As the players of Carlton and the GWS Giants headed into the change rooms following the conclusion of their Round 23 match at Marvel Stadium, all eyes turned towards one man.
The result was largely secondary, as those present inside the hollow stadium and those watching the game on TV took time out to pay tribute to a larger-than-life football figure.
Eddie Betts’ final game for Carlton was his 350th game of AFL footy, and few players in the game’s long and rich history better encapsulated it than the boy who spent his formative years kicking the ball around the dusty fields of Kalgoorlie and Port Lincoln.
The rural heartlands of Western and South Australia laid the foundational basis for Eddie’s journeyed career which entered its professional beginning when selected by Carlton as the third pick in the 2004 pre-season draft.
The fresh-faced 18-year-old shattered any doubts that an osteitis pubis injury that had plagued him during the previous year (and saw him overlooked for the 2004 draft) would affect him in the AFL as he kicked a goal-a-game to win Carlton’s Best First-Year Player award.
From there onwards, Eddie continued to redefine excellence and prove the doubters wrong by winning the AFL’s Goal of the Year in 2006 and being the Blues leading goalkicker in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
A move to Adelaide in 2014 saw the forward enter a new stratosphere of greatness as he won the Crows leading goalkicker award four years running from 2014 to 2017 as well as earning All-Australian honours in three consecutive seasons starting in 2015.
Two more AFL Goal of the Year medals followed in 2015 and 2016 (in addition to a fourth in 2019), before playing a leading role in the Crows run to the 2017 AFL Grand Final.
A return to Melbourne and the familiar surrounds of Princes Park in 2020 saw Eddie wind down the final two years of his playing career with the same character and determination that made him such an imposing force on the field over the previous 15 seasons.
Off the field, his impact and legacy cannot be understated. At a time when the game and more broadly the country needed authentic and compelling voices, Eddie delivered.
His care and compassion were always best evidenced in his commitment to the causes he held close to his heart and the desire to use his platform to change the country for the better.
Eddie has always aspired to inspire the next generation of Aboriginal athletes and advocated the advancement of the First Nations’ people and their proud culture and history.
While one door closes, multiple others open for him as he embarks on the next journey of his career, supported as always by his lovely wife Anna and their five bubbly children.
Eddie – thanks for everything! You will go down as not only one of the game’s greatest players but also as one of its most beloved and we cannot wait to support you in the next chapter of your professional and personal journey.