Six weeks before Joel Selwood announced his retirement from the AFL, he knew that come what may in the finals, he was going to retire.
While there was no doubt in his mind that after 16 seasons, 355 games and what was at that point, three premierships, it was time to call it quits, there was still the matter of winning a fourth.
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With that in mind, Selwood kept his decision tightly under wraps.
He'd spoken with Geelong football manager Stephen Hocking about it before the home and away season ended, and it wasn't until the morning of their round 23 match against West Coast that he broke the news to head coach Chris Scott.
But those two and a handful of other exceptions were the only ones who knew of Selwood's looming retirement.
Not his teammates, some of whom Selwood had played the majority of his AFL career alongside, nor his brothers Troy and Adam, both former AFL players themselves.
Despite being the form team of the competition, there was no guarantee the Cats would go on to win the premiership, and the last thing Selwood wanted was for his teammates playing out of emotion.
“That was one of the toughest conversations I’ve had to do,” he said of breaking the news to Scott.
“I basically told him that I was OK and that I was OK with the decision.
“We had a bit of a cry together.
“I couldn’t even tell a couple of my best mates until Grand Final week, I couldn’t tell any of the players, couldn’t let them any of them play on emotion."
Selwood will go down not just as a champion of Geelong but also the AFL, and Selwood noted a moment in the final 15 minutes of their grand final victory over Sydney that he said would stick with him forever.
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) September 28, 2022
On the bench early in the fourth quarter alongside longtime teammate Mark Blicavs and young defender Sam de Koning, Selwood said the emotions of the moment started to come out as time ticked down and it became clear he was going out on a premiership-winning note.
“I take you into a moment on the weekend but I came off in the last quarter, Sam De Koning was on the interchange bench with me on one side, Blitz (Mark Blicavs) was on the other side and Sam just said, ‘You can’t finish’ which is pretty special,” he said.
“A 21-year-old kid probably read the moment, Blitz knew I was in a bit of trouble, the heart was racing, the eyes were watering and I knew that I was going out for my last 15 minutes of the game of my career and, yeah, I am a little bit soft.”
Joel Selwood's character lauded after AFL retirement
Scott spent 12 years working closely with Selwood and said the tough midfielder would be "irreplaceable" on and off the field.
Selwood informed Scott of his decision at a private meeting before the Cats' win over West Coast in round 23, which propelled them into the finals series.
"The thing that continually struck me about Joel was his ability to care for others and prioritise others," Scott said.
"When you take everything into consideration, he's the best player I've ever seen and the best representative of the Geelong footy club that you could possibly imagine.
"Even when the opportunity came for him to take a bit of the limelight, his priority was to make sure that his decision didn't negatively impact anyone else.
"He spoke really well ... to the rest of the playing group around the need to keep (the decision) from everyone so they could prioritise the team performance going into a finals series."
Earlier this year, Selwood broke Carlton great Stephen Kernahan's long-standing 226-game record for most games as an AFL/VFL club captain and finishes his career with 245 as skipper.
He played his entire career at Geelong after being drafted at pick No.7 in 2006, winning the Rising Star award and a premiership in his first season.
Selwood is a six-time All-Australian, has captained the Cats since 2012, and won three Carji Greeves medals as Geelong's best and fairest.
He has also been hailed for his character and was this year's Jim Stynes community leadership award winner.
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