Doc calls it a day

After 254 seniors games for the Morningside Football Club, which included five premierships in the red white and black, Nick Tomlinson has called time on his illustrious career.

As the Panthers sat in the rooms following a seven-point grand final loss to Labrador two weeks ago, ‘Doc’ called the group in to say, “that was my last game of footy.”

It might have not been the fairy tale finish he deserved, but it’s not something that leaves a knot in his stomach either.

“To be given the opportunity to win a premiership in my last ever game is something I will be forever grateful to all my teammates for. There isn’t many fairytales in footy, but even just to be there, and have the opportunity to go out a winner is something I am thankful for,” Tomlinson said.

In fact, he described it as the proudest moment in his career. A massive statement considering all that he has achieved.

“One of the boys did a questionnaire for the presentation night just before the grand final. He asked me what my biggest fear was, and I answered my biggest fear was the team playing well, and losing the grand final. My partner asked me last night what my proudest moment was in footy, and it was that exact same moment,” he said.

“In a close game you can look back on moments and think that’s where we lost it, but nowhere in that game did I think that was where we lost it. Everyone was trying their absolute guts out. My chest was out as far as it could go when that siren went.”

It wasn’t like he limped to the line either. Tomlinson was one of Morningside’s best in the grand final, setting them up superbly from the back half by foot, as he has done so often.

The decision to call it a day wasn’t made at the spur of the moment. It was something Tomlinson had penciled in 12 months before.

“It was basically at the end of 2014. I was pretty grateful that I was able to play a couple of extra years for the Morningside Football Club by virtue of dropping out of the NEAFL. I thought I’m going to hang around and give it as best as I’ve got. The flipside of it was that with so many guys retiring, it probably helped the club for me to stay and I felt I could contribute,” he said.

Although it wasn’t the perfect ending to a career, there were no doubts in Tomlinson’s mind, and more importantly, no regrets.

“When we lost the grand final I thought, god, what a terrible way to go out, but it was never going to be an issue hanging them up. I had that luxury of being able to prepare all year, which not many guys get,” he said.

Looking back, you could hear the uncertainty in Tomlinson’s mind as he tried to nail down a single highlight across his career.

“It’s always the premierships. It is hard to choose one, but the ones where are you not expected to win, and you don’t prepare during the game to win are right up there,” he said.

“In 2010 we were down and out, and the fact that we came home and won, it was euphoric at the end. You hadn’t really thought about it until the final siren, so it had the surprise and elation. That was pretty special.”

His on field persona matched the person he is off it. He is constantly looking to get others ahead.

“I have always tried to help others play to their best. My old man used to say to me that you’re always pointing blokes into hole and into space. Without that though, the team will never reach it’s potential, and if that happens, everyone benefits,” Tomlinson said.

“If I’m going to help others be better, it is going to be better for me.”

That’s why that it should be no surprise that while his playing days might be over, Doc won’t be lost to Jack Esplen Oval.

“I’ll take a step back, but I’ll still be involved in the welfare side of things. I’ve started ‘Siders for Life,’ which is a way for everyone to know there is a support base there to be able to talk about anything,” he said.

“Whether it’s finding a place to live, filling out rental papers, enrolling in university, all the way to issues surrounding alcoholism and drug use, whatever they need help with, the support will be there.”

While the competitive hunger still burns, it’s now time to enjoy the simpler things in life away from a footy oval at 2:00pm every Saturday.

“I’ve played footy since I was 12, which is a lot later than some guys. That’s 21 years, so I’ve never really known anything else. I’m a bit daunted and there is a little bit of trepidation there, but I can now look forward to doing things with my partner and son,” Tomlinson said.

“It’s all the simple stuff that you never do because of footy, so you get a real appreciation for that. It’ll be nice to do different stuff.”

You might not see number 26 steadying the ship from the back pocket week in week out anymore, but something tells me Tomlinson won’t be lost to Queensland football forever.

Great innings, Doc.

By Andrew Wiles@andrewjwiles


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