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Marić: I never thought I’d be where I am today

I feel I’ve made the right decision.

I’ve come to realise that I can’t play the game the way I used to — the game has honestly gone past me. Elite level footy has definitely got quicker and I do suppose you slow down as you get older.

The big thing for me is that I’ve always been really honest with myself. So after announcing that I’m going to retire at the end of the season, it felt good to have made the decision. It was almost like a weight off my shoulders.

When I first started playing footy at 16, I never thought I’d be where I am today. I was really focused on trying to be the best player I could and being the best player out there, and that’s something I really enjoyed about my career.

Looking back on the 157 games, it’s a great achievement to be proud of, I am really happy with the way things have gone.

When it came to telling the group, I was actually excited because it meant I could get it out of the way. As a player, I’ve seen a lot of guys retire over the last 13 years, so I always wondered how I would do it.

There was a lot of different reactions from the group, many said thanks and others said nothing — perhaps they were shocked — I don’t know.

As one of the older guys at the club, I see myself in a position to help guide the younger group whether it be with their football or helping them to become better people. If they see me as a leader that’s great but I just want to help my teammates.

On an individual front, all of your milestone games — your debut, 100th and 150th are all pretty special and they’re days you never forget — but another moment which stands out to me is the first time I played against the Crows.

As soon as the final siren went, I was overcome with emotion. That day felt as if I had left my family and had to go into battle against them. Just shaking the hands and hugging my former teammates was an emotional time for me, probably the most emotional I have been on the footy field.

Moving on from the Crows was a difficult thing to do, but it was the right thing to do for both parties. It was an amazing time that I will always look back on fondly.

In a team sense, when we went on that incredible run in 2014 to make the finals was one of my most treasured memories. That journey to start winning and to keep winning was outstanding. I’ll look back on it and enjoy it.

The Richmond Football Club has done a lot for me as a person. They have allowed me to be who I am, they embrace and celebrate who we are as individuals and what we value. That culture has helped me strengthen my beliefs and has helped me discover who I really want to be.

Even though I have retired, if I was able to get out on the ground at AFL level before the season ends it would be quite special. But I want to make sure that I earn the opportunity and not just have it handed to me. If I do get there, it means I have done all the hard yards and earned the trust of the coaches.

Once I hang up the boots for good, I definitely want to become a coach in some sort of capacity, so hopefully with the club we can work something out. I’ve worked with the other rucks this year, and I’ve closely watched our coaches to see how they go about things, that has helped me a lot.

But away from the football field, I wouldn’t mind studying teaching part-time. Personally, I feel as if that could help me with my coaching and to also grow as a person.

If I got asked how to put my football journey into a sentence, I honestly wouldn’t know how to answer it.

But one thing I do know is I’m an individual who wasn’t blessed with talent but someone who was always willing to give his all.