YOUNG blokes hear it all the time from players in the twilight of their careers – the end comes around quickly - and while they usually don't believe it, they always find it to be true.
That was certainly the case for VFL legend Nick Meese, whose decorated career came to an end all too soon after the heartstopping 2019 Grand Final loss to Richmond.
And what a career it was, comprising 200 matches including 162 in the VFL for the Northern Bullants and Williamstown, 35 Development League games for the Bullants, two state games for the VFL against the SANFL and a Foxtel Cup match for the Seagulls.
Among that was a remarkable seven VFL Team of the Year selections, the 2015 premiership with Williamstown and 2017 Williamstown best-and-fairest.
Meese is a life member of the Seagulls and, as of Thursday night, he is also now one of the two newest life members of the VFL.
It is a career he reflects on fondly, right back to the early days as a young Preston supporter following his dad and uncle to Cramer Street every week.
"I remember the early years when you're literally just fighting to play a senior game and stay in the team, and before you know it you get a bit comfortable and the next seven years go around very quickly – I think I ended up playing 12-13 years," Meese said.
"Cramer St was very comfortable for me – one of my earliest memories was me and my sister in the grandstand at Cramer Street under a doona when dad was captain-coach of the reserves team.
"I remember growing up there with my cousin Adam Marcon, so going to Cramer Street I got the easy steps in pretty well because everyone knew my name, which was nice.
"Dad is a life member at Preston, my uncle Adrian is a life member at Preston, so you grow up at the family Christmases and birthday catch-ups and whatnot and you just knew Preston and VFA/VFL football was the way to go, so it was a natural progression after the TAC Cup, it was just off to Preston."
While Meese loved the Bullants and still does, the issues of playing with an AFL aligned club – as they were with Carlton at the time – proved to be a source of extreme frustration, especially when he was competing with the likes of Sam Jacobs, Shaun Hampson and Robbie Warnock for VFL games.
It was the sole reason he moved to Williamstown in 2014, with Marcon, Kane Lambert and Tim Currie following him.
"It was tough, there were a lot of nights of being an emergency and coming home on Friday night in the old 1988 Skyline and cursing because I haven't been picked again," he said.
"When I got to Williamstown, the young blokes just always thought I'd played seniors … and it just wasn't true. I can tell you 35 (Development League games) felt like it was 135. I had to tell them I'd spent the best part of three years in the reserves team before I really got into the senior side properly.
"With all respect to the Bullants, and I love them, but I remember that last year (2013) when I was in the seniors I played a really good game out at Casey Fields … it was my 50th game and I got right up there in the best, and I got dropped, so I politely told them that unless things changed list-wise for Carlton I was done.
"As much as I love the Bullants, I conceded the fact I needed a change because I wanted to play senior footy – it was tough to leave, and then we had some issues getting to Williamstown with recruitment issues so I had to wait until February to get on the list, which was stressful in itself.
"To leave Preston with the family ties, I spoke with Dad, I spoke with my uncle and they were all for it. I needed more opportunities and alignments are tough to deal with.
"It was great fun going to Williamstown – it was like what I presumed all the local footballers had had their whole life, just a club environment – if you play well you're staying in."
Meese's domination of the VFL competition extended to local footy – in between two stints at the Bullants he headed off to West Preston and won the 2011 Essendon District League best-and-fairest and the premiership, a feat he repeated this year with Aberfeldie.
But it was that 2015 premiership at Williamstown that is the peak of his career, alongside his two appearances in the Big V.
"Box Hill were always the side to beat and when we got to the granny, at the first bounce (Jon) Ceglar jumped right over me, put it down (Will) Langford's throat and I thought 'I'm in for a long day here', but it just panned out our way," Meese said.
"Michael Gibbons, the cheeky little shit, he was running around celebrating party time and I grabbed him and told him to settle down, it's not done until it's done and he goes 'it's done!'
"I was too stressed until the siren went, but once the siren went it was brilliant, everything you want, you run around and hug and kiss everyone and everyone has a smile on their face.
"I was really spoilt for my second year at the club – we went back to the clubrooms that night and all the volunteers … they've had a lot of success, Williamstown, but they put a lot of work in between drinks so it was great.
"(Pulling on the Big V) was pretty special for me, I hadn't been that nervous before a game in so long. My dad always spruiked that he played with the Big V but it was some amateurs thing, it wasn't the same, so when I got the chance I loved it.
"And to play against (South Australia) twice, geez they were strong – it would have been nice to get a win in the Big V, but not to be."