By Lance Jenkinson
Deer Park small forward Shannon Byrnes has called time on his distinguished football career.
The two-time AFL premiership player with Geelong signed off after a fourth consecutive flag with Deer Park in the Western Region Football League division 1 on Saturday.
Amid the exultation of a thrilling three-point grand final win over Altona at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday, Byrnes was emotional as he was flanked by his family for the last time after playing a game of football.
“I had every emotion going through my body that you could imagine,” Byrnes said of his reaction at the final siren.
“It was shock, disbelief and happiness that we won and then a tinge of sadness that it’s the end of an unbelievable time in my life.
“It’s been a huge day and I’m just so glad we got to come out on top.”
To say Byrnes went out on a high would be an understatement.
The 35-year-old has experienced the thrill of winning two AFL premierships on the MCG, but the victory over Altona might have topped it all.
“I was just saying to dad, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more satisfaction from a win than I did today, at any level,” Byrnes said.
“They’d beaten us three times throughout the year, we were the underdogs, we had three players sent off during the game, 100 metres in penalties given against us, kicking against the wind in the last quarter and to still be able to come through with a win, it’s an unbelievable list of things you can go through.
“We shouldn’t have won it, but we did.
“It doesn’t get any better.”
One of the hardest things for an AFL player is the transition from the big league to local football. Byrnes was grateful for the chance to play alongside his mates Marc Bullen and Jason Kennedy, and do it in a successful team.
“It’s a perfect way to finish off my career to play in four flags in a row,” Byrnes said.
“They’ve been an unbelievable club and they’ve set a metro record [of consecutive premierships] and I’m so glad to have been a small part of that.”
All former AFL players who move back into local football seem to cop their fair share of abuse from people on the other side of the fence and Byrnes was no different.
He wanted to thank the Lions fans for the support he received in those times.
“The Lions Den supporters have been unbelievable for me,” Byrnes said. “I cop a fair bit over the fence from the opposition supporters and they couldn’t be better in backing me up.”
With his partner Megan pregnant with their second child, Byrnes, who celebrated with his two-year-old son after the game, will hang up the boots to spend more time with family. Byrnes is not totally lost to football though, as he will continue his role as player development manager at the Melbourne Football Club.