- Gallery: Freo train in the 'anchors'
- Sandi excited for what comes next
- Fan support 'makes you feel alive'
Fremantle forward Hayden Ballantyne is set to play his last home game for the club at Optus Stadium on Saturday night after being selected in the team for the clash with Essendon.
The 32-year-old and his management have been advised that he will not be offered a contract extension next year. His management has advised the club that Ballantyne wants to pursue playing opportunities elsewhere post 2019.
It promises to be an emotional occasion for fan favourite Ballantyne, who will run out one last time in front of the Purple Army with his great mate Aaron Sandilands, who announced his retirement on Tuesday, and Michael Walters in his 150th game.
Ballantyne was taken at pick 21 in the 2008 National Draft, the same year he won the Sandover Medal after kicking 75 goals for Peel in the WAFL.
A Life Member of the club, Ballantyne has kicked 254 goals in his 170 games for Fremantle, including two games in 2019. In 2014, he earnt All Australian selection and was also Fremantle’s leading goal kicker with a career-high 49 majors.
“Hayden has always been hugely popular with our players, respected for his leadership and admired for his incredible determination and tenacity. He is also much loved by our members and supporters who will no doubt give him a rousing send-off,” general manager of football Peter Bell said.
“Hayden wants to continue his playing career, if possible, in 2020 and we were not in a position to offer him a contract extension.
“His management has advised that Hayden wants to remain in the AFL system and pursue a playing or off-field role.”
Ballantyne told the players of his decision at a team meeting on Thursday afternoon.
“As big Aaron said a couple of days ago, it’s all over,” Ballantyne said.
“I’ll be finishing up at Freo this year. It’s not a retirement as such, I’ll still be hoping to play footy next year, and whether that’s at AFL or WAFL level, that’s still to be decided. I’ve loved my time at the club, and I wish everyone all the best for the future.”
Ballantyne also acknowledged the support he had received throughout his 170 games for Fremantle.
“Just a huge thank you…obviously I couldn’t have done this without all the support of my family, friends, coaches…the whole Fremantle family,” Ballantyne said.
“It’s been a great ride and I just have one more to go.
“To the players, thanks a lot to everyone for all the help and support along the way and, hopefully, Freo get back to being a dominant force again very soon.”