With the end of the calendar year nearly upon us, The Roar is looking back at the sporting highlights, lowlights and moments that mattered for 2023 in Australia and beyond. As the time to look back at the stars who have called time on their illustrious career for one reason or another arrives, we said farewell to plenty of all-time greats in several sports. On the home front, the AFL had a bumper crop of retirees in 2023, headlined by Swans superstar Buddy Franklin.

Who were your favorites or the ones you loved to hate and who did we miss? Let us know in the comments below.

Retirees of 2023
AFL: It was a galaxy of stars who hung up the boots this year with Swans star Buddy Franklin and Richmond stalwart Jack Riewoldt topping the list, accumulating more than 1900 goals between them before announcing they would not go around again in 2024. The competition will also be missing West Coast crowd-pleaser Nic Naitanui, Tigers great Trent Cotchin, Eagles skipper Luke Shuey, North Melbourne’s 2018 premiership captain Shannon Hurn, Cats veteran Ben Cunnington, as well as proven performers like Daniel Rich, Andrew Phillips, Phil Davis, Michael Hibberd, Jack Ziebell, Jason Castagna and Tom Hickey. The AFLW said farewell to one of its legends with Erin Phillips, who also enjoyed a glittering basketball career with the Opals, calling it a day.

NRL: Premiership winners, representative stars and a surprise boxing convert topped the list of rugby league talent to sign off this season. Sharks skipper Wade Graham bowed out after their finals campaign, while another former premiership winner, Cowboys prop James Tamou also decided he’d had enough. Raiders record-breaker Jarrod Croker and 2019 Grand Final teammate Josh Hodgson succumbed to injuries in the twilight of their career, while Bulldogs fan favorite Josh Reynolds departed mid-season after one final fling with his junior club. Ex-Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce bowed out after his stint with Catalans in the Super League, while Jillaroos veteran Sam Bremner has also ended her career.

Football: Some top-line Australian talent announced their retirement while a flurry of global superstars have said farewell. Socceroos trio Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Alex Wilkinson and Matildas quartet Teigen Allen, Tara Andrews, Ellie Brush and Kim Carroll have each played their last professional match. On the international scene, Theo Walcott, Gianluigi Buffon, Mesut Ozil, Emmanuel Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gareth Bale make up a marquee list of icons who are not continuing in 2024.

Cricket: It’s been a relatively low-key year for retirements, but Australia white-ball skipper Aaron Finch eventually quit the international arena at the start of the year, while South African legend Hashim Amla gave the game away for good after a few seasons on the county scene. Australia’s long-time tormentor Stuart Broad took his final bow in Test cricket in the Ashes finale, getting under the opposition’s skin until the very end. T20 gun for hire Daniel Christian is another who has hung up his spikes, while Australian women’s legend, Meg Lanning, announced a surprising decision to call it a day last month.

Rugby: A few Wallabies played their last game before they expected with Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper not wanted by controversial coach Eddie Jones for his ill-fated World Cup tilt. Former Wallabies playmaker Matt Giteau finally gave up the ghost at age 40 after two decades as a professional, joking that he had “milked this game the contracts dry”. The World Cup year was the last for All Blacks quartet Brodie Retallick, Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock and Dane Coles, England duo Ben Youngs and Courtney Lawes, South African forward Duane Vermeulen after lifting the trophy for a second time, Irish wizard Jonny Sexton and Welsh legends Leigh Halfpenny and Alun Wyn Jones.

Tennis: Sam Stosur made a typically understated exit from the sport after a superb career on the WTA Tour, highlighted by her US Open win over Serena Williams in 2011. Rafael Nadal has announced he is following Roger Federer into retirement but but it won’t be until next year after representing France at the Paris Olympics.

NFL: The great Tom Brady decided that 45 was the right age to retire after seven Super Bowl wins, taking home the MVP trophy in five of them, in an unprecedented career spanning 2000-23, mostly with New England Patriots before finishing with Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020–2023).

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