Justin Clarke was forced to call time on his budding AFL career in late March this year.

And when he did, he lamented not only that he would never again play the game he loved, but also that he would miss the mateship and camaraderie that comes with playing team sport. 

Clarke returned to the Lions on Saturday night to bid an emotional farewell to the Club and its supporters. 

“I’d like to thank the fans for their continued support. Not just of me but of (all of) the boys. (It is comforting to know that) they will always be there and will stick fat through the tough times.

“I guess for me in my situation, and for the Club in its current situation, it is important to stick fat and you will be able to get through to the other side.”

At just 22, Clarke suffered a head knock at training in January and was ruled out of football indefinitely. Lions medical staff subsequently worked closely with concussion specialists in Melbourne to run a series of tests, but the symptoms did not subside.

At the time Clarke said the major factor in his decision to call it quits after 56 senior AFL games with the Lions was his long-term health.

“People may be interested in what I’m getting up to in my life now. It’s pretty boring really, I’m just at uni studying away.

“I’m studying a Bachelor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering with Science. It’s something that’s a little different to footy. I’m really enjoying it, meeting new people and that side of things. I’ve taken up rowing as my new sport. I’m still very, very bad at it, I guess that’s not so different to footy. I guess I’ll work at it and if it’s anything like footy I’ll just keep plugging away at it who knows I might be able to make half a go at it and something might happen.

“Again I’d like to thank the playing group, the medical staff that supported me through that pretty tough time. I’d really like to thank (girlfriend) Phoebe, her support for me was something that was really special and probably allowed me to get through that time and be able to put it behind me a little bit. To recognise that it was something that was really hard and really hurt, so I’d really like to thank her for helping me through that.

“Obviously my family and my coaches, those that have been there from the early days. Muzz (Murray Davis) who took me in when I was a skinny runt of an 18-year-old, 80 kilos ringing wet and probably couldn’t kick or run! He really developed me and I’d like to thank him for the effort he put in, as well as the other defenders that took me under their wing. Rog (Daniel Merrett) and Joel Patfull and the other boys who covered for me and made me look like I was half competent at times.

“I’d just like to say that I’m extremely proud of the time I spent at the Lions, extremely proud that I got to wear number 42 for the team and I’d do anything to be out there again.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs