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Sometimes a simple exit is OK

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Zac Dawson of the Dockers kicks during the 2016 AFL Round 09 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the Richmond Tigers at Domain Stadium on May 21, 2016 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media)
Ray McLean says Dawson will leave the game with the utmost respect of his peers and coaches.

The recent period in the AFL has seen almost an unprecedented number of “stars” being farewelled from the game. 

There have been some extremely emotional media conferences and well-deserved accolades.

One who will leave with decidedly less fanfare is Fremantle’s Zac Dawson.

Football followers may remember Zac as a young defender from Hawthorn who was exposed to a fiery initiation to AFL.

He was then traded to St Kilda, and his football journey subsequently took him to Fremantle.

Zac has often been a somewhat maligned player, by opposition or even his home club fans.

My view of Zac is very different. I have worked at Fremantle for the past six years as a facilitator delivering the Leading Teams Performance Improvement Program.

A part of that program was to deliver an intensive emerging leadership program. I saw something in Zac that you could work with.

Clearly, like any other young player in the AFL system, Zac had some lessons to learn as he developed from a teenager joining the game to a mature age player. But what I saw was a person who was committed to getting the best out of himself as a partner, father, student, footballer, and leader. 

He put maximum effort into all that he did to be his best.

As a leader, he also had the capacity to quietly encourage others to do the same and at times to demand this effort from others.

Zac has played the last period of his career in the WAFL with the Fremantle affiliate Peel Thunder, who will clash with Subiaco in the WAFL Grand Final on Sunday.

If any player had an excuse to put the cue in the rack early it was Zac. What we saw was in fact the opposite. I was at the club recently and was observing the game review process.

Zac was awarded the best team player award for the third week running and many of his peers commented on the significant contribution he was making to continue to help coach and improve others in what we would call the reserve grade.

The senior review was also conducted in that meeting and the senior team had come off a poor performance. However, I again observed how willing Zac was to give feedback to players who had represented at senior level, even though it would have been easy for him to say “well. I played at Peel, so I don’t care!”

Zac won’t necessarily be trumpeted from the game and most importantly, he won’t want that. He will leave knowing that he left no stone un-turned to be his best. He will also know he made every effort to help his teammates to improve and that every time he entered the playing arena he left nothing in the tank.

What he will leave the game with the utmost respect of his peers and coaches, none more so than Ross Lyon, senior coach of the Fremantle Dockers.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs