Retirement is great.

Those 2km time trials and intense conditioning programs require so much commitment, and while I always relished the challenges that came with each AFL pre-season, the level of training requires the ultimate commitment.

It has been fun watching the playing list really push each other this summer.

Time is something I never had a lot of, and now I have an abundance!

I have enjoyed returning to the Geelong Football Club, albeit as a footy staffer and not as an AFL-listed player.

Because the norm every off-season has been to go away on holidays and switch off in a by to give the body some long-awaited rest, there hasn’t been much change to my usual end-of-year structure.

The only difference is this time, there won’t be an AFL pre-season to prepare for.

At times, it still doesn’t feel real.

It still feels like only yesterday that I was sitting down in the hotel room by myself in Adelaide just hours after we had lost the preliminary final to the Crows.

As you could imagine, I was going through a range of emotions.

I was really having to come to terms with the fact that my career was over – I would never run out onto a footy field again wearing the #4 for my beloved Geelong.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Patrick Dangerfield and Andrew Mackie of the Cats hug before the start of the Second Semi Final AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Sydney Swans at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 15: Patrick Dangerfield and Andrew Mackie of the Cats hug before the start of the Second Semi Final AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Sydney Swans at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

What really helped through that whole phase was having my good mate Tom Lonergan with me every step of the way – we really helped each other get through what was a really different period.

We both knew the time had come, but it’s not until you actually get to that end point, can you truly appreciate the magnitude of the situation.

It was a humbling moment for the two of us.

I’ve been asked a lot recently whether there is any part of me that thinks I may have retired too soon.

The honest answer is no.

I was really conscious that I wanted to finish my AFL career with litres of gas in the tank – it was important for me to hang up the boots on my own terms.

I knew 12 months ago that 2017 would be my last season in the AFL. I did not really let myself entertain otherwise.

Physically, I could have pushed on for another year, but I was keen to stick to my plan.

I’ve always been accepting that there is a lot of life to live after being a footballer, and at some point all careers must come to an end.

Father time waits for no one. But geez, how much fun it was.

Of course, the three premierships all lead my fondest memories, but I’ll never forget that phone call from “Bomber” Thompson, telling me I would be playing my first game.

That was one of the best feelings I have ever had – when you are young, and grow up wanting nothing else but to play AFL football, that phone call changes your life.

It was a moment I’ll always cherish, and it was nice to celebrate that milestone with my family and friends at the time, who all supported me in my pursuit to the AFL.

And the feeling of running out each week alongside 22 of your closest mates – in particularly those two minutes before a game, just before you run out of the tunnel and onto the field.

I’ll certainly miss that the most.

But a 16th season was not to be, and I’m ready to attack the next phase of my life.

Above all else, it was really important to finish my time in the game while Geelong were still performing at a high level – I was desperate to leave the cattery in a really strong position, and on the good terms.

Which I am glad I have as it has opened the doors for me to stay on and accept a hybrid role in football operations – working across the club’s recruitment & talent identification program as well as providing support as development coach.

I’m really excited for what lies ahead.

I have always thought about the other side of footy, and all the mechanics that go into making footy clubs successful.

Who knows what I will enjoy most, or what my specific skill set will be, but I’m really looking forward to learning more about list management, recruiting and day-to-day operations.

And to continue to learn under the tutelage of some great staff and coaches at Geelong, was an opportunity I couldn’t say no too.

I’ve always said I’ve had a number of terrific coaches throughout my football from Auskick to junior and AFL, but Chris had the profoundest impact on me.

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 12: Cats head coach Chris Scott punches his fist after winning during the round 21 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Richmond Tigers at Simonds Stadium on August 12, 2017 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
GEELONG, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 12: Cats head coach Chris Scott punches his fist after winning during the round 21 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Richmond Tigers at Simonds Stadium on August 12, 2017 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

I always resonated with his style of coaching, and philosophy on the game.

Chris understood better than anyone the high demands that comes with being an AFL footballer, and did his best to release the pressure valve.

It was all about maximising the time we had together as a group, rather than forcing a mantra that we needed to be by each others side every second of the day, with the latter a view still shared by many AFL clubs to this day.

On a personal note, I always respected the fact he treated me on my merits, in particularly as I was entering the twilight years of my career when he arrived to Geelong.

I always appreciated him for that, and thus why I am so excited to continue to develop as a football person under his influence.

Andrew Mackie

Andrew Mackie is a three-time AFL premiership player from the Geelong Football Club.

Mackie was awarded All-Australian honours in 2013 after a stellar season playing as a sweeping defender off half-back.

He was taken with pick #7 in the 2002 AFL national draft.