As the 2021 AFL season draws to an end we will see the end of an era after the retirement of some of the game’s deadliest players.

Essendon football legend Dean Rioli spoke to the NIT about the closing of the season and players like Stephen Hill who are hanging up their boots.

“Hill’s running ability and the way he glided across the football field with his deadly left foot was a sight to be seen,” Rioli said to the NIT.

Fremantle Dockers star and Noongar man Stephen Hill announced his retirement last week after being hampered by injury.

Wirangu/Guburn and Kokatha man Eddie Betts also confirmed on Monday that he will be retiring at the end of the season as it emerged discussions with the club resulted in him not being offered a contract next season.

“This season is a year we say goodbye to Indigenous future Hall of Fame players I have really enjoyed watching across two decades … Shaun Burgoyne and Eddie Betts,” Rioli said.

 

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“Eddie Betts who is set to retire on his 350th game this weekend has had an amazing career,” he said.

“We have had some great small forwards who have dazzled on our screens such as Stephen Milne, Cyril Rioli, Jeff Farmer and Phil Matera — but Eddie Betts has the greatest highlight reel of any player to have played the game.”

“The constant battles of racism he has faced has been truly disappointing and the overall love and support from the AFL Community to get behind him during these unfortunate times speak volumes of the man we have come to love and admire.”

Kokatha-Warai man Shaun ‘Silk’ Burgoyne will play his 20th and final season this year and will step into an advisory role at Hawthorn after his retirement.

“Mr Fix it or Mr Reliable is the fifth person to reach the 400 Club and the only Indigenous player to achieve this amazing feat,” Rioli said of Burgoyne’s achievements.

Shaun Burgoyne (L) and Eddie Betts (R) are set to retire in the same weekend. Photo via Twitter.

“A four-time premiership player at his peak [he] could turn a game at any time in his team’s favour and was able to perform on the big stage over and over again.”

Burgoyne and Betts will end their careers on the same weekend of football and it’ll be a very emotional farewell weekend for footy lovers.

Gold Coast Suns game record holder and Yirrganydji/Kuku-Yalanji man Jarrod Harbrow will also play his farewell game this weekend, against Sydney on Saturday.

Harbrow has played 262 games for the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast Suns.

“A fantastic small defender often tasked to shut down the exciting small Indigenous forwards. He possesses great speed with a lethal left foot,” Rioli said.

“Thank you to all four who have played over 1,020 games between them, they have achieved greatness and I look forward to seeing what great things they will achieve post-playing days.”

By Teisha Cloos