Geelong champion Joel Selwood has announced his retirement from the AFL days after winning his fourth premiership, prompting a flood of tributes from fans and rivals alike.
The Cats' all-time games record holder was mobbed by teammates after kicking a fourth-quarter goal in what many believed was the first sign of the 34-year-old club champion's decision.
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After 355 games for Geelong across 16 AFL seasons, including premierships in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2022, Selwood becomes the third club captain to retire on a flag-winning note.
Predecessors Tom Harley and Cameron Ling both called time on their own illustrious careers in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
Selwood will go down not just as a champion for Geelong but also of the AFL itself, having surpassed Hawthorn legend Michael Tuck for the most AFL finals played (40), as well as breaking Carlton great Stephen Kernahan's record for most games captained at VFL/AFL level at 226.
The six-time All-Australian has captained Geelong since 2012, and won the club's best and fairest on three occasions.
His off-field work has also won praise within the AFL community, having been this season's recipient of the Jim Stynes community leadership award.
Announcing his decision at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Selwood revealed he had decided six weeks beforehand that he would retire at the end of the season.
— AFL (@AFL) September 28, 2022
"We decided I could go at 85% next year and everyone could look after me, but I had to be all in and I just couldn't do that," Selwood said.
"I've had such a fun year this year amongst the playing group, amongst this club.
"I couldn't even tell a couple of my best mates until grand final week, couldn't tell any of the players, I couldn't let them play on emotion.
"I just feel so lucky, I look around and saw people I want to go to work with and I'm wondering what I'm going to do next year, and I'm not going to be with people like that, they've all been a joy.
"Footy clubs are special, and I'm in a really special one."
Though a divisive figure among fans at times for his propensity to win free kicks for high contact, few could knock his toughness and consistency for Geelong.
Social media came alive with tributes to the Cats' skipper on Wednesday morning after Geelong announced Selwood would make a 'significant announcement' later in the afternoon.
Every Cats captain of the last 19 years has played their final game for Geelong in a winning grand final.
Joel Selwood just keeping with tradition. What a player. What a career. He set the tone for the culture of the club in 2007 and they haven’t looked back. pic.twitter.com/gCa0hNvmRb
— Kyle Pollard (@KylePollard) September 28, 2022
I’ve long said that history will be kinder to Joel Selwood than the present. That process started on Saturday, when he captained a premiership with so much class and grace. I’m so glad he gets to go out the way he is - standing astride the footy world like the giant he is.
— Rudi Edsall (@RudiEdsall) September 28, 2022
Joel Selwood announcing his retirement is truly devastating but just makes Saturday even more perfect. Just an absolute giant of the game 😭🏆
— Kane Pitman (@KanePitman) September 28, 2022
If you were to write the script for the dream/perfect AFL career, surely you'd just copy Joel Selwood's?
Best winning percentage ever, four flags, renowned/beloved captain, start and finish with a flag, 355 games...
— Nic Negrepontis (@NicNegrepontis) September 28, 2022
There couldn't have been a more perfect way for Joel Selwood to leave the game. Premiership Cup. Plenty of the footy. A goal. Every single @GeelongCats supporter chanting his name. An absolute giant of the AFL.
— Ryan Reynolds (@Reynolds_R) September 28, 2022
Joel Selwood definitely wasn’t “at the finish line”, but clearly he wants to go out with perfection rather than a continual decline.
I think it’s fair to say he won’t be lost to the game. Be it coaching, commentary, or a role within the AFL. One or more of these are a certainty.
— Tim Rosen (@timrosen35) September 28, 2022
You'd think a photo holding the premiership cup would be the perfect shot out of Saturday, but I don't think it actually gets better than this for Joel Selwood. pic.twitter.com/at6uUT2Zip
— Glenn Valencich (@glennvalencich) September 28, 2022
Not sure if a name has been decided. But can we please name the new stand at GMHBA Stadium the Joel Selwood Stand. Regardless of if he plays on or not, Joel needs a stand named after him at the ground @GeelongCats
— Ryan Reynolds (@Reynolds_R) September 27, 2022
Dwayne on Joel Selwood: "You don't know what you've got until it's gone. It is a sad day because he has been an icon of the competition. He's the AFL's greatest captain of all time I think. He's Geelong's greatest captain and leader of all time."
— Dwayne's World (@DwaynesWorldSEN) September 28, 2022
Sports commentator Dwayne Russell told SEN Selwood had left an indelible mark on the sport.
"You don't know what you've got until it's gone. It is a sad day because he has been an icon of the competition," Russell said.
"He's the AFL's greatest captain of all time I think. He's Geelong's greatest captain and leader of all time."
Drafted with the 7th pick by Geelong, Selwood won the 2007 Rising Star award as the Cats broke through to win their first premiership since 1963.
Selwood continued to make his mark on the club, with the Cats also making the grand final in 2008 and 2020.
Geelong defies AFL wisdom with resounding grand final triumph
Geelong shrugged off concerns about an ageing list in 2022 to storm to a resounding 81-point win over Sydney in the grand final.
Between their 2011 and 2022 triumphs, the first of which which came in coach Brad Scott's first season at the helm, the Cats also had five preliminary finals defeats in a demonstration of the club's consistent ability to compete at the top level.
All the while, Scott bucked the widely held AFL wisdom of rebuilding on a platform of youth. Instead, he topped up with seasoned campaigners.
"I don't think I have ever argued with it," he said of the youth rebuild which was considered the go-to model.
"I have stopped listening for long periods and that has helped me and us."
Scott was flanked at his post-match media conference by Isaac Smith, at 33 the oldest player to win a Norm Smith medal as best-afield in a grand final.
Smith was among a Geelong grand final side that was the oldest, on average, ever fielded in the AFL - 10 premiership Cats were 30 or older.
"We fully recognise that we have taken a contrarian view around list rebuilds and list management in general and our attitude towards fossils like the bloke next to me," Scott said, nodding to Smith.
"But we never had any intention of trying to prove people wrong or argue against their point of view. Their point of view was logical for the most part.
"But it does feel like it has been a really long challenging road.
"We have been consistent.
"But it feels as if it's been a bit of a cruel game because we have done everything we can to give all our people a chance.
"And with that comes great emotional risk if you don't get it done at the end of the season."
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