Carlton was great to me for the four seasons I was there and will always have a special place in my life.
For a few different reasons, however, it didn’t work out exactly how I planned. At times, I had injuries and other times I would look around the place and feel like there were other guys in front of me for selection.
After the 2010 season, I met with Damien Hardwick and straightaway felt like I had a big role to play at Richmond for him.
Having a coach tell you that they believe in you at AFL level is really powerful and I arrived at Punt Road a different player almost.
I trained with belief and really felt like I belonged as soon as I walked in the door. It is incredible how much of this game is built on confidence and feeling good.
ONE of the lucky kids
So much happened during the years at Tigerland.
I spoke to Dimma (Hardwick) a lot before I announced my retirement and we reflected on where we had come from as people and a club.
The premiership in 2017, 100,000 members, and a footy club that people can be really proud of.
The ride that we all went on in 2017 was something truly unique.
I am not sure the fans understand just how important a part of that success they were. We played a brand of footy that brought people together on the ground, in the grandstands, and around the country.
The Tiger Army is an incredible weapon for the Richmond Football Club and through that finals series was like an extra player or two on the field.
One of the best examples of the Tiger Army’s power came in the preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney. That was a brutal game and they were a really good side.
It was an arm-wrestle for most of the evening and we couldn’t shake them.
About halfway through the third quarter, the Giants kicked a goal to get within 12 points and it was just silent. We scored and the MCG was shaking. You could actually feel a wall of noise that came from the stands and it was really powerful.
A week later we were premiers but it hadn’t really sunk in. It took some time for the dust to settle and before any of us understood the magnitude of what that premiership really meant to people.
It was only when I would walk up Swan Street in Richmond when we were back at the club for pre-season that it dawned on me what we had achieved.
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What a ride! I can’t express how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to play this great game for 13 years. Thank you to both @carlton_fc and @richmond_fc I have made many life long friends and memories 🏆🥇. Without my families support I wouldn’t be where I am today ❤️. I will miss the players and the locker room the most. The noise the tiger army makes will ring in my ears forever. Always a Richmond man. 🐯 🍻
People of all ages and background would come up and tell you, with a tear in their eye, how it had brought everyone together in their family. How the premiership was so special for them because of those that weren’t around to see it.
Footy is a bloody emotional game and it connects our communities.
The premiership was incredible. It’s the ultimate achievement in the game and what we all start the journey hoping to reach.
It didn’t mean I was satisfied, though, and the fact I had one didn’t make the decision to retire any easier. If anything, the understanding of how special flags are meant I was even more motivated to get that feeling again.
But I was one of the lucky kids from the country who got to be a part of it at two great footy clubs.
People would come up and tell you, with a tear in their eye, how it had brought everyone together in their family. How the premiership was so special for them because of those that weren’t around to see it.
That’s something I hope the next generation appreciate. The scrutiny of the game has increased every year I have played. Social media wasn’t a thing when I started and, by the time people wanted to abuse you online, I had built a pretty thick skin.
We used to be able to have a few beers on a Wednesday night at The Waterloo in Ascot Vale without someone taking a photo or posting about it for the world to know. It is getting tougher to enjoy life off the field.
But I would tell my 17-year-old self to put my head down, train hard, and enjoy it all over again. Because it’s the best job in the world and I made the best mates you would ever want to meet.
And Gil, have a think about opening the social clubs back up again on a Saturday night.