To the Saints family,

I’ve never been big on the fanfare, but as much as I’m keen on avoiding the spotlight, it’s only right that I say a few words and acknowledge everyone that has helped me along the journey before I hang up the boots.

How do I even begin to summarise my time here at the Saints?

I came into this club as a plucky 18-year-old from Eaglehawk and will leave as a banged-up veteran with two beautiful children and my amazing wife. The body is still a bit sore and bruised, but I reckon my heart will take the longest to fully recover after coming to the decision earlier this week to call it quits.

I still remember walking into the old Moorabbin facility for the first time. To put it nicely, it was clear we had outstayed our welcome. Our training moved around a lot in those early years, probably three or four different locations, then we eventually hopped down to Seaford. We had some good times in Seaford but I definitely feel lucky to be one of the players who made the journey back to our heartland in Moorabbin. It just felt right returning here to RSEA Park and it's where I’ve formed some of my fondest memories alongside my best mates.

I think I’ve spent more time here than anywhere else over the last 15 years of my life. Especially early on in my career, we just stayed here at Moorabbin until all hours playing cricket and table tennis and doing recovery and jumping in saunas. We definitely made the most of this place, and it was home for me. I’ve always thought about having made it through both ends. I think Jack Steven and myself are the only ones to have been able to come back. A lot of guys didn’t get to do that, so I’ve always been quite thankful that I got to finish my career here.

I’ve absolutely loved my journey with the red, white and black. Of course, I would have loved to have had more success during my time, especially for our fans, but I leave the game knowing I gave it everything I had.

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I just wanted to be a player that people could trust, that’s all I ever wanted from my teammates. I thought of my effort and showing up each week and playing my role. If I did that consistently, they’d trust me, so that was something I worked on and built over time. It wasn’t always a strength of mine in my first few years, and I wasn’t sure that I’d earned that trust particularly early on in my career, so it was something I really focussed on.

I still feel that way now: you just love running out beside guys you can trust, and I got to a point where I could give that.

At times though, that put me in positions that made me vulnerable, and I certainly paid the price for that, but I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play as many games as I did if I hadn’t have played that way.

Being captain definitely wasn’t something I strived for, but I certainly grew to love it. I love this club and knew I was going to have big shoes to fill, but in the end I feel I became a lot more comfortable with it. I think I just loved knowing that I was going to lead out a group of men each week who wanted me to lead them, and that was something I really enjoyed: the fact that I knew they wanted me to be their captain. I wouldn’t have wanted to captain without all of their backing.

If you told me at the start that I was going to do it for five years when I first took over, I would have laughed at you. In the end, it was something that ended up being hard to give up, to be honest, because I really did love it. It wasn’t something I envisaged at the start of my career after being picked up at pick No. 58 at the Rookie Draft, but it’s something that I’m really proud of now in hindsight.

Overall when I think of my career, I think what I’ve really enjoyed is the people who have been on the journey with me. Obviously playing games and winning a final and being part of a successful period was great, same with all the friendships I’ve made, but the people who have been with me on this journey have made it all the more special.

I’ve gone through it since day one with my parents, along with my wife Emma. She’s been part of it for such a long time. She’s seen me in some pretty ordinary situations, sat next to me in hospital rooms – and doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for me because she’s a nurse and always says ‘you’re not sick, you’re injured’! – but sharing that with her and my family and friends has been something I’ve cherished. They’ve helped me through the times where it hasn’t been so enjoyable, but they’re the reason I’ve enjoyed my time the most.

Particularly early days, Danny Sexton was a really strong support for me. I came through the door at the same time as Secco. He was a development coach when I first started and he’s been there ever since. He’s just a good guy and someone I’ve been able to rely on. Early on in my career when I was playing VFL reserves – and I shouldn’t have been, but I was! – and Secco was there watching me and reassuring me I was on the right path. I’ll never forget that.

The other one was Sean Dempster. I lived with Shinner for three or four years and I have a lot of respect for him. He taught me how to prepare, how to train and how to give yourself every opportunity to be a good player. Without him, I’m not sure where my housemate at the time, David Armitage, or I would have been to be honest. He straightened us up a little bit when we were quite young and he showed us the way. He was like a big brother to us, really.

The people around the club have been just as important to me. Players are always passing through and not all leave a lasting impact, but there’s a lot of people who are here that leave a mark in their own way like our trainers Dennis Campbell, Ken Whiffen, Andrew Waddington… those guys put in a mountain of work and don’t get rewarded as much as we certainly do.

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Those guys are people I’ve always respected and cherished, and they’re going to be around a lot longer than I am. Obviously to my family, Emma and the kids, Emma’s family, my friends, the sponsors, the support staff and the Board, my manager Anthony, and of course the fans and members.

They’ve stuck with the club through a bit and they deserve an opportunity to taste that success. If they stick with us, I’m sure they’ll get that. I’m sure at times they would have preferred another skipper leading the charge, but I’ve sure always enjoyed them being there for the ride.

As hard as it is to hang up the boots, I feel comfortable moving on. We’ve got some really good people here. In my early career, I was part of a really good group with strong leaders and we were pushing for Premierships, then through that middle part it was quite tough and thought we were on the right track at times but staggered back a few steps, but I think now we’ve got a great group of guys who can work extremely hard. They’re driving the club forward and I’m really confident they can get to the next Premiership sooner rather than later. I’m certainly comfortable leaving it in their hands with Steeley, Tim, Dougal and Cal at the helm.

While my journey has come to an end, I feel comfortable that the boys have got a great opportunity over this next period of time.

To all my brothers at the club, if you’re going to take one thing out of what I say, it’s that if you can be a teammate that’s trusted and you in turn can trust your teammates, you give yourselves every opportunity to succeed.

You’ve got to consistently perform your role, consistently bring great effort, and if you can do that and run out beside each other and have that trust in one another, the rest will take care of itself.

Thank you for everything. I will never forget this time in my life and the memories made.