Photo Source: AAP
Jimmy Bartel has decided against lengthening his stellar AFL career into a 16th season, retiring after 305 games for Geelong.
The 2007 Brownlow Medallist and the Cats have agreed on terms that mean the one-club player will hang up his boots, despite triggering a clause in his contract to earn a deal to play on in 2017.
"Jimmy is the embodiment of what a footballer should be," Geelong coach Brad Scott said of the three-time premiership winner on Wednesday.
"He was fearless, could play multiple roles for the good of the team and was adaptable in a changing game. Jimmy will rightly go down as an icon of the Geelong Football Club, and he has left a lasting mark on all those that he has played with over the past 15 seasons.
"Jimmy was always prepared and as history has shown, he was at his best in the biggest moments and the biggest games."
Bartel was swaying in the breeze as to whether to play on in 2017.
A performance-based clause in his contract earned him the right to go on, but deteriorating form meant he was no longer able to command a position in the Cats' best side.
Rather than finish up his playing days in the club's reserves - an unfortunate possibility for greats that go round just one season too many - Bartel agonisingly called it a day.
"I wanted to take my time once the season finished before I made this decision," he said.
"While I feel I still have more to give, I understand the bigger picture and respect the direction the club wants to move in. So therefore I have decided the time is now right to retire from the game.
"I am forever grateful to have been drafted by the Cats and I hope in some way to have repaid the faith that was shown in me all those years ago.
"Over the past 15 years I have played out every dream I ever had and I leave the game satisfied that I have given everything I had in every game. To have played with my hometown club and to have shared in the success we have had has been an incredible experience."
Bartel's decorated record of achievement has few peers.
Along with Brisbane champion Simon Black, he is one of just two players to have played 300 games, claimed both the Brownlow and Norm Smith Medals, and won three premierships.
The lion-hearted midfielder's courage knew no bounds - and extended beyond his play during his final AFL season.
In 2016, Bartel embarked on a personal campaign, growing his beard to bushranger proportions to campaign against domestic violence.
That effort won the 32-year-old another honour, the Jim Stynes award for community service.
But Bartel will forever be remembered for his part in Geelong's golden generation that returned glory to the club after 44 years.
Bartel's efforts were crucial to winning the club's 2007 premiership, and he was one of 12 Cats to play in the 2007, 2009 and 2011 flags.
Another three-time flag-winner and 2016 retiree, Corey Enright, announced he would re-join the club as a "development and transition coach".
"It looks like this was a short lived farewell," he said.
JIMMY BARTEL: A CAREER OF GREATNESS
* Premiership winner - 2007, 2009, 2011
* Pre-season premiership winner - 2006, 2009
* Brownlow Medallist - 2007
* Norm Smith Medallist - 2011
* Jim Stynes Medallist - 2016
* All-Australian - 2007, 2008
* Played a club record 28 finals matches
* Played 305 games, winning 213 and kicking 202 goals