After 194 games across 14 seasons, veteran backman Will Schofield says the time is nearly right for him to move onto the next chapter in his life, knowing he doesn’t 'have the fight to keep bashing ‘Simmo’s’ door down for a game’ anymore.
On Friday morning, Schofield announced to his teammates and staff that 2020 would be his last season, with the premiership defender preparing to hang up the boots whenever the Eagles’ final campaign ends.
Having spent the bulk of his career living on the fringes of the team, the Geelong under-18s product has been as resilient as anyone wearing an Eagles jumper dealing with the rollercoaster ride of AFL football.
“I don’t quite have the fight to keep bashing Simmo’s (coach Adam Simpson’s) door down for a game, and that’s how footy has been for me a little bit, I haven’t been a mainstay,” Schofield said when quizzed about his call to hang up the boots.
“Although I’ve always tried to play my role I have been in and out of the team and I have come to accept that.
“That’s the way it is, but it does take a toll on myself personally.
“It’s always been a fight and I’ve loved that. I love competition, love having honest conversations and it’s been fantastic at this footy club especially.
“But now is about the time that’s right to spend more time with the family, I’ve got one little fella at home and another one on the way – boy or girl not sure yet – got some businesses as well, so will put some focus into that.
“Might run around at WAFL next year but we’ll see how we go.”
Undoubtedly, the masterful 2018 Grand Final job he performed shutting down Collingwood danger man Jordan De Goey will be remembered externally as the highlight of Schofield’s time at West Coast.
After dealing with the anguish of being dropped on the eve of finals, only to earn a reprieve when Brad Sheppard tore his hamstring in the qualifying final, the now 31-year-old was at the top of his game on the biggest stage of all.
But, for Schofield, aside from the thrill of competition at the highest level, it’s the little things day-to-day he’ll miss most, and watching the next generation come through the ranks – even if that placed more pressure on his spot.
“I’ve definitely always been a players’ player, if you can use that term. I do love my footy, but I love the boys more,” Schofield said.
“Never missed a footy trip and been the fines master for three or four years now. Although it might sound a little comical, they’re the sort of things I’ll miss, being around the boys, watching guys develop.
“It’s been great seeing younger guys develop with me and then some of them go past me – Tom Barrass and Jeremy McGovern are two that spring to mind.
“To see what they’ve become as footballers and men, I’m certainly proud of that.
“There’s been good and bad, that’s a little bit how I look back on my career as a bit of light and shade. There’s been amazing moments, there’s been the worst moments.
“Some of the most difficult in my personal life I’ve been through. Getting dropped just before the 2018 finals series and losing the 2015 Grand Final from a footy perspective they were both extremely difficult times.
“I’ve had personal adversity while I’ve been here, but so does everyone. You see guys come to the footy club and go through life, and that’s what’s great about footy clubs.
“The light side of that is I’ve lost a Grand Final but I’ve won one. I’ve won a wooden spoon but had the highest degrees of success in the game.
“I’ve never been an All Australian, leadership group guy but I’ve been a team player, played my role and I did get one Brownlow vote, so can’t take that off me either.”
While he hopes there are still four more games left for him to play, Schofield is already a long way down the track of preparing for life after football.
He is keen to expand his enlightening media work and growing business interests, including small batch wine seller, Heroes and Comrades, with ex-Eagles wingman Chris Masten.
Signing off on a typically entertaining and honest media conference, Schofield paused to thank those who have helped him along the journey, including “players CEO” Trevor Nisbett, and his various coaches.
He lauded West Coast fans as the loudest and most passionate in the League, and declared his sincere gratitude to his wife for her support over the years.
“My wife Alex and little boy Nash, that’s a big reason why I’ve finished up is one, to spend time with them, but being an AFL player is a grind and hard work but it’s a very selfish job,” Schofield said.
“You’ve got to put yourself first a lot.
“My wife copped a lot from me over the years, so I think she has been proud but she’ll also be happy I’ve hung the boots up.”