SAINTS LEGEND ENDING HIS RUN
IN the moments after his debut match, Nick Riewoldt asked his dad Joe if he would be a “one- game wonder”.
The then 18- year- old had gathered only three disposals for St Kilda in a 97- point Round 15 loss to Adelaide.
But the history books will have it as merely a poor start to a brilliant career, which the Saints’ star yesterday called time on after 17 seasons at the highest level.
Now 34, the forward told coach Alan Richardson last week of his decision to retire at season’s end and broke the news to teammates yesterday before fronting the media.
Flanked by parents Joe and Fiona, brother Alex, wife Catherine and children James and William, Riewoldt remained largely composed during a 32- minute press conference that was also watched on by teammates and club staff at St Kilda’s Seaford headquarters.
Having had a strong drive to continue playing until recently asking questions of himself as speculation about his future mounted, Riewoldt said he “couldn’t be more convinced” that the time was right to hang up the boots.
“I’ve got to do something I love, play a sport I love, with a club that I absolutely love for 17 years,” Riewoldt said.
“While the 10- year- old boy in me would love for that to last forever, the reality is that it is time for me to step aside.
“I’ve given everything I possibly can to the game and to the footy club and there’s a little bit of petrol left in the tank but not much, so that’s why I’m comfortable with the decision.
“To be a professional AFL footballer for half my life, I still have to pinch myself. I have been in an incredibly privileged position to be able to do what I love and call it a career.”
The No. 1 draft pick in 2000, Riewoldt has played 333 games for the Saints as a unique key forward known for his work rate and marking.
Playing his junior footy on the Gold Coast, Riewoldt was zoned to the Brisbane Lions until the start of 2000 when the AFL changed the recruiting boundaries. It robbed the Lions of one of Queensland’s greats and potentially robbed Riewoldt of three flags.
Riewoldt summed up his time at the Saints as one that has gone “full circle”, with the Saints finishing 15th in 2001 before grand finals in 2009 and 2010. But he never got that elusive premiership.
Another rebuild has since taken place with the Saints on an upward trajectory.
“I’ve got four games of footy and hopefully finals to play so I’ll prepare the last part of the season as I always have with a view to play finals,” Riewoldt said.
“I haven’t had time to look any further than that but I’m excited about the possibilities.”
EMOTIONAL DECISION: Nick Riewoldt speaking yesterday and ( below) his first AFL touch in 2001.