Geelong captain Joel Selwood retires from AFL after winning fourth flag

Geelong champion Joel Selwood kept his decision to retire from teammates so they could maintain focus in their AFL premiership pursuit, coach Chris Scott has revealed.

The Cats were ultimately successful, thrashing Sydney in last Saturday’s grand final to give Selwood the perfect send-off. The 34-year-old kicked a fairytale goal during the last quarter, sparking an explosion of emotion that indicated his 355th game was likely to be his last.

Selwood confirmed his decision to call time on his illustrious career at a press conference on Wednesday.

“About six weeks ago, I decided that this would be the time to finish my playing days at the Geelong footy club – win, lose, or draw – come the end of the year,” Selwood said.

“I played every game like it was my last and the game’s really hard … you’ve got to go all out. When I decided that was going to be it, I knew that I had to just buckle in for six weeks and make sure I got the job done.”

Selwood and his management spoke to Geelong veterans Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan, Tom Hawkins and Tom Stewart, as well as club CEO Steve Hocking, before arriving at a decision.

“They all want me to play on. That’s not going to be the case,” he said. “I decided I could go probably at 85 per cent next year and everyone would look after me but I had to be all in. I just couldn’t do that.”

Selwood is the third consecutive Geelong captain to retire after a premiership, following Tom Harley in 2009 and Cameron Ling in 2011. He is the only player in Geelong’s history to win four flags (2007, 2009, 2011, 2022) and is the club’s games record holder with 355 appearances across 16 seasons. He also played in two losing grand finals (2008 and 2020).

Selwood made a record-breaking 40th finals appearance in this year’s showpiece – one more than Hawthorn legend Michael Tuck.

Geelong coach Chris Scott spent 12 years working closely with Selwood and said the tough midfielder would be “irreplaceable” on and off the field.

Selwood informed Scott of his decision at a private meeting before the Cats’ win over West Coast in round 23, which propelled them into the finals series.

“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’s the best player I’ve ever seen and the best representative of the Geelong footy club that you could possibly imagine.

“Even when the opportunity came for him to take a bit of the limelight, his priority was to make sure that his decision didn’t negatively impact anyone else. He spoke really well … to the rest of the playing group around the need to keep [the decision] from everyone so they could prioritise the team performance going into a finals series.”

Earlier this year, Selwood broke Carlton great Stephen Kernahan’s long-standing 226-game record for most games as an AFL/VFL club captain and finishes his career with 245 as skipper.

He played his entire career at Geelong after being drafted at pick No 7 in 2006, winning the Rising Star award and a premiership in his first season.

Selwood is a six-time All-Australian, has captained the Cats since 2012, and won three Carji Greeves medals as Geelong’s best and fairest. He has also been hailed for his character and was this year’s Jim Stynes community leadership award winner.