The AFL world has reacted with shock and sadness after commentary icon Bruce McAvaney announced his immediate retirement from the sport on Sunday night.
The legend of Australian sports broadcasting has called over 1000 AFL games, including 20 grand finals, but announced his decision to step away from the sport.
Apart from a five-year absence between 2002 and 2006 when Seven lost the TV rights, McAvaney has always been at the front of the AFL's free-to-air coverage.
"I felt like I got to a stage in my career where I had to reduce my workload," the 67-year-old told Seven News.
“I’m going to miss it enormously, I just visualise when Richmond and Carlton run out there in round one, and the ball is bounced, I’m going to climb a wall somewhere.
“I’m going to have to move on and just be a fan like everybody else.”
Despite battling leukaemia since 2017, McAvaney stressed his decision to step away from the AFL commentary was not health-related.
He revealed he will continue calling horse racing and the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“(I’m) certainly not anything close to retirement, it’s just a new phase, where I cut back slightly, and anything I’m asked to do at Seven I’m going to do with the same enthusiasm and same commitment,” he said.
“I still feel like there’s a bright future, in a ridiculous way I feel like I haven’t reached my potential, I still want to get better, and that’s what I’m hoping to do over the next few years.
“For those that like my on air they’re still going to see me, for those that say shoosh, bad luck.”
AFL world reacts to Bruce McAvaney announcement
Speaking to the Herald Sun, McAvaney added: “It might have been a walk on the beach with Annie and the dog (where he reached the decision) … it might have just been the combination of a few weeks of slowing down (late last year), having a think and saying to myself, ‘Where do I want to be in terms of a well-rounded life in two or three years?"
“I am going to be 68 this year … it was an opportune time to have a talk to my wife Annie, and to ‘Lewy’ (Martin) and it was about, ‘How are we going to navigate the next few years?’ Something had to give.”
Fans and fellow commentators flocked to social media to pay tribute to McAvaney.
Channel Seven colleague Johanna Griggs wrote: "Greatest mentor ever you could learn from (I say learn... as he will still thankfully he on our screens for special events).
"I’ve been lucky enough to be under his tutelage since I was 19. You will never meet a kinder, considerate, thoughtful or more professional human being."
ABC journalist Sam Wilkinson tweeted: “There’s an art to sports commentary that Bruce McAvaney instinctively got.
"I can’t think of anyone else in the Seven’s AFL booth now that can do what he did. It’s all overly chummy, former players who think screaming at the big moments is the key to a good call.”
Glenn McFarlane of the Herald Sun wrote: “Such a remarkable career ... with more to come. Very privileged to have spoken to Bruce McAvaney about his decision to bring an end to his AFL calling career.
"He won’t be lost to channel 7. Will still be involved in racing and Olympics.”
While Daniel Cherny of The Age wrote: “The AFL wasn’t even called the AFL the last time Seven broadcast a season of football without Bruce McAvaney calling the game. It will not be the same.”
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