LONG-serving defender Colin Garland has announced his AFL retirement, but will remain with the club in a range of coaching roles.

General manager of football operations Josh Mahoney praised Garland for the way he had handled his decision, after he missed the entire home and away season with a knee injury and was contracted for the 2018 season.

“Col’s always been a team first player and very selfless in the way he’s gone about his football, and his care for the football club. This has been highlighted by this decision and the reasons why he’s made this decision,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“It was a frustrating year for Col this year, after a strong pre-season and then he injured his anterior cruciate ligament early in the year. During this year, we got him involved in our women’s program, which he absolutely loved and he developed a passion for coaching, particularly in women’s football.

“We are really excited that he’s moving into a role in coaching – it’s a role that is going to cut across a number of our programs and allow him to develop many aspects of his coaching skills. The role includes positions within our AFLW side, our next generation academy, our AFL team and we’re also very happy to announce that he’ll be the inaugural senior coach of our VFLW Casey Demons team.”

Garland spoke with genuine passion for the club, his career and for the next phase in his football pathway.

“I would like to thank everyone that has impacted positively to my career over the 11 years I’ve spent at the club as a player. Meeting people and hearing the story of their life has truly been the best thing about being at the football club,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“To my family, friends and especially my partner Jessie, you have supported me through it all. When you’re a professional athlete, the sacrifices are actually made by the people closest to you, so I thank them for letting me do something I love for so long.

“I would like to point out that this decision has been some time in the making –myself and Josh have been having conversations for a while now. In the end, the well was dry. I couldn’t live the trademark anymore as a player. I didn’t want to waste a year remaining on the list, both personally and for the team.

“With the timing of my injury at the start of the season, I needed to find something to do to feel I was contributing. My work with the women’s team and with the Juvenile Justice Centre has made this year the most rewarding of my life.

“I would like to thank the club for the opportunity I have next year. It combines two things I love – football and helping others.”

Originally from North Hobart/Tasmania U18/Tasmania VFL, Garland was drafted at No.46 in the 2006 NAB AFL Draft.

He made his AFL debut in round five, 2007 against the Sydney Swans at the SCG and finished with 141 matches.

Garland became an established member of Melbourne’s defence in 2008 and although he missed all but one game the following season, due to injury, he bounced back to become a regular in 2010.

From 2010-13, he played 81 of a possible 88 games, and became an integral part of the team, with his leadership a feature of his game. But injuries and form kept him to 40 matches from 2014-17.

His last game was in round 10, 2016 against Port Adelaide at TIO Traeger Park.

During his career, he became a fine player for Melbourne, predominantly down back. However, he did pinch-hit in attack on occasions and kicked the winning goal against Essendon in round 10, 2012.

A NAB AFL Rising Star nominee in round 14, 2008, Garland finished second in Melbourne’s best and fairest award in 2013.

He was also part of the club’s leadership group for a couple of stints.

The proud Tasmanian was a highly-popular player among the Melbourne faithful and he can be well satisfied with his career, given it occurred during one of the club’s most difficult periods.

Mahoney said Garland had been an outstanding servant of the club.

“Colin played for 11 seasons for our club and at his best was a very reliable defender,” he said.

“He could play a number of different roles, from the best small forwards to the best key forwards.

“His close down speed and his ability to spoil, and get the ball out of traffic would always be the highlights of what Colin brought to our team.”