by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Coach Chris Scott paid tribute to Johnson and his contribution to the club, “Steve is without doubt one of the greatest players that the club has seen and it is very difficult to see him finish his career ... Steve was one of the players I enjoyed playing against and watching ... His ability to change games will live long in all of our memories. There is a reason he is so popular among not only our supporters, but through the whole football community. There has never been a dull moment with Steve on or off the field." Scott also said he believed Johnson had the ability, intelligence and temperament to succeed as a coach if he chose to do so.STEVE JOHNSON
Honors: 2002 VFL Premiership
2007, 2008, 2010 All Australian
2007, 2009, 2011 AFL Premierships
2007 Norm Smith medal
2008 Victoria vs Dream team, AFL Hall of Fame game
2008, 2010 Geelong leading goal kicker
2009 NAB Cup premiership
2014 International Rules
Third on Geelong's all-time goal kicking list
Equal 12th on the Cats games list
Equal second on club list for finals games with 38
Club leading goalkicker 2008 and 2010
Mathew Stokes knew several weeks before the last round that he would not be offered another contract. Kelly also knew for some time that it would be his final season for the Cats.
Stokes also expressed his gratitude to the club for the opportunity to play after being overlooked in three drafts. He said the Cats were the only ones who took a chance on him. “To have played here and enjoyed the success that we have and to have done it with people that are and will be my best friends for life has been a great experience."
Scott acknowledged the difficulty the club faced in making the decisions but said Stokes had handled it all very well and during his stints in the VFL had done a great job mentoring the younger players. Off the field, according to CEO Brian Cook, Stokes has worked in the club's community department, assisting with Geelong's Indigenous Program, Closing the Gap. He ruled himself out of the 2009 Premiership due to an injury but went on to kick a crucial goal during the second term of the 2011 Grand Final to put the Cats within 12 points of the leading Collingwood.
Honors: 2001 TAC Cup premiership; 2002 Rising Star nominee; Geelong best first year player 2002; VFL premiership in 2002; NAB Cup premiership 2006; AFL Premierships 2007, 2009, 2011; Represented Victoria in 2008 at AFL Hall of Fame game; Geelong Football Club community champion 2008; All Australian 2011; Jim Stynes medal in 2011 international rules series
Honors: Played for the Indigenous all stars in 2007 and 2009; Represented the Dream team against Victoria in the 2008 AFL Hall of Fame game; Holds record for most games by an Indigenous player for Geelong; International Rules series 2013
Two more Cats also retired. Both Jared Rivers and Sam Blease were forced to call time before the season ended after battling injuries. Round 20 was Jared Rivers' final game with the Cats' defender admitting his knees "finally won".
Rivers played 150 games for the Demons, winning the AFL Rising Star Award in 2004, before crossing to Geelong as an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2012. He was hopeful of playing in a premiership with the Cats but it never eventuated. Still he is happy to have played in eight Finals' games alongside some Geelong greats. He was restricted to just ten games in 2013 due to knee and groin injuries but returned in 2014 to be a key to the Cats' defense in 22 games. He injured a knee again in Round 15 and missed four games. He returned in Round 20 to bring his tally as a Cat to 45 games. Coach Chris Scott said Geelong had recruited Rivers to fill a role in defense and that despite injury, he was always reliable. "“Jared was hampered by injury ... but he pushed through that to help us win a lot of games ... Jared is very popular with his teammates and the coaches and staff, and we wish him well." Rivers has already completed a coaching course and will remain with the Cats to continue his off-field development.
Geelong midfielder Sam Blease has retired after consultation with medical experts, who have told him he should never play contact sports again after suffering a bad head knock in a VFL game. The hit sidelined him for the season in late July. Blease, 24, joined the Cats as a delisted free agent from Melbourne. Drafted by the Demons in 2008, he missed the entire 2009 season after suffering a badly broken leg during a school kick to kick with friends. He finally made his debut as a speedy midfielder or running defender in 2011 and went on to play five games. He played a further 16 games in 2012 but a bad ankle injury during the 2013 preseason hampered his year and he played only ten games. The ankle problem continued to plague him in 2014 restricting him to just two more games.
Only six players remain from Geelong's 2011 Premiership team. They are Harry Taylor, Cam Guthrie, Corey Enright, Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel and Andrew Mackie.Source: Stacey Oates, Geelong Media Release, AFL Record Season Guides, afl.com.au, author note
Article last changed on Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 2:26 PM EDT