theage– Eddie Betts has been lauded for his selflessness and touted as a “voice of reason” for the community after confirming he will retire following Carlton’s game against Greater Western Sydney – his 350th at AFL level – this weekend.
Betts, 34, told teammates of his retirement on Monday night before making the much-anticipated announcement via his social media channels.
He has kicked 25 goals from 18 AFL games this season, with Carlton saying they had held discussions in recent weeks about Betts’ future before ultimately deciding against putting a fresh contract deal on the table.
The Indigenous great will go down as one of history’s best small forwards. His tally of 638 career goals includes four AFL goal of the year titles, to go with three All-Australian berths across a 17-year career featuring two stints at Carlton and six years at Adelaide, where he was part of the Crows side that made the 2017 grand final.
A passionate and outspoken campaigner on Indigenous issues, Betts also drew immense praise for his advocacy and anti-racism stance.
His football delighted the masses, and he transcended club allegiances.
Long-time opponent Nick Smith, the former Sydney small defender who was himself an All-Australian in 2014, said Betts was in his handful of the toughest foes.
“Eddie was easily in the top three guys I played on,” Smith told The Age on Monday night.
“We had a pretty good rivalry. He got me a couple of times
“The one thing I always really admired about Eddie was even if I did have good games against him, and I was on top … other forwards can go into their shell and blow up at teammates and become a bit selfish. And the thing that stands out about Eddie, more than anything else, is his ability to still contribute when I was on top; helping out his teammates, directing young guys.
“Playing on Eddie was so tough. You could be on top of him for say three quarters and another 20 minutes of another quarter, and he could take the game away from you.
“I think another one of his strengths was his ability to score goals in a variety of ways. He’d kick freak goals which you couldn’t stop sometimes, but his ability to get on the lead was underrated. He was good at stoppages, he was good at crumbing. He had these different avenues where he could kick goals. I certainly always tried to get him further up the ground and not let him close to goal.
“Sitting in that pocket at the Adelaide Oval, gee whiz, you were treated to some pretty good stuff.”
Collingwood’s Mason Cox tweeted his admiration for Betts.
“So much respect for this man. I hope he continues to be a voice of reason to the community,” Cox wrote.
Betts was reflective and grateful when he confirmed his impending retirement on Instagram.
“Thanks for sticking by me through the highs and lows,” he wrote.
“I hope at some point in my career I was able to put a smile on your face. If I did, I’m happy and my work is done here.
“Thank you to @carlton_fc & @adelaide_fc clubs, fans, especially staff, coaches and players and their families and all fans of our game. To all the people who played a part in my career, it could never be done on my own.
“My family, back home for teaching and raising me that it’s always important to look out for others and be selfless in the way we go about things. We will only get better if we look after each other. You got me here,” he continued.
“To Anna & the kids. Words can’t really explain the love and inspiration I get from you all.
“Looking forward to seeing you all come with me on the next ride.”
Blues coach David Teague, a former teammate and a close friend of Betts, lauded the outgoing star.
“He has had a significant impact both on and off the field throughout an unbelievable career, of which I’m honoured to have been a part of, both as a teammate and a coach,” Teague said.
“To have him impart his experience and wisdom on to our younger players over the last two years has been great for our entire group.
“Eddie is loved by everyone, whether you’re a Carlton person or not, that tells you all you need to know about the mark this man has left on our game.
“On behalf of everyone at the Carlton Football Club, we wish Eddie all the very best.”