FREMANTLE midfielder Luke Valente has retired after three seasons interrupted by injuries, coming to the realisation that his body would not allow him to play at the elite level.
Valente, who showed great potential but did not debut as he battled persistent groin issues, said it was the right decision for his long-term health and wellbeing.
The 21-year-old will now return home to South Australia to continue studying and consider his long-term future.
"Unfortunately, I have come to the realisation that physically I am unable to make the progress required to play at the elite level," Valente said.
"It was an incredibly difficult decision to make but after a long period of reflection, including discussions with the club, my family, friends and management, I believe that, in terms of my long-term health and well-being, it is the right thing to do.
“So many people at Freo have worked really hard to help me achieve my dream of playing in the AFL.
"Even though that dream will remain unfulfilled, I’m indebted to the club for the opportunity it provided me and thank all the players, staff and Freo fans for the huge amount of support I received during my time at Fremantle."
Valente was recruited with pick No.32 in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft, arriving as a highly rated midfield prospect who had captained SA to a national under-18s championship.
Handed the famous No.29 jumper worn by champion Matthew Pavlich, he endured an injury riddled first two seasons before finally enjoying an uninterrupted summer going into 2021.
A freak calf injury and an oblique issue sidelined him early, however, and Valente took a leave of absence to return home and address personal issues.
As recently as this pre-season, the Dockers had hoped he would make up the ground required to break into the midfield and help address the hole left by Adam Cerra.
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Football boss Peter Bell said it was a tough way for Valente's career to end, but the popular youngster had done everything he could to play during his time at Fremantle.
"Luke is an outstanding young man of great character, who is both popular with his teammates and highly respected for his determination and endeavour," Bell said.
"On behalf of everyone at Fremantle, we wish Luke all the best for the future, knowing that whatever path he chooses he will give it everything he possibly can."
Valente's retirement could see the Dockers use the Pre-Season Supplementary Selection Period, which is open until March 9, to select a replacement. The club could also choose to leave a list spot open for the NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.