It was a little unusual, but Brian Lake’s final moment on a footy field probably encapsulated his career.
As his teammates celebrated the 2015 Grand Final win by posing for photos and speaking to media, the 33-year-old took off on a far less predictable journey, hijacking the Gatorade cart and taking his kids along for the ride.
Lake always did things a little differently.
— AFL (@AFL) October 5, 2015
In his prime, while most of his contemporaries were focused on fisting the ball away from the game’s best forwards, Lake often went one better by outmarking his opponent.
He took the fourth-most contested marks in the AFL in both 2009 (46) and 2010 (48), while winning back-to-back All-Australian honours for the Western Bulldogs.
Though his output dropped away in his later years, he still finished in the top 10 for contested marks in 2015. It’s rare territory for a key defender.
His success at Hawthorn surprised many who believed Lake was on his last legs when he left the Bulldogs at the end of 2012.
“You’ll go and sit down with him and within five minutes you’re laughing or he’s telling you some story and you’re like, ‘where the hell is this going?’ – Luke Hodge on Brian Lake
Surely even he couldn’t have imagined he’d finish his career a three-time premiership player, and a Norm Smith Medallist.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Lake told aflplayers.com.au at a Hawthorn premiership memorabilia signing session last week.
“It probably won’t sink in until Round 1 next year when you see the boys run out and you’re not out there.”
He’ll miss the camaraderie he experienced at the Hawks, and his teammates will miss him.
“I’ve always said, he’s probably the weirdest person I’ve met,” Luke Hodge told 1116 SEN’s The Run Home last week, explaining that Lake’s quirky personality often made him the skipper’s first point of call whenever he found himself in a bad mood.
“You’ll go and sit down with him and within five minutes you’re laughing or he’s telling you some story and you’re like, ‘where the hell is this going?’
“He’s upbeat and energetic. Sometimes on the footy field you scratch your head and don’t know what to do with him, but I’m so glad the footy club went and got him. He reckons he’s the common denominator of the last three years. He’s been fantastic for our football club… There’s no doubt we’re going to miss him.”
Lake knows it’ll take a little while to adjust to retirement, but he can certainly see the positives of life after AFL.
“I definitely won’t be missing the pre-seasons,” he laughed.
“But I’ll still be playing football somewhere – at my local footy club, Caroline Springs. I still love the game and my body’s still fine so I’m going to play as long as I can, because you are a long time retired.”
— AFL Players (@AFLPlayers) September 25, 2015
Lake bows out as one of the best credentialed defenders of the modern era, but he’s looking forward to his next challenge – one that’s typically left of centre.
“I watch a show called Man v. Food a fair bit on Foxtel, so I wouldn’t mind having a crack at that, myself – some eating challenges.
“I’m going to enjoy being able to eat what I want and not stress too much about the ramifications. At some stage I’ll pull my head in – I’m not going to blow out or anything – but I’m going to enjoy my food, definitely.”
Click here to check out the only officially licensed Hawthorn premiership memorabilia, which comes with a certificate of authenticity from the AFL Players’ Association.