By Matt Simon

It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to step into a room and tell your coach and teammates that you won’t be pulling on the boots anymore.

When I walked in to tell Monty and the lads last Wednesday morning, it was a lot tougher than I’d imagined, even though I have given a huge amount of time and thought to it over the past couple of months.

There were some moments there where I had to pull myself together because the emotions were swelling up. 

But I knew it was the right decision. For me, for my family and for the club.

After 17 years, it’s time to step away and focus on the next chapter.

I’d worked so hard this pre-season to get my body right, but it wasn’t to be. I’m incredibly thankful for everyone at the club – Monty, Shaun and Richard – for giving me the space and opportunity to give it that one last chance.

As frustrating as the timing is and being so close to the start of a new season, I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve had the career that I have. 

Even with the decision still fresh and the emotions running high, I’m already starting to reflect on all the amazing achievements and moments I’ve had in football.

Not many players have had the opportunity to play in the A-League for close to two decades, to finish their career at their local club – and the club where I got my first chance – under Laurie McKinna.

I’m forever grateful to Laurie for that opportunity. With Arnie coming on board and doing what he did at the club, it was just an unbelievable ride.

From my time at Sydney FC, I got to experience three incredibly successful years. Not many players have had that level of success across their entire career.

That was a wonderful time, but to come back to the coast and finish it all off where it all began, my hometown team, has been special.

Making my 200th appearance for the Mariners in front of my friends and family last year, you couldn’t have written that script any better.

That was really the moment my kids really understood what their dad’s job was and I was absolutely buzzing that they got to see me play that night – and even score a goal.

Along with playing for the Socceroos and representing my country at the Olympics, winning the Championship at Sydney and the many other great nights at Central Coast Stadium, that game last year will go down as one of my favourite moments from an amazing career.

It’s also been wonderful to share the field with so many incredible players and blokes I call friends. There is a special bond between all footballers. That was definitely evident when we had to come together in recent seasons to keep the A-League alive during the pandemic and I’m thankful for the role of the PFA in looking out for me and our fellow pros.

Looking back, I’m pretty content with everything that has happened. You obviously have your ups and downs in your career and in hindsight you would have maybe made some different decisions.

But if you never take that leap or opportunity, you might be left guessing what might have happened. So really, I don’t have any regrets.

The game has given me more than I could ever imagine, and I would do it all over again.

Although it’s immediately in front of me now, I haven’t given a huge amount of thought to what’s next. My priority has been on getting back on the pitch, so now it will be all about spending quality family time and time with friends. 

During my career I have at times had to be the one to miss out on family events, so I’m really looking forward to being present with my wonderful wife and kids. 

Footballers really do have the best job in the world, and we make a lot of sacrifices, but wife and my kids and the rest of the family have made the most sacrifices and without the support they have given me, I wouldn’t have achieved even half of what I set out to.

You can’t have the career you have without the support of your close family.

For now, I’m excited to share that I’ll continue to be involved with the A-League team this season and at our opening game next Saturday, the club will be helping me celebrate what has been a wonderful career with a big send off at the F3 Derby.

I’m passionate about helping to continue to build the club alongside Monty and continue to support the players with their welfare which is something that I’m truly passionate about.