THE ONLY two men that coached Grant Birchall across his decorated 16-season career have lauded him as a humble champion following his retirement on Friday.

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan described Birchall as an "expert" of his half-back flank role, while former Hawthorn mentor Alastair Clarkson praised the 33-year-old's willingness to do whatever his team needed.

An emotional Birchall told Brisbane's playing group on Friday morning that last weekend's semi-final against the Western Bulldogs would be the last of his 287-game career.

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He was a major part of Hawthorn's dynasty under Clarkson, playing in the 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015 premierships as a skilful, rebounding defender.

A jovial Clarkson joined Birchall's farewell press conference via Zoom.

Grant Birchall (right) celebrates his fourth Hawks premiership with Shaun Burgoyne in 2015. Picture: AFL Photos

"Such a humble lad, he was so quiet, that's why we called him Humphrey (B Bear) the first couple of years, he hardly spoke," Clarkson laughed.

"He didn't want the limelight, just committed to his mates, loves his footy club, his teammates and his coaches. 

"He didn't seek any fanfare, that's why he's so highly regarded.

"He was just so consistent. We could just put his magnet on the board and just know he would get the job done every week.

"He was a high draft pick (No.14 in 2005) and he could well have said 'I'm pretty good here, I want to play in the midfield', but he just played his role and did so for 16 years, which is a real credit to him."

After battling with injury towards the end of his time at the Hawks, Birchall revitalised his career with a move to the Lions, playing 39 games over the past two years, including all four finals.

Former teammates Grant Birchall and Daniel Howe exchange pleasantries in round 20, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

If there was ever a player for the big occasion it was Birchall.

The laconic Tasmanian averaged 24 disposals in the Hawks' four Grand Final triumphs, picking apart opposition defences with his neat, incisive left foot kicking.

He was also named a Therabody AFL All-Australian in 2012.
"The special part about him as a player was his ability to make quick decisions and use the ball really effectively," Fagan said.

"While he's maybe not the highest profile bloke ever to play 280-dd AFL games, he's definitely a champion and one of the standouts of his position over the last 15 years.

"He became an expert in his position. All of his career he's played as an attacking half-back flanker."

Birchall said he first discussed retirement with Fagan following Brisbane's round 23 win over West Coast and is content with his career.

"I just feel so fortunate to have such amazing people around me during that time, fantastic coaches and players and it's been unbelievable," Birchall said.

"I wouldn't have thought I'd be a four-time premiership player in my wildest dreams.

"It's been a fair old journey."