Geelong have made the toughest call on their players’ futures this year, confirming mercurial forward Steve Johnson will leave the Cats.
The 2007 Norm Smith Medallist, hailed by coach Chris Scott as a “truly unique” player, will join fellow premiership stars James Kelly and Mathew Stokes as departures from the club.
They will play their last game on Saturday against Adelaide at Simonds Stadium.
Corey Enright’s future is also uncertain, with Scott saying on Friday it will not be up to the defender whether he stays or goes.
But Geelong’s biggest decision was on Johnson, known as Stevie J and a much-loved figure at the club.
Like Kelly and Stokes, Geelong’s announcement on Johnson did not say whether he will try to continue his AFL career.
Johnson said last weekend he feels capable of playing senior football next season.
The announcements on the trio this week represent a landmark in the transition from the Cats’ 2007-11 premiership era.
Between them, Johnson, Kelly and Stokes have played in eight premiership teams.
Asked how hard the week had been, Scott said “as hard as I can remember”.
“There are very tough decisions that sometimes need to be made and (they are) emotional decisions,” he added.
“You’ve always got to be guided by what we as a group think is best for the footy club.
“But there are times that doesn’t console you as much as it should.”
Scott would not go into the reasons why the Cats decided to call time on Johnson’s outstanding career at the club.
“It’s not fair for me to talk publicly about the complexity of that situation, except maybe to say that it is complex,” Scott said.
“There are a lot of really good people at this footy club that have invested thousands of hours into the decision making.”
Significantly, Scott also scotched a widespread belief that the Cats had left it up to Enright whether he keeps playing.
The coach said he is clear on Enright’s future, but it is up to him to make the call.
“No player’s earnt the right to dictate the terms of their departure,” Scott said.
“For people to say the decision’s completely Corey’s is not right.”
Johnson came close to ruining his AFL career in late 2006 for his off-field misbehaviour.
But he learned his lessons and was one of the stars when the Cats’ won their three flags in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
“His ability to delight and frustrate in the one piece of play is without peer,” Scott said.
“One of the reasons I think he will be an exceptional coach is that he has a view of the game that’s different to most others.
“Sometimes that means even he’s not exactly sure what’s going to happen – it can be a little unpredictable.
“But that lateral thought and that different way of thinking about the game has been a huge asset to us.”
Scott added Johnson was testing for a coach, but pointed out great players always are.
“He’s truly unique, in the literal sense of the word,” he added.
“Is there anyone who comes close? I can’t think of any comparisons, but that’s probably a good thing.
“He deserves to stand by himself.
“I would contend that the opposition coaches’ box had more issues with Steve than we did.”