Stephen Hill, one of Fremantle’s favourite sons, has called time on his 218-game career after announcing his retirement to players and staff at the Club on Tuesday morning.
While injury plagued Hill’s final years in the AFL, the winger will most fondly be remembered for his class with ball in hand, evasive speed and elite kick.
He was at the forefront of what is arguably Freo’s greatest win with a sprint down the wing at Kardinia Park to goal on the run and put Geelong away to seal a home preliminary final in 2013.
Fans will have their chance to say thanks to Hill with the Club paying tribute to the Fremantle star during this weekend’s RAC Derby at Optus Stadium.
In an emotional speech to his teammates, Hill said he was grateful for his 13 years at Fremantle in the AFL.
“I’d just like to thank the football club for giving me the opportunity, they drafted me and it allowed me to live out my childhood dream of playing AFL, it’s been an amazing journey,” Hill said.
“I’ve met some incredible people along the way and it’s definitely hard to say goodbye, but I know it’s the right time.
“In the last couple years, my body hasn’t held up and it’s been difficult physically and mentally, it’s been a challenge.
“I’m just so grateful to have been able to play for 13 years with 200-plus games. I’m super proud and extremely grateful.”
Speaking to the playing group, executive general manager of football Peter Bell said Hill would go down in history as one of Fremantle’s greatest players.
“Stephen went from a 69 kilogram 18-year-old to reel off 190 games in his first nine seasons,” Bell said.
“He was blessed with the ability to run, but he put on another 11 or 12 kilos to build himself into a player that a lot of people externally will remember him for – how graceful and skilful he was.
“Those who were lucky enough to play with him will remember him for how hard he was in the contest, how consistently he performed under the greatest blowtorch you could be put under as a player in the biggest games.
“He would cover for his teammates all the time and he would run as hard defensively as he would offensively. I think there’s very few players who can genuinely say that was the kind of player they were."
Bell said Hill's legacy would continue through his association with the Club's Next Generation Academy, powered by Tyrepower.
“Stephen, I think the Club is indebted to you for your contribution over a long time. Footy is not always fair, that’s the reality and we wish it could have gone on longer," Bell said.
“We’re immensely thankful for what you’ve done, it’s great that you’re a part of our Next Generation Academy and I think your legacy will live on with the young talent coming through being a part of the Stephen Hill Squad.”
Drafted at no.3 in the 2008 National Draft, Hill quickly became one of Fremantle’s most reliable players, playing at least 18 games in each of his first nine seasons in the AFL.
He finished fourth in the Doig Medal in just his second season in 2010, a year he was also named the AFL Coaching Association’s best young player.
He won one Ross Glendinning Medal for his 32 possessions and three goals against West Coast in round 15, 2014.
He was inducted as a Fremantle Life Member in 2015 and in 2019 he was named on the wing in the 25 since 95 – a fan-voted selection of Fremantle’s greatest team to mark the Club’s 25th year in the AFL.