Fremantle skipper Matthew Pavlich may have played his last AFL game after the Dockers bowed out of the finals with a 27-point loss to Hawthorn.
Pavlich, 33, and teammate Luke McPharlin, also 33, were both clearly emotional after the defeat in scenes that could provide a pointer to the veterans’ intentions to call an end to their decorated careers.
A dejected Pavlich led his vanquished team off Domain Stadium after their preliminary final defeat and was inconsolable in the rooms immediately after.
But the skipper re-emerged with a group of around a dozen family and friends after the crowd had long departed and stood and chatted for about 15 minutes in a pocket at the three-tier stand end of the ground.
He also posed for photos in scenes that could be seen as a farewell to the ground he has graced since the 2000 season.
But while he is widely tipped to retire, Pavlich later played down the significance of the move.
“I haven’t had a chance, really, to get out on the oval with (my family) that much before,” Pavlich told the club’s website. “We did it after my 300th … (but) I don’t know what the plan is next year, so it was a good opportunity more than anything to get out there and soak it up.”
McPharlin, who was unable to overcome a calf injury to play, choked back tears as he walked with his partner across the ground towards the Fremantle rooms, in what would be a low-key finish to an exemplary career.
The 256-game defender wiped away tears and waved to the few remaining fans, who broke into a smattering of applause when they recognised him slowly making his way across the ground after the game.
Coach Ross Lyon would not shed any light on the futures of his two stalwarts in his post-match press conference.
“I can’t enlighten you on Luke or Matthew because I haven’t had one discussion with them over pre-season or to this moment about what they’re doing next year,” Lyon said.
“So I can’t help with that.”
Pavlich, who played his 335th AFL game on Saturday night, took to Twitter in the week leading up to the preliminary final to deny that he had already decided to hang up the boots.
He has produced a biography, usually a sign of an impending retirement, that is due for release in October.