The Geelong Cats Carji Greeves Medal was a night for reflection, in particular, a reflection on the outstanding careers of Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie, who retire not only warriors on the field, but legends off-field too.
President Colin Carter’s statement to begin the night summed up perfectly the legacy that the men would leave at Geelong.
“Their fingerprints are all over our club,” noted Carter, about the grand and positive impact these men have had on Geelong for over 15 years.
Tom Lonergan, who lost a kidney on the football field 11 years ago and was in an induced coma for 4 days, emotionally took to the stage to thank his coaches of old and new, who ‘made the club a fantastic place to work’ as well as giving him the belief he constantly searched for.
He talked about how he’d miss walking up the race, creating comradery with his teammates before hearing the crowd roar.
He explained that he’d miss the Hawthorn rivalry, the gym banter with Andrew Mackie and playing on long-time rival, Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, all met with laughter from the crowd.
The emotions became obvious when the topic turned to family, with Lonergan choking back tears as he thanked them all.
“You’re the voice of reason, so thank-you for being such a great support,” Lonergan said of wife Kim, tears welling in his eyes as Andrew Mackie stood to support his mate.
“And little Bobby is such a champ. He’s already learning how to spoil,” the premiership player joked of his young son.
Andrew Mackie, on the other hand, arrived at Geelong as a skinny kid (who hasn’t exactly changed) 15 years ago, dreaming of premiership success.
Mackie explained why Geelong was ‘more than just a club’ and how it ‘groomed me into who I am today.’
He also talked about how football didn’t define him, however he allowed it to be a layer of himself that he will cherish forever.
He thanked his family; his parents, brothers and the whole club, his extended family.
Thanks were shared to his wife Georgia, who grew up with the defender herself.
“Thank-you to my wife Georgia, for letting me chase my childhood dreams, together.” Mackie said.
Senior Coach Chris Scott told of Lonergan’s serious, yet inspiring nature to go along with his courage every week.
While Mackie, according to Scott, had a true burning desire to win.
“They loved what they did,” said Scott.
“People loved coming to our club because it was people like them who made it a better place.”
The playing group were just as complimentary. They explained what Mackie and Lonergan taught them, not just as players, but as men.
Patrick Dangerfield told of their love of the game and how both men lived a philosophy of enjoyment, yet hard-work.
“If you’ve got your experienced older players promoting that sort of message [enjoying what you do] it sort-of relieves the tension out of everyone,”
“If you’ve got that from the older then the younger will follow and to have that relaxed mentality is pretty refreshing,” stated Dangerfield, who has only spent two years with the veterans.
Young stars of the club also highlighted the benefits that the experienced Lonergan and Mackie brought to the table.
Up-and-coming forward Wylie Buzza talked of the self-effacing nature of Tom and Andrew, who welcomed him with open arms this season.
“They’re humble men who showed what kind of club Geelong really is.”
Young Jake Kolodjashnij explained how the pair assisted his backline growth over their short time together, on and off the field.
“I’ve learnt plenty on the footy side, Domsy’s so courageous and Mack is so skilful,’ the young defender began.
“I can also have a laugh with those guys, they’re just great characters.”
Long-time mate Mitch Duncan who came second in the ‘Carji’ Greeves, talked about both family men. In particular, Tom Lonergan’s courage and the effect it has had on Duncan’s career.
“For me, it’s more about his selflessness, willing to play the team role and live by the club values.”
“It’s something that’s stuck with me and something I continue to strive for.” Duncan said of what he’ll take away from the two.
Another long-time teammate and friend Tom Hawkins highlighted the bittersweet feeling he had about the pairs’ departure.
“Obviously happy for them within their careers and what they’re going to move forward into, but at the same time, it’s a bit sad, spending 11 years with them and now they move on,”
“As a young guy, I admired how the successfulness of the club was built around guys like Tom and Andrew.” Hawkins explained.
Before the public announcement of retirement, both men wrote letters to their younger selves, describing the joys and the life lessons that football and the Geelong Cats would bring.
“You’ll learn the best life lessons come from just sitting down and having a beer,” Mackie stated.
“And those Grand Finals you dreamed of, they’re everything you hoped for and more, they’ll become addictive.” He smiled, almost as if he was reflecting on the glory that he has earned.
Lonergan told his younger self that ‘building respect is far better than being liked.’
“You were drafted for a reason, so work hard and build up to it.” Lonergan said.
President Colin Carter began the night by explaining why footy is a ridiculously hard and emotional business.
However, Andrew Mackie and Tom Lonergan have truly stood the test of time, riding the ups and downs proudly in the blue and white hoops.
It’s been a whirlwind, boys.
For 15 years, these two pulled on the hoops and stood together, side by side, fighting the good fight.
Never flinching, never wavering and always standing proud.