FAIRYTALES so rarely come true, but Jack Allen’s did on Saturday as he left the field for the final time as a senior player.
Allen was chaired off alongside great mate Ricky Clark after the pair gave an emotional confirmation to their team mates on Thursday night that the weekend’s grand final at Beswick Street in Garfield would be their farewell.
Physically and mentally they were spent – they had nothing else left to give.
In Allen’s case, Saturday’s premiership win at Garfield carried extra significance.
Not only did it mark his third flag in as many years – as it did with many of his team mates – but he played his final game at the same venue that he won his first senior premiership as a 19-year-old.
Now 31, Allen struggled with injury through his final season but played a key role – particularly in the second half – on Saturday in a famous win for the Cobras.
“I’d played all my juniors at Garfield and won a flag here when I was 19 in 2004,” Allen said.
“I’d actually spent a couple of years out of the game through injury and I came back here in 2008 to play for Garfield in the Gippsland League.
“There was a bit of travel – I was coming from the city and we were playing in Maffra and we weren’t much good. In 2009, my brother-in-law Dan O’Hara was at Cora Lynn. He’d grown up playing there and told me to come down.
“I actually wasn’t going to play and then Chris Toner, through his magic, intervened in the first half of 2009.”
Allen now retires a triple-premiership hero at the Cobras and his legacy will be felt for many years to come.
“In 2010 we lost to Nar Nar Goon and went through some tough years where we had some players who didn’t want to buy into the culture,” he said.
“We had the talent but we didn’t have that feel amongst the boys, or the discipline. I looked at the clubs in those years that were winning flags – like Bunyip and Garfield – and knew that country footy is about being part of a team that sticks together and has a couple of beers together and that’s what it’s all about.
“I remember talking with Brad Horaczko and saying it’s all well and good to bring players in but we need to build this culture. We don’t have a town – Cora Lynn is a footy ground in the middle of nowhere – so we need to build a culture and anyone who comes in needs to buy-in.”
Allen described the conclusion to his senior career on Saturday as “poetic”.
“To share it with Rick – an absolute legend of country footy – I just can’t ask for anything more,” he said.
“He deserves every plaudit you could give him and to share it with him, I just feel honoured.
“That sort of stuff is what you dream about, even at a country level. We all think we can go higher but I’m just one of those blokes who loves the boys and loves getting around them – I feed off that.
“I never like it to be about me, but to share today with Rick and for the boys to be tested – that means so much. We really were well-tested, and you have to give Bunyip so much credit.
“They’re very well coached, and Brad Walker drills that mateship into them. It’s a full credit to them because they played an amazing game, but I love our boys and this moment – to win three and to go out on that note with Ricko – is just poetic.”
Allen, in his own words, was “pushing it” to even play this season and now that his career is over he can finally publically reveal why.
He has a partial rupture of the lateral ligament and a torn meniscus in his right knee, arthritis in his ankle from two breaks, and had pins put in a broken hand earlier this year.
“But to come away with a third flag in a row, you couldn’t write a better script,” he said.
“It’s something I’ll be talking about for years, and not many people get to go out on that sort of note. It’s really special.”
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