Joel Selwood retires from AFL as fans hail 'absolute giant'

Joel Selwood high-fives fans as he walks around the MCG following Geelong's grand final win over Sydney.
Joel Selwood has announced his retirement from the AFL, deciding the time was right after winning a fourth premiership with Geelong. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

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.

"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.

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.

Joel Selwood is pictured with Geelong teammate Patrick Dangerfield.
Fans are paying tribute to Geelong captain Joel Selwood after his retirement from the AFL. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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.

Geelong captain Joel Selwood and his partner Brit Davis celebrate the team's AFL grand final win.
Geelong captain Joel Selwood won his fourth AFL premiership thanks to a dominant performance against Sydney, before announcing his retirement a few days later. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

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."

With AAP

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