It has been the AFL’s best rivalry for the past 10 years.
Of the past 22 matches between Geelong and Hawthorn, 13 – including two September clashes – have been decided by under 12 points.
In that run we’ve had an after-the-siren goal to win (Tom Hawkins), an after-the-siren point to win (Jimmy Bartel), an after-the-siren point to lose (Isaac Smith) and the so-called Kennett Curse and its eventual, Shaun Burgoyne-inspired, conclusion.
But while the classics might keep coming, it is hard not to feel that Jimmy Bartel’s retirement on Wednesday shuts a chapter of the rivalry.
The Cats legend called time on his 305-game career despite admitting he had “more to give” as a player, acknowledging the direction Geelong were hoping to move in with the profile of their list.
Bartel’s decision follows that of fellow Geelong legend Corey Enright earlier this month, while, in a drama-filled trade period, Hawthorn have moved on champions Sam Mitchell (to West Coast) and Jordan Lewis (to Melbourne).
It means the AFL’s most-anticipated match will be without four of its chief protagonists in 2017.
Of course, some of the rivalry’s major characters had already left their respective clubs.
Think Steve Johnson, Paul Chapman and Matthew Scarlett at Geelong and Lance Franklin at Hawthorn.
But to lose four of the game’s stars in the space of two weeks signals an end.
Games between Hawthorn and Geelong will never be the same.
Bartel: ‘It has been an incredible experience’
The Geelong star’s decision to walk away from the game was “mutual”, according to the club’s website, although Bartel did say he felt he had more to offer.
“While I feel I still have more to give, I understand the bigger picture and respect the direction the club wants to move in,” he said.
“So therefore I have decided the time is now right to retire from the game.
“Over the past 15 years I have played out every dream I ever had and I leave the game satisfied that I have given everything I had in every game.
“To have played with my hometown club and to have shared in the success we have had has been an incredible experience.”
Bartel was a key member of Geelong’s 2007, 2009 and 2011 premiership-winning teams.
He also won the Brownlow Medal in 2007 and was All-Australian in ’07 and ’08.
No Geelong player has featured in more than his 28 finals matches, while he kicked 202 goals in his career.
Geelong coach Chris Scott hailed Bartel’s contribution.
“He was fearless, could play multiple roles for the good of the team and was adaptable in a changing game,” Scott said.
“Jimmy will rightly go down as an icon of the Geelong Football Club and he has left a lasting mark on all those that he has played with over the past 15 seasons.”
Life after football
A career in media beckons for Bartel if he wants it, with the eloquent 32-year-old a regular in the press throughout 2016.
He will likely continue as an ambassador for Face Up To DV, a campaign he launched in 2016.
Bartel did not shave during the season to spark conversation around domestic violence and raise awareness and funds.
Bartel and his family were victims of domestic violence.