Essendon Football Club wishes to acknowledge the outstanding service of beloved veteran David Zaharakis, who has been informed he will not be offered a new contract.
The 31-year-old had a stellar career for the Bombers, featuring in 226 senior games including nine this season.
His AFL journey began in the 2008 national draft, when his name was read out at pick No.23 by the club he grew up barracking for.
He went on to make his debut in round two of 2009 against Fremantle, and just weeks later became a household name when booting the match-winning goal against Collingwood in an Anzac Day classic.
His debut season also earned him a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination, and just two seasons later he delivered on the promise to claim the club’s highest individual honour as the 2011 Crichton medallist.
A player who delivered clutch moments on the big stage, Zaharakis produced another memorable Anzac Day performance in 2013 to earn the Anzac Medal.
His leadership qualities have seen him feature regularly in the club’s leadership group over his journey, while he is one of the recent winners of the highly valued Bruce Heymanson Best Clubman award (2019).
Zaharakis said he was thankful to the Essendon Football Club for his 13 seasons.
“I lived out my boyhood dream to play for the Essendon Football Club, and for that I will always be incredibly grateful. It’s been a honour to be part of this club,” Zaharakis said.
“I leave the club knowing I gave it my all, and hopefully I brought some joy to our members and supporters along the way - they’ve stuck fat with the club and we’re a better place for it.
“I just want to thank everyone who has been part of my journey at Essendon. It’s been a surreal ride but one I will forever look back on so fondly.
“We had really transparent discussions with the club in recent months, and now I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds. I’m hopeful to continue my AFL career elsewhere as I still feel I have a lot to offer.
“I truly wish this playing group and coaches all the very best for the coming years. There’s no doubt the future looks bright for the Bombers.”
Senior coach Ben Rutten thanked Zaharakis for his incredible contribution to the red and black.
“David should be incredibly proud of everything he has achieved at his time at Essendon and we acknowledge his service to our club,” Rutten said.
“For many years, David stood up to the challenge of leading our midfield brigade and developed into a vital member of our playing group, making the most of every opportunity that came his way. We’ve had open and transparent discussions about our list profile with both David and his management, and to David’s credit, he understood the decision but is keen to explore his options to extend his AFL career elsewhere.
“We wish David all the very best for his future pursuits. He will always be part of the Essendon family.”
Zaharakis joins the recently retired Cale Hooker and Patrick Ambrose as the club’s latest list changes.
DAVID ZAHARAKIS’ ACHIEVEMENTS
2011 Crichton Medal
2013 Anzac Medal
2012 AFLPA 22under22 team
2009 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee
2017 Essendon life member
2019 Bruce Heymanson Best Clubman