by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Richmond ruckman Ivan Maric announced at the end of June that 2017 would be his final season. In speaking to the playing group, Maric said it was the right decision for himself and the club and that he is at peace with the decision. When he spoke to the group, it was an emotional mix with tears and humor, with Maric sporting a pair of eye goggles (why is unknown, must be an inside joke – ed. Note).Maric, 31, began his career with the Crows in 2006. After 77 games with Adelaide, he crossed to Richmond at the end of 2011 and has played a further 80 games. He had a breakout season in 2012, placing third in the best and fairest count at the end of the year.
Having often been overlooked in favor of Shaun Hampson and Toby Nankervis, Maric has played eight VFL matches and been operating somewhat in a coaching capacity as a mentor for Richmond’s developing ruckmen. He is still committed to seeing out the season, “I want to see out the year by preparing my absolute best, to give myself the chance to compete at my best … I won’t be pulling up short, I want to finish all the way to the finish line.” Maric conceded his ego had been bruised, knowing that his AFL career was nearing an end, “When that final siren sounds for me, I am to walk out with chest up, shoulders out and chin up. Knowing that I played the way Ivan Maric is supposed to play, the way that would make my family and friends proud.”
Coach Damien Hardwick fought back tears as he paid tribute to Maric, who he credited for establishing the club’s strong culture. “On field he was an outstanding player. But the legacy Ivan has left for us off field ... what he means to our footy club overall ... a lot of this stuff that we talked about now was off the back of one man: Ivan Maric. “He means a lot to our footy club.”
Source: insidesport.com.au, richmondfc.com.au, heraldsun.com.au
Just a few weeks later, ahead of his 300th game in Round 17 against the Cats, Hawthorn champion Luke Hodge announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season. Hodge, 33, He said he had thought long and hard before making his decision and that, while he still loved running out with his teammates and was still passionate about the game, the time was right to step aside and give younger players a chance, Hodge said there had been a long-term plan for this season to be his last after he signed a new one-year deal at the end of 2016, but the encouraging progress of Hawthorn’s young brigade confirmed the decision in his mind. “It’s probably a decision that we’ve been pretty clear on for a while. I think it’s the best thing for the footy club and myself,” he said.
He also said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family. He also gave his thanks to everyone, “I would like to thank everyone at Hawthorn ... for embracing my family and I over the past 16 years. This place has become like family and I’ll leave here with friendships and memories that will last forever. To the fans and members, thank you for your continued support, it has been an honor to play in front of the brown and gold army ... and I look forward to the next seven weeks and seeing where our 2017 campaign can take us. I’d like to make special mention of the team at Connors Sport Management, in particular Paul and Mel, for all the support they have given to my family and I since I joined them as a seventeen year-old. Lastly, thank you to my wife Lauren, my three beautiful sons Cooper, Chase and Leo, and all my family and friends, without your support and sacrifice none of this would have been possible.”
Coach Alastair Clarkson paid tribute to one of the club’s greatest players,saying his leadership on and off the field, his consistency and his selfless willingness to put teammates and club ahead of himself am described him a "... once in a generation player ... Hodgey has been an outstanding servant of this football club for a long period of time and has played a vital role in building and driving the club’s culture. His influence and leadership on and off the field is second to none and the guidance he has shown to the younger players ... has been exemplary. Hodgey's greatest attribute has been his capacity to commit to sacrificial acts that help his teammates, coaches and club ... ".
Clark'o also thanked Hodge's family for their support and contribution to the club and wished then all the best for the future.
Premiership winning coach Mark Williams (with Port Adelaide) also paid tribute, mentioning the challenge Port had when they had to play against the Hawks and Hodge, “What we always knew and saw was just an honest effort every time. It wasn’t like he was a prima donna, he just played tough hard footy. You’d love to have that sort of player in your side.” Williams said he believes Hodge has made the correct decision in calling time, meaning the Hawthorn star can now treasure the final weeks of his storeyed career. There’s nothing better than knowing when the end is and when you turn up to the MCG, you look around and say this could be my last game here.Really celebrate every minute of it ... just to soak every little bit out of the people and the atmosphere and just the experience, to remember it forever.”
North Melbourne legend and current SEN commentator David King said Hodge had the unique approach of always putting the team ahead of his own interests, He’s the conductor of the Hawthorn symphony ... There’s been a lot of good players that have been good organizers, none of them have done it with the team first attitude ... that Luke Hodge has brought ... There’s been some flaws along the way, and some errors along the way, but I think that’s why we love him so much. If you want to come back as an AFL player, you want to come back as Hodgey. Maybe they don’t move like an Andrew McLeod or mark like a Matthew Richardson, but his endeavor, his attitude to the game, the Hawthorn fans have been blessed.”
Hodge, the number one draft pick in 2001, debuted in Round 5 2002. He has since gone i on to win four premierships, two Norm Smith Medals (best on ground in Grand Finals) and captained the club from 2011 - 2016. That draft has always been referred to as a "super draft" which saw Luke Ball go at number 2 to St Kilda and Chris Judd at number three to West Coast. Hodge will join Michael Tuck, Leigh Matthews, Shane Crawford, Chris Langford, Don Scott, Kelvin Moore and Sam Mitchell as players to play 300 AFL games for Hawthorn.
Premierships 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015
Norm Smith Medal 2008, 2014
All Australian 2005, 2008, 2010 (captain)
Peter Crimmins Medal 2005, 2010 club best and fairest)
International Rules Series 2005, 2014, 2015
Jim Stynes Medal 2014 (best on ground in International Rules)
AFL Rising Star Nominee:2002
At the end of the game against Geelong, both his teammates and the Cats formed a guard of honor as Hodge left the field
Source: Hannah Greasley, Hawthorn Media Release, theage.com.au, ed. note
Article last changed on Monday, July 17, 2017 - 2:31 AM EDT