GEELONG's Jimmy Bartel has joined fellow champion Corey Enright in retirement, after the triple-premiership star and the Cats reached a mutual agreement on Wednesday.
Despite triggering a clause in his contract to give himself the option of playing on next season, Bartel said the decision to hang up the boots was not made lightly.
"I wanted to take my time once the season finished before I made this decision,” Bartel said.
"While I feel I still have more to give, I understand the bigger picture and respect the direction the club wants to move in. So therefore I have decided the time is now right to retire from the game.
"Over the past 15 years I have played out every dream I ever had and I leave the game satisfied that I have given everything I had in every game.
"To have played with my hometown club and to have shared in the success we have had has been an incredible experience."
Geelong coach Chris Scott paid tribute to the outgoing 32-year-old.
"Jimmy is the embodiment of what a footballer should be," Scott said.
"He was fearless, could play multiple roles for the good of the team and was adaptable in a changing game. Jimmy will rightly go down as an icon of the Geelong Football Club, and he has left a lasting mark on all those that he has played with over the past 15 seasons.
"Jimmy was always prepared and as history has shown, he was at his best in the biggest moments and the biggest games."
Bartel has long been considered one of the most respected players in the AFL across his career, particularly because of his courage, his high-level of consistency, his off-field demeanour and ability to stand up in big games.
His list of accolades include the 2007 Brownlow Medal, the 2011 Norm Smith Medal and two All Australian selections.
Bartel was also recognised with the 2016 Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award for pledging to help put an end to domestic violence, growing a high-profile beard to raise awareness for the cause.
Bartel thanked the club for showing faith in him, as well as his family for their support.
"First and foremost thanks goes to my and Nadia’s families, my mum and stepdad Rob, sisters Olivia and Emma. Nadia and Aston who have helped me enjoy the career I have had and grow into the person that I am today," Bartel said.
"My close circle of mates whose loyalty and support have been unwavering; my teammates and staff at the club that have made footy enjoyable.
"I'm sure the club will continue to have success and look forward to bringing my family to Kardinia Park and seeing the many young players fulfil their potential in the coming years."
Bartel retires after playing 305 matches since making his debut for the Cats in round one, 2002.
He was originally drafted with pick No.8 in the 2001 NAB AFL Draft.
JIMMY BARTEL'S CAREER
- Premiership winner - 2007, 2009, 2011
- Brownlow medallist - 2007
- Norm Smith medallist - 2011
- All-Australian - 2007, 2008
- Played a club record 28 finals matches
- Played 305 games and kicked 202 goals