HAWTHORN star Cyril Rioli has walked away from the game at age 28, a move that is both shocking and not unexpected.
The 28-year old was ready to retire at the end of an unhappy 2017 in which he played just seven games before a season-ending knee injury was followed by his father suffering a heart attack.
He had a delayed start to the pre-season to care for his father and only decided to return to the club at the start of February.
He injured his medial ligament in round four against Melbourne this year and that was the last time he played for the club.
CYRIL'S NORM SMITH The day Rioli put on a grand show
Rioli was ready to resume in round 13 against Adelaide, the 350th game for teammate Shaun Burgoyne, but abruptly returned to Darwin that week, sparking fears he may have played his last game.
"The decision to retire from football is something that I have thought long and hard about over the past 12 months. I've weighed everything up and I am confident the decision I've made is the right one for me and my family," Rioli said.
"Football has been my life but it's always been difficult being away from home. Now is the right time to go home and spend more time with friends and family.
"I love the Hawthorn Football Club and I cannot thank them enough for the opportunities they've given me and the way they've embraced me and my family over the past 11 years," he said.
"I'll always be a Hawthorn person and I look forward to seeing what the boys can achieve over the rest of the year and beyond."
Rioli, who played 189 games and kicked 275 goals for the Hawks, was a star from his very first game in round one, 2008. He played every game in that season including the premiership win over Geelong.
He would play in three more premierships for the Hawks.
Thankyou brother for being a champion role model and idol to a lot of us. Congrats on a stellar career, the game won’t be the same without some Cyril magic pic.twitter.com/hGSiElBtKE— Nic Naitanui (@NicNat) July 4, 2018
Among them was the 2014 flag when he came back from a serious hamstring injury just in time to play in the decider and 2015, when he won the Norm Smith Medal, tormenting West Coast that day with and without the ball.
In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of his uncle the late Maurice Rioli, who won it in 1982 with Richmond, and another uncle Michael Long, who won it with Essendon in 1993.
The three-time All Australian lived up to the family bloodlines and more. He was adored by Hawthorn supporters and many opposition fans loved him as well. And he was a huge role model for indigenous players coming through, imparting his wisdom irrespective of the colours they wore.
Rioli averaged 15.1 possessions a game, but he did more with those touches than any player in the modern game.
He could take a brilliant contested mark and jag the most wonderful goals, but it was his work without the ball – his tackling, one-percenters and general pressure acts – that took him into the pantheon of greats and should ensure he makes the Australian Football Hall of Fame in time.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said Rioli was one of the most influential players of his time.
"Cyril has been an outstanding servant of this football club for a long period of time and there have been very few players that have brought as much excitement to the game," he said.
"His ability to influence a contest with a minimal amount of disposals is like no player I have ever seen and that's why the whole footy world loves watching him play.
Cyril Rioli with his Norm Smith and premiership medals in 2015. Picture: AFL Photos
"Cyril came into our club as an 18-year-old kid and leaves an integral part of the fabric of the brown and gold family and the history of our game.
"I'd like to thank Cyril, Shannyn and the broader Rioli and Long families for their outstanding contribution to our club and wish them all the best for the next chapter of their lives."
Premierships: 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015
Norm Smith Medal: 2015
All Australian: 2012, 2015, 2016
AFL Goal of the Year: 2009
Hawthorn best first-year player: 2008
Runner-up Hawks best and fairest: 2009, 2015