AFL: Four-time premiership winner Grant Birchall retires

Marco MonteverdeNCA NewsWire
Grant Birchall has retired. Michael Klein
Camera IconGrant Birchall has retired. Michael Klein Credit: News Corp Australia

The usually composed Grant Birchall was a “blabbering mess” when he told his Brisbane Lions teammates on Friday that he was retiring.

After a stellar 287-game career that included four premierships with Hawthorn in 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2015, 33-year-old Birchall has called it quits after two seasons with the Lions..

Following in the footsteps of former Hawks premiership captain Luke Hodge in moving to Brisbane, Birchall rediscovered the form and fitness that made him a key pillar of Hawthorn’s glory run.

In his two years at the Lions, Tasmania-born Birchall was a mainstay of Brisbane’s backline, playing in 39 of the club’s 43 matches in the period.

It was in stark contrast to his effort of just eight games in his final three years at Hawthorn.

Birchall helped the Lions secure successive top-four ladder spots, but a fifth premiership eluded him, with his last AFL match being Brisbane’s heartbreaking one-point semi-final loss to the Western Bulldogs at the Gabba last Saturday night.

But it was after the Lions’ win over West Coast Eagles in the final round of the regular season that Birchall decided this season would be his last.

“It was just the right decision to move on and focus on the next chapter of my life,” Birchall said.

“I’m happy. I’m content with it.”

But as content as Birchall was, nothing could prepare him for breaking the news to his teammates.

“That didn’t go to well. I was an absolute blabbering mess,” he said.

“It was really tough letting the boys know but all good things come to an end.”

Lions coach Chris Fagan said Birchall was “definitely a champion and one of the standouts of his position over the last 15 years”.

“The special part about him as a player was his ability to make quick decisions and use the ball really effectively,” Fagan said.

“He became an expert in his position. All of his career he’s played as an attacking half-back flanker.”.

Both Fagan and Alastair Clarkson, who coached Birchall at the Hawks, spoke of the player’s humility.

“He didn’t seek any fanfare – that’s why he’s so highly regarded,” Clarkson said.

“He was just so consistent. We could just put his magnet on the board and just know he would get the job done every week.”

Birchall said he was fortunate to have been surrounded by “amazing people” and “fantastic coaches and players”.

“It’s been unbelievable,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have thought I’d be a four-time premiership player in my wildest dreams. It’s been a fair old journey.”

Originally published as AFL: Four-time premiership winner Grant Birchall retires

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