THE storied career of North Melbourne champion Ben Cunnington will come to a close this weekend, with the Cobden export set to play his final game.
The 32 year-old announced to his team-mates earlier this week that he would retire from the elite level after his 238th and final appearance in the royal blue and white at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
It brings to a close a career which has spanned 14 years at Arden Street, with Cunnington winning two Syd Barker Medals (2014 and 2019), placing second on four occasions and earning the respect of his team-mates and adoration of fans after debuting in 2010.
To say he got the most out himself is an understatement, a player with an uncanny ability to dominate contested possession even though he concedes he was not a great runner, a fend off to rival Dustin Martin and toughness revered by the club, he overcame the greatest of challenges to even play.
That challenge was a battle with testicular cancer in 20221, a battle he overcame to return to the field against Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval last season. It was defining moment in not only Cunnington’s career, but also his life, with the football public
He admits he is proud of overcoming that battle as well as what he has achieved on and off the field over the past 14 years ahead of farewell game against Essendon.
“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,” Cunnington 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 (team-mates) 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.”
Cunnington is set to retire to his farm in the south west with his wife Belinda and kids Xavier, Stella and Kobe at the completion of his AFL career.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast on Fox Footy and Kayo from 1:45pm.