Port hero Michael Wilson retires - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Port hero Michael Wilson retires

05/08/2008 07:48:21 PM Comments (0)

Never, it seems, has a bad word been said in football about retiring Port Adelaide great Michael "Wilbur" Wilson.

At the end of his 11-year, 192-game AFL trek, Wilson thanked fans and media alike for never laying into him as they have done to so many other players and coaches.

"You spend a bit of time on the bench and I never really got sledged, which was pretty good, I was pretty happy with not ever copping a bad word from any of the supporters over the last 12 years," he said.

But it was never a case of Wilson being a media darling or a fans' show-pony.

So courageous, so selfless and so accomplished is Wilson that he simply did not gather critics, not even on the opposite side of Port Rd where Adelaide captain Simon Goodwin spoke glowingly of him.

Power coach Mark Williams paid Wilson the compliment of saying that it was his absence with a torn Achilles tendon, more than any other factor, that stopped Port from repeating their 2004 premiership success against Geelong.

"Our result in last year's grand final says to me that the thing we missed most that day was Michael Wilson," Williams said.

"He played the rest of the year and, you saw our results all year, then Michael didn't play and it was a 20-goal result from one player.

"The effect he has on the playing group - in your coaching career, you never find too many players that have that sort of impact on the side."

Officially retiring after one final knee injury, Wilson admitted to identifying with Monty Python's Black Knight, who protested "just a flesh wound" even after King Arthur had relieved him of all his limbs.

"Three or four weeks ago at training I stepped out to the side and heard a squelch, crack and a pop," Wilson said.

"In the past, it felt like a bit of the Monty Python 'it's just a flesh wound', kind of thing and I thought I'd get through it no worries, but Barnesy (club doctor Peter Barnes) sat me down and said, 'look, if you want to play again you'll have to undergo some serious surgery, which you wouldn't want to do at 31'.

"With every other operation and procedure I've had, he'd always say, 'we can come back from this' and he showed me the way, but with this one he told me I would be stupid to go ahead with it and that he couldn't professionally say I should go ahead with it.

"That was pretty much the time I knew it was over."

Wilson's not inconsiderable ability, usually as a small defender rotating through midfield from time to time, was demonstrated by his winning of the AFL rising star award in 1997 - the Power's first year.

From that point, though, he was to build a reputation for grit and bravery as much in the treatment room as on the field.

In all Wilson had nine operations, including the rigours of two knee and shoulder reconstructions.

His place in the 2004 premiership side was only taken after a year-long fight against two shoulders both crying out for surgery, so much so that he struggled to sleep across the finals campaign.

In recognition of this feat Williams had a one-off coach's award minted, and he rated Wilson equal with Gavin Wanganeen as Port Adelaide's bravest player.

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