From an “absolute giant” to “the best person in football”, the adulation for Geelong champion Joel Selwood was always going to be significant.
As the superstar skipper confirmed he’d made his decision before the AFL finals series that he would retire when his and his team’s season finished, the plaudits for the four-time premiership player flowed.
The 34-year-old is the only player in Geelong history to win four premierships and finishes as one of his club’s greatest players after raising the premiership cup as captain in his 355th and last game at the MCG last weekend.
Following four days of premiership celebrations with his teammates and supporters in Geelong, the 34-year-old said that, despite the emotion, he was “at ease” with his decision, made before the final home and away game in round 23, and no one could talk him out of it as he relayed the information to those close to him before making it public.
“I played OK in that last game of the year against West Coast and then in the first final, I went OK again,” he said.
“It was probably only my wife that said, ‘Are we making the right decision’?”
“At that stage, there was only six people that knew. My brothers didn’t even know at that stage. I decided to tell them a little bit more further down the track.
“I chose to do it that way.”
Premiership coach Chris Scott labelled Selwood “the best player I’ve seen” because of his all-round capacity, on and off the field, to produce as a player and a leader.
Scott said Selwood deserved to go out “on top”.
“Joel and I in particular had spoken about the inevitability of that day coming, but 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 is the best player I‘ve ever seen and the best representative of the Geelong footy club you could possibly imagine.
“Even when the opportunity came to take a bit of the limelight, his priority was to make sure that his decision didn’t negatively impact anyone else.
“I can’t think of a better way for Joel to finish. That’s only one of the reasons we love him.”
Premiership teammate Tom Hawkins said he savoured every moment that he spent both on and off the field with his great friend.
“I’m forever grateful of having the experience with Joel Selwood,” Hawkins said.
“To have people alongside me like Joel on this journey to help guide me through my career has been unbelievable. Joel’s CV is as long as and as good as anyone’s that’s ever played the game. Down at the football club, Joel will go down as the greatest, in my eyes, the greatest Geelong player to have ever played for the club.”
Former teammate Harry Taylor said Selwood was “already in the room with Legends, even though his name isn’t on the wall yet”.
“That’s how extraordinary he is,” he said. ”
But even those Selwood vanquished could not help but laud the veteran warrior.
In defeat at the MCG last Saturday, Sydney co-captain Dane Rampe was effusive.
“I just want to touch on Joel Selwood’s record as well,” he said.
“Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself when you share the field with the giants of the game mate, and you’re an absolute giant.”
Taken with pick No.7 in the 2006 national draft, Selwood won a premiership in his debut season in 2007, then again in 2009 and 2011 before leading his team to the ultimate prize this season.
Selwood also set an AFL record for most games as captain, having led Geelong in 245 matches after taking on the role in 2012 when he was just 23.
In last weekend’s grand final, Selwood also set a new record for most finals played in AFL history with 40, eclipsing the old mark of 39 held by Hawthorn champion Michael Tuck for more than 30 years.