Gold Coast SUNS midfielder Connor Blakely has made the decision to retire from AFL football at the conclusion of the 2023 season.

The 27-year-old has been an important cog in the club’s VFL program this year which sees the SUNS play in its first ever Grand Final this weekend.

Blakely was recruited by the SUNS with Pick 7 in the 2023 Rookie Draft after spending eight seasons with Fremantle, but did not play any AFL matches for the club.

The midfielder said he was grateful for his experiences in the AFL system and the time was right to turn his focus to the next stage of his life.

“I’ve had so many ups and downs and challenges along the way throughout my career but I’m very appreciative of the opportunities and experiences that I’ve had,” Blakely said.

“I’m at a point of time in my life where I’m ready to let go of football but would love to finish off on a massive high by winning a VFL flag with my teammates after all the work we’ve put in this year.

“I’m very proud to have played at the top level for 78 games and live out my childhood dream for nine years and am extremely appreciative to Fremantle and the Gold Coast SUNS for the opportunities they have given me.”

GC SUNS General Manager of Football Performance Wayne Campbell thanked Blakely for his commitment to the club.

“On behalf of the entire football club I’d like to thank Connor for his dedication to the club this year,” Campbell said.

“Despite not getting the opportunity he would have desired at AFL level, Connor has provided invaluable experience to our group at VFL level which will see us play in the Grand Final this weekend.

“We look forward to hopefully sending Connor off as a VFL premiership player in his final match this weekend.”

Blakely notched 78 games in eight years at Fremantle and averaged 23 disposals from 16 VFL matches for the SUNS this season.