Tributes have flowed for Geelong great Corey Enright after ending his brilliant AFL career in typically understated fashion.
A simple media release, issued by the Cats on Wednesday morning, officially brought Enright’s decorated 332-game career to a close.
The 35-year-old was in good enough form to play on after earning his sixth All-Australian selection but foreshadowed his retirement when he left the field in tears after Geelong’s preliminary-final loss to Sydney.
“It has been a privilege to play for this great club and alongside so many champions,” Enright said.
“Obviously the success we have enjoyed over the past 17 years has been a highlight, but the friendships and relationships that I have made over my time with the club will endure for the rest of my life, and that in itself is a highlight.
“I will now take some time to assess what the future holds.”
Enright passed Ian Nankervis’s club record of 325 games this year in a round-19 win over the Western Bulldogs at Simonds Stadium.
The two-time best-and-fairest winner sits comfortably among the greatest mid-sized defenders in the history of the game and induction into the AFL Hall of Fame beckons.
In addition to the club statement, Enright penned a heartfelt message to Geelong’s members in which he thanked them for their unwavering support.
Coach Chris Scott led the outpouring of praise for the three-time premiership player.
“Corey leaves a legacy that will be impossible to replicate,” Scott said.
“He has played at a high level throughout his career, and that continued through this year.
“The statistics and honours speak for themselves, but it’s the work that he has done with his teammates outside of the public view that sets him apart.
“He is the true embodiment of what we want our players to be.”
Mark Thompson, who coached Enright in his first two grand final wins, marvelled at his ability to maintain a consistently elite level of play.
“When I was coaching him, I (hardly) remember him playing a bad game,” Thompson told AAP.
“Early on, he probably did, he got injured a bit early but, once he got going, it was almost like you had to teach him how to play, and give him the games to play and then, once he learned the game, you didn’t have to coach him any more.
“He just turned up.”
Geelong Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield took to Twitter to label him “Simply the best half-back to play the game.”
Premiership teammate Cameron Mooney echoed that sentiment.
“We’re talking about probably the greatest medium to small defender the game has ever seen,” Mooney said on SEN radio.
“He’s arguably the smartest guy I’ve ever seen on the football field.”
The focus will now shift to Jimmy Bartel, another of the heroes of Geelong’s 2007, 2009 and 2011 premierships.
Bartel has a clause in his contract, allowing him to play on in 2017, but says he has yet to raise the subject of his playing future with Scott.