AS the sun sets on Rockdale's finals aspirations, long-time skipper Peter Apolevski has retired after almost three decades at the club.
Apolevski has not played since scans revealed two embedded discs and a bulging disc in his neck midway through this year.
"I was getting bad migraines during games," Apolevski, 32, said.
"After I had MRI scans they found permanent damage and said that I can't have an operation.
"I was hopeful of playing for one or two more years but I've got to put family first."
Apolevski, a right mid-fielder, spent 27 years working his way up from the juniors at Rockdale before captaining the first grade side for the past six years.
He nominated the club's state league titles in 2002 and 2006 as highlights.
"It was a tough decision because football has been my life," Apolevski, of Hurstville, said.
"I was hiding the pain and playing through it.
"I have told the club that I wouldn't mind having a few months away but I'll be involved in the club for whatever they need me to do in the future."
The Suns' finals hopes ended with a 2-0 loss to Marconi Stallions on Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre.
Needing a win to have some chance of a top-five finish, the Suns have stumbled since a mid-year revival, losing their past four games.
"We did have a chance but we've let it slip," Apolevski said.
"The club will be a top five team in the future, we are improving each year."
Their turn in form coincided with Mark Rudan's promotion as head coach in May. The club are keen to extend Rudan's contract beyond this year and have begun discussions with the former Sydney FC captain.
Rockdale play last-placed Parramatta FC at Melita Stadium on Sunday.
¦ A draw for Rockdale's under-20s side will see them qualify for the finals.
Rockdale, who are in fifth spot, play sixth-placed Parramatta in the final match of the regular season on Sunday.
A win to Parramatta will see them jump Rockdale and claim a finals spot while a win for Rockdale could see them finish fourth on the premiership ladder.