A FIERCE competitor to the end, Jordan Lewis has launched a strident defence of his under-pressure coach after confirming his AFL retirement.
The four-time premiership winner will play his 319th and final game when Melbourne face North Melbourne at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Along with fellow star Sam Mitchell, Lewis won four flags with the Hawks before being moved on by coach Alastair Clarkson in 2016.
Lewis has managed just 11 appearances in his 15th and final season, having missed the first month with a hamstring injury then been dropped to the VFL.
His final run of senior games have coincided with Melbourne playing terrible football, plummeting to 17th on the ladder and prompting club great David Schwarz to suggest coach Simon Goodwin was close to losing his players.
Flanked by both Goodwin and Clarkson at the MCG on Tuesday, Lewis said that could not further be from the truth.
“He has got closer to the players in a period where probably historically, coaches have been divided. And it’s a credit to him,” the 33-year-old said.
“It’s been a tough year for everyone but I can honestly say his relationship with the players is closer than people can imagine.”
Lewis informed teammates of his decision after speculation he was planning to follow his great mate from his Hawthorn days, Jarryd Roughead, into retirement.
Goodwin said Lewis had known this would likely be his last season and had played a selfless role in challenging circumstances.
“He played every position on the ground except for ruck,” Goodwin said.
“He went into our midfield group when we weren’t functioning there and got them to really buy into the team.
“He went into our forward line to help shape them …. he’s been an on-field leader and coach for us this season.”
Renowned for his hardness and aggression, Lewis was an All-Australian in 2014 and also won the Hawks’ best and fairest award.
It was a dream season for Lewis, with the Hawks in the middle of their 2013-15 premiership three-peat.
Lewis also played in the 2008 team that upset Geelong in the grand final.
“He was a real in-and-under, ferocious competitor at ground level,” Clarkson said.
“Then that slide-under rule changed and that took away 10 per cent of his game.
“Then bugger me, he was real good at (third)-man up in the ruck contests and they changed that rule as well.
“He always had to adapt but he had such a good footy mind.”
Lewis said it was tough to shift clubs in the twilight of his career but he had found a new home with Melbourne, adding that his friendship with Clarkson had endured.
Former Hawks teammate Luke Hodge is likely to follow suit at Brisbane after the finals, while Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands, Richmond and GWS star Brett Deledio and Carlton veteran Dale Thomas are among other retirees.
© AAP 2019