The Geelong Football Club community has been left in shock over the sudden death of club legend Paul Couch.
The husband and father-of-four was 51.
He died from an apparent heart attack while cycling with friends on Great Ocean Road in Marengo, 116km south west of Geelong.
Couch played for Geelong from 1985 to 1997.
He won the Brownlow medal in 1989, three best and fairests, played in 259 games including three Grand Finals, and kicked 203 goals during his career with the Cats.
His club paid tribute to the former midfielder in a statement, released just before the Geelong took on Essendon in the NAB Challenge in Shepparton.
Both teams wore black armbands in honour of Couch during the game.
“Paul Couch was an icon of the Geelong Football Club and a friend to all who knew him,” CEO Brian Cook said.
“Paul was a critical player in returning the club to being a regular finals team and was a great big game performer.
“However, it was as a fun loving person, husband and father that Paul excelled. He will be deeply missed by all that knew him.”
Former club president Frank Costa told 3AW radio Couch’s death was “a very, very sad occasion”.
“He’s a bloke that always had a smile on his face for everybody. He’s a guy that was sorely missed around the club.”
The AFL said on its Twitter and Facebook accounts that the league “extends its deepest sympathy to the family, friends and former teammates of 1989 Brownlow Medallist Paul Couch”.
“The Brownlow medallists of the 80s always sit together on Brownlow night, won’t be the same without good mate Paul Couch RIP no 7,” Hawthorn great Robert `Dipper’ DiPierdomenico tweeted.
AFL Players’ Association tweeted: “Very sad to hear about the passing of @GeelongCats Paul Couch. Thoughts with his family & friends from all @AFLPlayers.”