Melbourne veteran Nathan Jones has told his Demons teammates he is retiring after leaving the AFL club’s base in Perth to be at the birth of his twins.
- Nathan Jones told his Demons teammates of his decision during a Zoom catch-up on Wednesday
- Due to Western Australia’s border restrictions, it would be impossible for Jones to return for the grand final
- Jones, who captained Melbourne from 2014 to 2019, finishes his career with 101 wins, 198 defeats, and three draws
The hard-luck story of the Demons’ first grand final since 2000, Jones is calling it quits after 302 games.
Jones opted to return home on Saturday, with wife Jerri giving birth to Odie and Dove on Sunday morning.
The 33-year-old has not featured in the Demons’ senior line-up since round 15, when he was an unused sub, and was extremely unlikely to be recalled for the decider against the Western Bulldogs.
Due to Western Australia’s border restrictions, it would have been impossible for him to return for the grand final at Perth Stadium on September 25.
Jones, who captained Melbourne between 2014 and 2019, said it was a bittersweet way to bow out.
He told his teammates of his decision during a Zoom catch-up.
Jones stayed loyal to Melbourne in one of the most tumultuous periods in the club’s history when he could have chased success elsewhere.
His career finishes with 101 wins, 198 defeats and three draws.
“Personally I’ve had a lot of emotions go through my mind from how it’s all unfolded,” Jones said.
“From an individual perspective, it’s been disappointing, to say the least, knowing the work I’ve put in.
“But what I want to stress is that regardless of that I am still filled with the utmost amount of joy, happiness and pride for the position the club is now in.
“Over the years, the two things that have driven me to stay committed to this footy club have been firstly, the chance to play in a premiership one day and secondly, to ensure that no young player coming into Melbourne would have the experience I did for many years — I wanted to leave the club in a better place.
“Looking at where the club is now, I am proud of where we are and I’m so excited for the opportunity that my teammates have ahead of them, to write a new chapter in the club’s history.”
Demons defender Christian Salem said it was “sad” to see Jones retire, especially because he was unable to make the announcement to the playing group in person.
Salem said Jones would be missed by his teammates.
“He’s a massive part of the footy club, always has been, always will be,” Salem said.
“He’s had the twins, he got there in time. I think he made it by three or four hours, so it’s good to see him and the family doing well.”
‘There were some dark times’
The Demons are chasing their first flag in 57 years, a premiership drought highlighted by several low periods in the club’s history.
For the more experienced Demons players, such as Salem, the grand final is a just reward for surviving the difficult times.
“I came in the first year of Roosy [Paul Roos] and that was pretty much the start of the rebuild,” said Salem, who was the ninth selection of the 2013 national draft.
“There were some dark times, I won’t lie, but we always had full faith in the direction that we were going.
“We knew it would take some time and it’s a credit to the whole club in general. We’ve really bought in, especially the last few years.”
Prior to this year’s campaign, the Demons last made the finals in 2018.
Their tilt that season finished in an embarrassing preliminary-final defeat to eventual premiers West Coast.
The Demons were in the top eight with four rounds remaining in 2020, but lost two of its last four matches — against Sydney and Fremantle in Cairns — to finish ninth.
“We were pretty disappointed with how the  season finished,” Salem said.
“It was sort of in our hands … going to Cairns and we blew that opportunity.
“We went away over the summer and worked on our game hard, and to be honest it was just a total buy-in in every single phase of our game plan, on-field and off-field.
The AFL confirmed on Tuesday a grand final parade would not go ahead in Perth, with fans instead allowed into Perth Stadium to watch the teams train on the day before the marquee match.
The grand final parade has been a traditional event held the day before the season decider in Melbourne, but COVID-19 has meant it has not been staged since 2019.
Salem said it was disappointing that he and his teammates would not get the opportunity to take part in a grand final parade.
“It’s something you grow up watching as a kid and something some day you want to be involved in,” he said.
“But at the end of the day we are playing in a grand final, and that’s our full focus, and we’re pretty excited and grateful for that opportunity.”