Foundation SUNS AFLW player and leader Tiarna Ernst has today announced her retirement from football.

Ernst, 32, has juggled her dual careers of football and medicine since making her debut in 2017 for the Western Bulldogs. 

Currently working as a doctor at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, Ernst was one of those working on the frontline during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

She said the decision to retire ahead of the 2021 NAB AFLW season was a difficult one but was in the best interests of all parties as she continues to pursue the next phase in her medical career.

“I have been proud of my ability and determination to always give 100% to training, preparation and every game I have played,” Ernst said.

“Somehow, crazily, I have done this all while still balancing a demanding medical profession, passing specialty exams, months of night shifts and long work hours. 

“I am very proud of the professional and athletic balance I have been able to achieve over the past four years.

“I would like to acknowledge the huge network of support around me who assisted me in achieving this and I will be forever grateful to my colleagues, friends and family that have helped make this possible. 

“Ultimately I recognise that the ongoing balance between my medical career and AFLW is no longer something I am capable of maintaining at the high standard I have previously. 

“It is also time for me to focus on the next exciting chapter of my medical career as a consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.

“I cannot thank my teammates, coaches, staff, members and fans any more for the support I have been given in my time with the SUNS.” 

Ernst has been one of the most durable contributors to the league, not missing a game across her four-year career.

She retires with 29 AFLW games to her name, including winning a premiership with the Western Bulldogs in 2018.

She joined the SUNS ahead of the club’s inaugural season and was selected in the leadership group. 

Ernst played seven games for the SUNS in 2020, including the club’s first-ever semi-final.

SUNS Head of Women’s Football Fiona McLarty said Ernst would continue to be involved in a mentoring capacity and would always be remembered for her contributions in the club’s first AFLW season. 

“Tiarna is a fantastic leader and role model for our club and we can’t thank her enough for what she’s brought to our club since day one,” McLarty said.

“She is an inspiration to those around her with the level of commitment she shows in her pursuits, and this was evident with her winning the Most Professional award at our first ever AFLW Club Champion. 

“Tiarna will always be a part of the SUNS family and while we won’t see her out on the field for us this year we hope to see her continue to mentor and support the next generation of female athletes.”