All over: Heath Scotland has played 215 games for Carlton. Photo: Mal Fairclough
Carlton veteran Heath Scotland says he knew his time was up when the pain in his degenerative ankle made it unbearable just to walk up his stairs at home, let alone train and play at the elite level.
The soon-to-be 34-year-old sat in front of his teammates, club officials and family on Tuesday to announce he had played his last game for Carlton, fittingly against his former club Collingwood almost three weeks ago.
Although he will remain on the Blues' long-term injury list and not officially leave the club until the end of the season, he has played his last match.
Scotland had considered retirement at the end of 2013, but eventually signed on as a rookie - allowing the Blues to pick up another youngster in the draft - hoping he could push through one more pre-season.
But the ankle injury, which hampered his form last year and had restricted him to just four games so far this season, had finally worn him down “physically, emotionally and mentally”.
“I've given it every opportunity to get up and I was hoping I could get one more year out of it,” he said.
"Right now, my week consists of trying to get up to perform on the weekend. I struggle to go up and down the stairs at home during the week, I struggle to train, to get up to a level to get some fitness.”
In a media conference where he fought back tears acknowledging the support of his wife Alisha and their two boys, Scotland also challenged his teammates to prove wrong the doubters that have ''written them off'', by winning a premiership quicker than most experts think they are capable of doing.
Not winning one himself is the only regret Scotland has from a career that spanned 16 seasons and 268 games after being drafted with pick No. 44 in the 1998 draft.
The blue-collar defender almost achieved his dream in the 2002 and `03 grand finals when he was a member of Mick Malthouse’s Collingwood teams that were upstaged by the all-conquering Brisbane Lions.
Carlton football manager Andrew McKay paid tribute to not only Scotland the footballer, but to a person who was respected enough to hold a position in the club’s leadership group for four years.
“We are losing a very, very good person here," he said.
The club said it wanted to give Scotland a proper send-off on Tuesday to ensure his retirement did not get lost in the flurry of other players calling it quits at the end of the season, with president Stephen Kernahan labelling Scotland "a champion of our football club” and "one of the last old-school footballers in our game".
Scotland said he hoped he had repaid the faith the Blues showed after trading for him in 2004. In the following 11 seasons, he would not only win the best and fairest award in 2012, he also finished second in 2007, third in `06, earned an All-Australian nomination in 2011 and achieved life membership at Carlton for what will stand as 215 games of service.