As Fremantle defender Luke McPharlin walked along Domain Stadium reminiscing about some of his finest AFL moments, a strange liquid began to pour out of his eyes.
The Dockers had just been beaten by Hawthorn in a preliminary final, ending McPharlin’s dream of finishing his career with a premiership.
McPharlin had missed the preliminary final because of a torn calf.
But he wandered out onto the field with his wife about 30 minutes after the match for a private farewell stroll around the ground.
It didn’t take long for the tears to flow.
And unbeknown to McPharlin, his sentimental moment was being broadcast all around Australia, with his emotional outpouring adding a touching human element to Fremantle’s finals exit.
“I just thought I’d walk around and remember the places where I took hangers and kicked some goals,” McPharlin said on Wednesday after officially announcing his retirement.
“But I only made it about 50m before I was overwhelmed by emotions.
“I wouldn’t have cried since I was five years old. I didn’t know what (my outpouring) was, to be honest.
“No one was meant to see that. I’m not sure where that hidden camera was, but it seems everyone in Australia has seen that vision of me walking around the ground.”
McPharlin revealed he would have been fit to play in Saturday’s grand final had the Dockers made it.
But it wasn’t to be, with Fremantle’s 27-point loss signalling the end of McPharlin’s 256-game career.
“You don’t always get to finish your career in a fairy tale as you would like,” McPharlin said.
Skipper Matthew Pavlich is expected to join McPharlin in retirement, with the pair falling short of winning a premiership despite their heroic efforts over the journey.
McPharlin almost hung up the boots at the end of last year.
But he was glad he played on in 2015, managing 18 games before tearing his “good” calf on the eve of the finals.
“I couldn’t have been managed any better this year. I couldn’t have done anything more,” McPharlin said.
“I took rests at the right time. I followed the program to the letter.
“I got some really good strengths into the calves over the off-season last year.
“So for the body to still not quite get there to September, it really was strongly indicating to me I’m past it; I’m beyond doing this anymore.”
McPharlin paid special tribute to club physiotherapist Jeff Boyle, who helped him overcome a crippling case of osteitis pubis when he moved from Hawthorn to Fremantle at the end of 2001.
“When I was 19, I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, I was in so much pain,” McPharlin said.
“He promised me if I did his program, I would play footy again.
“It took about a year to work through that. But since then, I haven’t missed a game with that condition.”
McPharlin has always been an avid musician, and he has plenty of time now to create some new music and entertain his two young daughters.
“I might sing some Wiggles songs to keep them happy,” McPharlin joked.