CHAMPION St Kilda footballer Nick Riewoldt is content with his decision to retire – and bullish about the Saints' prospects without him.
Riewoldt signed off his magnificent AFL career in a 41-point defeat to finals-bound Richmond at the MCG on Sunday, but leaves behind a remarkable legacy.
The 34-year-old kicked 718 goals from 336 games, won six club best and fairests, was All Australian five times and claimed the AFL Players' Association MVP in 2004 after being the top pick in the 2000 NAB AFL Draft.
"I'm comfortable with it, but absolutely in my private time I've had moments (I doubted my decision to retire)," Riewoldt said post-match.
"Even various stages last week running around at Etihad, for my last home game, there were probably five or six times where I thought, 'Gee, I could do this for another two years', and then something would happen a couple of minutes and it's like, 'Nah, I'm done'.
"So you fight that, and have that wrestle internally, but it is absolutely the right time for me to finish. I am really excited about what's next. I don't think it would be the right time if I wasn't having those feelings."
Riewoldt joins the likes of Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Josh Gibson, Matt Priddis, Steve Johnson, Jobe Watson, Matthew Boyd, Bob Murphy, Scott Thompson, James Kelly, Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie in exiting the AFL.
Murphy sent Riewoldt a text message on Saturday morning after his last match, reassuring the St Kilda great that "life's actually OK on this side".
"We've developed a great relationship and it's a great class to go out with – a lot of great guys, great footballers and I'm fortunate to be a part of it," Riewoldt said.
"But to know he woke up the next day feeling OK is a comforting thought."
Both teams formed a guard of honour for Riewoldt as he left the MCG for the last time, with his teammate Josh Bruce and Tiger and cousin Jack Riewoldt chairing him off in a special moment.
"We're really close (he and Jack) and have become even closer in the last few years, given the situation with losing (Nick's sister) Maddie and what that's meant for our family and the way it's galvanised us," Nick Riewoldt said.
"So that was a really nice touch. I don't think there were any of the guys I played a lot of footy with out there today – clearly 'Joey' (Leigh Montagna) was in the stands. I thought that was a really nice touch from Richmond as well to do what they did."
Riewoldt urged his fellow Saints pre-game on Sunday to make the most of their final two hours of football for the season. His overriding point was one he lived by throughout his career, that each outing was a chance to "enhance or diminish your reputation".
Riewoldt was confident St Kilda was "trending in the right direction", referencing the bold decision to part ways with stars Brendon Goddard and Nick Dal Santo in successive years.
"Three, four, five years ago the club made a really courageous decision (to rebuild) and were very transparent about that with the direction the football club was going to go," he said.
"Initially, as a senior player that had experienced a lot of success through the time immediately preceding that, that was tough.
"But I was really fortunate as a young player to have great mentors around me in a time when the club was rebuilding and going through something pretty similar, so that was the role I needed to play within that.
"It's one I've really enjoyed, and I think we're starting to come out the other side of that. It's never a straight line, that improvement and steady rise up the ladder … but ultimately, we're in absolutely good shape."