SYDNEY (AP) — Former Blackburn Rovers captain Brett Emerton is retiring from football, leaving the sport as Australia's third most-capped player.
Emerton played 95 times for Australia - only contemporaries Mark Schwarzer and Lucas Neill have played more - making his last appearance at the East Asian Cup qualifiers in December, 2012.
The 34-year-old played professionally for 18 years, making 247 appearances for Blackburn between 2003 and 2011, preceded by three seasons at Feyenoord and his early days at Sydney Olympic. He returned to Australian football's A-League with Sydney FC in 2011 but a back injury has allowed him to play only nine times this season.
Emerton will play his final game Saturday against A-league champions Central Coast.
"I've had back-related issues for several years now," Emerton told a news conference in Sydney. "I've had a few injections along the way and I promised myself after the last injection at the start of the season it would be my last and it was coming time to either have another one or give the game away.
"The decision to retire wasn't easy. It's been my life for almost 20 years now. But injuries got the better of me in the end.
"When you get to almost 35 now and you used to run past players and they start to catch up a little bit, it becomes frustrating. That got the better of me as well."
Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said Emerton will be appointed to a role in the national set-up mentoring young players.
Emerton played for Australia at two World Cups — in 2006 and 2010 — after leading the Australian team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.