One of the worst days in AFL history ended with a heartfelt gesture of solidarity and support from the Hawthorn and Collingwood teams.
Led by Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson and his Magpies counterpart Nathan Buckley, they formed a giant huddle around the MCG centre circle on Friday night in memory of Adelaide coach Phil Walsh.
Alternating players from the two teams, they stood silently together arm in arm, only moments after the Hawks had won a pulsating match by 10 points.
Early on Friday morning, Walsh died in horrific circumstances at his Adelaide home.
The AFL community is reeling from the tragedy and Sunday’s Adelaide-Geelong game was soon cancelled.
Walsh’s 26-year-old son Cy remains under guard in hospital as police continue investigations into the killing.
Cy Walsh has been charged with the stabbing murder of his father but didn’t enter a plea on Friday at a brief bedside court hearing at Adelaide’s Flinders Medical Centre.
Walsh’s wife Meredith also suffered leg injuries in the incident and is in the same hospital.
When AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced the rest of round 14 would go ahead, he said those matches would lack their usual fun and passion.
There will be no club songs before or after each game, one of several measures taken by the AFL out of respect to Walsh.
But Buckley thought McLachlan’s observation was only half-right.
“I didn’t agree from the passion side of things,” Buckley said post-match.
“If there was a more passionate bloke than Phil Walsh about footy and the way that he went about it and the way that he saw it, well, then I don’t know.
“He’d be pretty passionate, that guy.
“I don’t reckon I’ve had a day where I’ve wanted to be with the club, with the team in my whole career more than getting to the ground tonight.
“I couldn’t wait to get in amongst our boys, in amongst the staff and come and play a game of footy because that’s what we love to do.”
Walsh knew a lot of people around the AFL and Clarkson, who once worked with him at Port Adelaide, said the tragedy of his death was unprecedented.
“You don’t even prepare for this in crisis management planning,” he said.
Clarkson said it was important that the two teams come together post-match and acknowledge Walsh.
“Show the footy world we’re going to mourn together and support the family and the Adelaide footy club as much as we can over the next few days, because it’s going to be really tough for the Adelaide players in particular,” Clarkson said.