Tributes are pouring in from around the AFL world on Thursday after four-time premiership star Isaac Smith and Richmonds's three-time premiership captain Trent Cotchin announced their retirements. Smith's extraordinary career saw him collect three premierships with Hawthorn, before a move to Geelong that coincided with his fourth flag and a Norm Smith Medal as the best on ground in last year's grand final win for the Cats over Sydney.
Cotchin also revealed on Thursday that the current season would be his last in the game, with the Tigers' round-24 game against Port Adelaide almost certain to be his curtain-closer. After being drafted with pick two in the 2007 draft, Cotchin has played 305 games for Richmond - the fourth most in the club's proud history. Cotchin became captain in 2013 aged just 22 but handed over the reins to Dylan Grimes and Toby Nankervis ahead of the 2022 season.
"I found my life purpose at Richmond," Cotchin said on Thursday. "I look to the future with nothing but excitement, adventure, and opportunity, because of what I found here at Richmond and what Richmond people taught me.
"Finding out that creating an environment to help others realise and fulfil their potential not only inspired me but helped me to overcome my own fears. I have always given my best and left no stone unturned, in my dad's words - I have strived to make every post a winner."
Smith, meanwhile, is set to bow out after last year becoming the oldest ever winner of the Norm Smith Medal, when his three goals, 32 disposals and 12 marks saw him voted best on ground in the 2022 AFL grand final against Sydney. Smith told his Geelong teammates about his decision to retire at the end of the Cats' current campaign, before releasing a statement on Thursday confirming the news.
"I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to play AFL football ... to have that play out for me across the last 13 seasons at two great clubs is something really special," Smith said. "From the time I walked into Hawthorn, and now being at Geelong, I have always felt right at home at both organisations."
Geelong's football manager Simon Lloyd praised Smith's team-first approach. "Isaac has been an important member of the club both on and off the field, highlighted by his strong mindset, competitive nature and balanced perspective on life and the game," Lloyd said in a statement. "He is a unique individual and his ability to bring energy around the club is something that is going to be missed."
AFL world reacts to Isaac Smith and Trent Cotchin news
The AFL world has been quick to praise the incredible careers of Smith and Cotchin, who have a staggering seven premierships between them. While fans of their respected clubs are gutted the veterans are hanging up the boots, their extraordinary contributions to the game are being celebrated around the footy world.
NOOOOOO!!! please no, such a great player, been a pleasure watching him play, good luck in the future 👍
— JDMC_The_Boom_Bap_Kid (@JDTheBoomBapKid) August 9, 2023
BREAKING | Four-time premiership player with Geelong and Hawthorn Isaac Smith has announced his retirement.
What an outstanding career!
👏 👏 👏
— 3AW Football (@3AWisfootball) August 9, 2023
— Stephen Quartermain (@Quartermain10) August 9, 2023
Tireless running man Isaac Smith has announced that the 2023 season will be his final lap, bringing to a close a career that featured three flags at Hawthorn, one at Geelong, and a Norm Smith Medal. pic.twitter.com/KrPVgUm4R4
— Triple M Footy (@triplemfooty) August 9, 2023
A young star turned selfless leader who helped Richmond break the cycle. The only triple premiership-winning captain in our history.
Thank you for always being the best version of Trent Cotchin 💛
— Richmond FC 🐯 (@Richmond_FC) August 9, 2023
A true Tiger champion 🐯
Three-time premiership captain Trent Cotchin has announced his retirement at the end of this season. pic.twitter.com/18ZDEg8Jy5
— AFL (@AFL) August 9, 2023
Trent Cotchin going from bright kid with leadership qualities to young captain of an exciting team, then navigating a few tough years which brought about the entire club's familiar anxieties, then 3x premiership skipper and eventually club statesman is worthy of enormous respect. https://t.co/tbX8OYTtar
— Rudi Edsall (@RudiEdsall) August 10, 2023
Smith played 210 games for the Hawks before switching to Geelong at the end of the 2020 season. He'll be desperate to bow out with another memorable finals run, with the Cats currently two points outside the top-eight with three games of the regular season remaining.
Cotchin's finals hopes for 2023 are all but dashed but the Richmond legend will leave as a club immortal after captaining the Tigers to premierships 2017, 2019 and 2020. Cotchin was jointly awarded the 2012 Brownlow Medal with Sam Mitchell after original winner Jobe Watson gave up the honour in 2016 due to Essendon's supplements saga.
"Obviously Trent has achieved so much as a player, however, it is the power and impact of his leadership that has impressed me the most," Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale said.
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