Priest delivers his final service

June 13, 2017

Rowan Priest before his last game with sons River (left) and Arli and partner Hayley Johnson holding son Izzy.

Rowan Priest was carried off the ground on Saturday in what was to be his final hurrah in the Murray Football League.

After a long and decorated career at Echuca United, the 2012 O’Dwyer medallist has finally decided to call it a day.

He announced to the senior playing group on Friday night the weekend’s clash against Deniliquin Rams would be his last.

The Eagles stormed home to a 31-point victory at Deniliquin’s Hardinge St Oval, but the moment when Priest was hoisted onto the shoulders of his brother Farran and teammate Duane Hueston is the one he will remember most.

‘‘Those are the moments you’ll miss the most, just playing with those people,’’ Priest said.

‘‘I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my career than getting the win, but to be carried off the field like that is something pretty special.’’

Retirement had been on his mind for some time after his priorities shifted from football to his family, studies in Bendigo and other things.

With three children under three, he and his partner Hayley have their hands full and, in the end, he lacked the same motivation when it came to the game.

‘‘It was mainly the other reasons for the decision, but I’d probably lost a little bit of the enjoyment,’’ he said.

‘‘Thirty is pretty young to retire, but it’s a thought I’ve been wrestling with for a long time.

‘‘It had been in the back of my mind at the end of last season and when Farran came back to the club it made me want to keep playing.

‘‘It would’ve been nice to finish the year out, but when you know, you know.’’

Priest played 134 senior games at United, including two Murray league representations in 2012 and 2013 and Vic Country representation in 2013.

He played his 100th senior game in 2015 and won the club best-and-fairest in 2010.

His career also included 70 senior games with hometown Benalla in the Goulburn Valley League, winning the Morrison Medal in 2008, and a 20-game stint in the North Territory league with St Marys.

But the highlight was when he co-captained the Eagles’ 2013 premiership side.

‘‘I’ll always have those amazing memories of winning the flag with my brother,’’ Priest said.

‘‘But it’s the club I’ll miss most and the people in it.

‘‘I moved to Echuca for football and they instantly welcomed me and made me feel like part of a family, it’s why I haven’t left.

‘‘I’m looking forward to bringing my kids back here one day when they’re old enough to understand what it means to have captained a premiership side and won a best-and-fairest. For them to see that will be a proud moment.’’

Priest kicked four goals in Saturday’s 10.14 (74) to 6.7 (43) victory against the Rams and was named as the best player in his final contribution as an Eagle.

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