THE SHOCK Hawthorn fans experienced when it emerged Luke Hodge wanted to cut his retirement short was shared by his friends and family.
A crowd of 48,090 packed out Etihad Stadium for the Friday night of round 23 as Hawthorn beat the Western Bulldogs by nine points. Hodge was sent out to the cheers from appreciative supporters, who were also there to pay tribute to departing Dogs Robert Murphy and Matthew Boyd.
However, Hodge's desire to take up Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan's offer of continuing his career outweighed the romance of being a one-club player at Hawthorn, where he won four flags and established himself as a champion.
Hodge said on Wednesday those close to him were caught unaware by the decision as well.
"I had so many family and friends turn up as well, and they abused me after I made the decision as well," Hodge joked.
"One of the toughest decisions, when I sat down and took it seriously, was the emotion of going against Hawthorn and how Hawthorn sent me off. It was probably when I sat down with (Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson) 'Clarko' at the end of the season and said 'Mate, I'm struggling to make a decision here. My mind and my body wants to keep going but the emotional side of things is telling me I can't'.
"He said, 'You need to take the emotional decision out of it. You need to do what's best for you and your family as you develop going forward'.
"It's a lot easier said than done, but once I could do that, it was a pretty clear decision for (wife) Loz, the boys and myself to make."
For Fagan, bringing the 33-year-old in for the next two seasons will help the Lions develop, with the club having won just 12 games since 2015.
"(We'll) take elements that were great at Hawthorn and try to apply them to our club's situation," Fagan said.
"To have someone like Luke on board will help with the on-field culture, and the way he conducts himself around training and off the field will be fantastic for us."
Captain Dayne Beams had shoulder surgery in August and will be on limited duties for the start of pre-season, but will be close to full training just before Christmas.
The Lions have a hole to fill in their midfield after Tom Rockliff went to Port Adelaide as a free agent. Fagan nominated some of the 2016 draftees as being able to fill that position.
"Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, there's a number of them," Fagan said.
"Alex Witherden, who's to say that he can't go into the midfield? He had an outstanding debut as a half-back but I know he has aspirations to play there, so we have a number of young players who can step up.
"We've also got Charlie Cameron and another guy by the name of Allen Christensen, who probably everyone's forgotten, who's now recovered from his shoulder issues."
Hodge and Fagan were on hand to announce that Oaks Hotels & Resorts have signed up as a co-major sponsor of the Lions until the end of 2019.