It ended not in glory but in a slow, weary trudge behind Rhyce Shaw.
Adam Goodes – the most important footballer of his generation – called time on a career that ranks among the very best we’ve ever seen.
The latter part of his life in footy was plagued by booing every time he touched the ball, so Goodes made the decision to fade out quietly on Saturday night.
Perhaps he didn’t want Shaw’s final moments on an AFL field to be tarnished by idiots, or perhaps he was wary of his own emotion spilling over had he been booed again.
Whatever his reasons, it was a sad end to a brilliant career.
There are reports he won’t subject himself to a ute ride around the MCG in a fortnight – there’s enough beer flowing on Grand Final day to ensure some of the 100,000-odd there will give him a spray.
Goodes took it upon himself to call out racism, becoming a champion to some, an inciter for others.
His anointment as Australian of the Year in 2014 proved divisive.
Great thinkers like Shane Warne weighed in with their displeasure.
“Shocked as I just found out Goodes was Aust of the year, wow ! Who votes for that?” Shane wrote on Twitter.
Sadly, Warne’s mind isn’t unique.
Goodes was the footballer who dared voice an opinion on something other than football – something important and noble – yet he was pilloried for it.
In November last year, Melbourne talkback radio host Neil Mitchell had this to say: “The sooner Adam Goodes finishes as Australian of the Year the better, as far as I’m concerned.
“At times Adam Goodes seems not to like Australia.”
Goodes’ crime? Telling the truth about Australia’s past and the revisionist history once taught in our schools.
“The history of our country is built on so much lies and racial policies, and things that have suppressed my people and lots of minorities in this country, so you can’t blame people for having the views that they have,” Goodes had said.
“I can use my position to help educate people to see through the things that they’ve been taught growing up.
“Open their minds (and realise), ‘That’s not true: Captain Cook didn’t found Australia,’ as I was taught in high school.”
In recent months Goodes has put race relations in Australia front and centre of the national consciousness.
His spear throw celebration against Carlton in May was a show of pride in his culture.
The reaction was predictably narrow, serving to highlight just how wide the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia still is.
And, finally, it should be pointed out that Goodes could play a bit.
In fact, he could play a lot. You don’t win two Brownlow Medals if you can’t.
He started out as a marvel in the ruck, but gave that malarkey away when a clash with Dean Cox trashed his PCL.
After that he spent more time forward, with breathtaking stints through the middle.
He was a big-game player.
He was outstanding for the Swans in the 2005-06 Grand Finals, and showed immense courage in 2012 to play on with another PCL injury to help his side claim another premiership.
So what now for Goodes?
Hopefully the controversies haven’t left too bitter a taste in his mouth.
Past Indigenous champions like the Krakouer brothers, West Coast’s Chris Lewis, Nicky Winmar and Gilbert McAdam were tormented by the abuse they took, and the scars run deep.
Let’s hope Goodes can find a place for himself after football – the challenge every athlete must face.
And let’s hope he can find a role where his passion and intelligence can continue making a difference.