HAVING only played his first match of 2009 last weekend, stalwart Sydney defender Leo Barry has decided to hang up the boots at the end of the season.
Barry, 32, has a permanent place in the hearts and minds of Sydney sports fans after pulling down the mark which saved the 2005 Grand Final, the Swans’ first premiership in 72 years.
Known to all as "Leaping Leo", Barry has played 235 matches in fifteen seasons, racking up 56 goals along the way - only seven of which have come since he moved from attack to defence in 2001.
However, after playing 20 matches last season, Barry failed to force his way into reckoning for much of this season and said his ongoing battles with injuries forced his hand.
"After much consideration and a frustrating year so far, I have decided to retire at the end of the 2009 season," Barry said in a statement.
"I have obviously struggled with fitness and that has made it an easier decision to end my football career.
"After spending fifteen seasons at this Club, I feel very fortunate to have played for one of the truly great and highly respected footy clubs, and also to have achieved the ultimate success with a fantastic group of guys, coaching staff and support crew in 2005.
"At the end of the season I will take time off to consider my future either in football or possibly in an area of stockbroking, as I have already been doing some work with Citi."
Sydney coach Paul Roos said that Barry had emerged as "truly one of the great gentlemen and family men of the game."
"Leo and I arrived at the Club together in 1995 and have enjoyed an incredibly close relationship over the past fifteen years,"Roos said.
"As a player he simply should not have been able to do the things he did. Leo was a 185cm, 88kg full-back and played on some of the biggest, fastest and best full-forwards of all time, and constantly beat them."
"This he did with his fantastic athleticism but most importantly, an incredible self belief and desire to be the best player he could possibly be."
Barry joins fellow Swans veterans Michael O'Loughlin and Barry Hall in announcing their retirements in 2009.