Eddie Betts played his 350th and final game in Round 23. It came after several weeks of discussions between him and the club with the club saying they would not be offering him a new contract. The announcement was made ahead of the final game of the year to give fans a chance to celebrate an amazing career and farewell (arguably) the most likable player and person to grace the game.
Betts was selected in the 2004 Preseason Draft and debuted in 2005. With his innate ability to kick impossible goals and create something out of nothing, he quickly became a fan favorite. He will go down in league history as one of the best - if not the best - small forward.
He said, “To my family, my former and current teammates, coaches and staff at both Carlton and Adelaide and to the members and fans of both clubs, thank you for your support. It’s been an honor to run around the footy field for 17 seasons. I’ve had an unbelievable career and I’ve enjoyed every minute playing the game that I love and sharing it with so many along the way. I feel very fortunate to have been able to give it my all, both at Carlton and at Adelaide.”
He posted a message on Instagram as well, "Thanks for sticking by me through the highs and lows. I hope at some point in my career I was able to put a smile on your face. If I did, I'm happy and my work is done here. To all the people who played a part in my career, it could never be done on my own. My family, back home for teaching and raising me that it's always important to look out for others and be selfless in the way we go about things."
Despite the accolades, he has also had an impact off the field with his unwavering stance against racism. After the Tex Walker incident several weeks ago - a racist comment from Walker while at a SANFL match cost him a six-game suspension - Betts made a video in which he said there was no room in footy for racism. He urged fans to speak out against it. In the same video, he said the never-ending fight had been draining and taken a toll on him.
Coach David Teague said it is that legacy, alongside his mercurial ability on the football field, which will see Betts long remembered as a champion, not only with Carlton and Adelaide but the game as a whole, “Eddie is one of the game’s most loved characters and he leaves behind an incredible legacy at our club and in our game. He has had a significant impact both on and off the field throughout an unbelievable career, of which I’m honored to have been a part, both as a teammate and a coach. To have him impart his experience and wisdom onto our younger players over the last two years has been great for our entire group. Eddie is loved by everyone, whether you’re a Carlton person or not, that tells you all you need to know about the mark this man has left on our game."
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan also paid tribute, “Eddie’s impact on our game both on and off the field has been remarkable. Over his time at the Carlton Football Club and the Adelaide Crows, Eddie has captured the hearts of all football fans and has built a legacy as one of the champions of our game. While Eddie’s on-field accolades are significant, the dedication and commitment he has shown to the fight against racism in our game, and community more broadly, will leave a lasting effect on the football community. To play one AFL game is impressive, to play 350 is nothing short of incredible. On behalf of the AFL, I congratulate Eddie on an outstanding career ... ".
AFL Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch said Eddie’s contributions to the game will leave a lasting imprint on Australian Rules football, ‘I am thrilled for Eddie and his family on achieving his 350-game milestone ... and for an incredible AFL career. For our Competition and football community, Eddie is so much more than a football player. He is a deeply caring individual, who has continued to fight for the eradication of racism across all levels of our game. Over seventeen seasons, Eddie has remained a role model for many of our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players. He has laid the foundations for our future Indigenous stars of the competition, and his legacy will far out-live his on-field career.”
There was no shortage of tributes on Twitter. Here are a few of those:
CARLTON CHEER SQUAD
"Eddie Betts is my absolute hero in football and in life. Thanks for everything Eddie. You're the greatest there's ever been. We love you immeasurably"
"One of the great entertainers and a true champion of our game"
"Absolute privilege to see the amazing Eddie Betts live during his prime with @Adelaide_FC. He provided so many moments of pure joy to our footy community. Freak goals aside, this is by far my fave clip of how universally loved he is"
TROY MAKEPEACE (former North Melbourne player)
"If I wasn't your direct opponent Eddie, I would have been happy to say I had the best seat in the house, your first AFL goal. One of the most humble men I have played against. Will kick 5 on you and smile, shake your hand and say "good game" at the end. Congrats mate #EddieBetts"
Mitch Robinson (former teammate, now with Brisbane Lions)
"What a career, so grateful I got to play alongside you! Game won’t be same without Eddie Betts"
Warren Tredrea (former Port Adelaide player)
"Geez it’s been fun watching Eddie Betts play"
Anthony Alesiani (a fan)
"I used to hate when we played Eddie Betts. Not because of the person but because of the player. He could take the game away from you in seconds. A champion player, a wonderful person. His presence in the @AFL footy has and will continue to make a difference! One of the greats"
"Eddie Betts has confirmed this season will be his last … 350th and final game this weekend … 19th man to reach that milestone … one of the greatest one man highlights reels in the history of the game including 4-times AFL Goal of the Year … thanks for the memories Folded hands Clapping hands sign #AFL"
There were also plenty of tributes on Facebook. They can be viewed at this link:
GAMES AND (GOALS)
2005–2013 Carlton 184 (290)
2014–2019 Adelaide 132 (310)
2020–2021 Carlton 34 (40)
Carlton Best First-Year player 2005
AFL Goal of the Year 2006, 2015, 2016, 2019
Carlton leading Goalkicker 2010, 2012
Adelaide leading Goalkicker 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
All-Australian 2015, 2016, 2017
Indigenous All-Stars 2007 and 2013, 2 games, 2 goals
Third on all-time games list played by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (behind Shaun Burgoyne and Adam Goodes)
Second behind Lance Franklin for goals by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
The AFL's indigenous players have pledged to carry on Eddie's anti-racism legacy through their careers. Port Adelaide winger Karl Amon said the indigenous players were still reeling from the continuing fallout over Tex Walker's six-game suspension, "It has been pretty challenging, to be honest. Eddie Betts has been running that mostly and he's loved by the boys, the indigenous players across the competition. You would have seen his interview on 360, it touched the heart a little bit."
Amon, 25, further stated, "As a playing group, we're sick of it. The amount of time Eddie has got to front the media - we're in 2021 and it's still happening today. He's sick of it. The sooner we can put and end to this, the better. The more it happens, the more it builds up inside of yourself. As an indigenous group of players, we're sick of it." He said any racism was felt across the competition, "We cop it together. The sooner we can educate people and move on from this and really call out what happens, the better the AFL - and future indigenous boys will feel more comfortable coming into the system. Young kids coming through may not feel safe. They wonder, if this happens to me, how am I going to react? As senior Indigenous players of the league, if we can change this thing around for young kids coming through, make them feel more comfortable, then it's going to be a step in the right direction. What we're doing is good, we're calling everything out. We know the whole competition is behind us, not just indigenous players."
Sources: carltonfc.com.au, afl.com.au, Emma Francis, AFL Media Release, AFL Record Season Guide, espn.com.au
Article last changed on Monday, August 23, 2021 - 10:11 PM EDT