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Josh Gibson, a key member of Hawthorn's premiership dynasty, announces retirement

When it comes to remembering the Hawthorn dynasty that powered to three premierships in as many years, Josh Gibson may not be one of the first names recalled. Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Lance Franklin, before he decamped for the Swans, Jarryd Roughead and Jordan Lewis would generally find themselves at the top of the list.
However, consider this. Through the Hawks' 13 premierships, there have been three men who have claimed multiple Peter Crimmins Medals in premiership years. They are Leigh Matthews, in 1971, 1976 and 1978 (joint winner with Peter Knights in the latter), goal-kicking great Jason Dunstall, in 1988 and 1989, and Gibson, in 2013 and 2015.
To win a best and fairest in a premiership year is considered one of the AFL's finest achievements, for it has, obviously, come in a strong team, more often than not boasting champions. To do it twice highlights a level not just of greatness but of consistency – a sometimes elusive trait.
Gibson, 33, confirmed on Tuesday that his 12-year journey, which began at East Burwood as a junior, continued through the Eastern Ranges and Port Melbourne in the VFL before heading to AFL level with North Melbourne from 2006 until the end of 2009 (65 games), was over. It will be as a Hawk that he will best be remembered, as an athletic, sometimes dynamic, 189-centimetre, 93-kilogram defender who was able to play "tall" on bigger opponents such as Nick Riewoldt and Jonathan Brown.
He also mastered the art of sagging off and helping teammates in the third-man role, becoming proficient in the art of spoiling.
There will not be a farewell – and 226th – game, for the groin issues he has managed through his career have finally had the better of him. Gibson, though, was never about himself. 
"I have had a great career and a lot of highlights in that time. One send-off game isn't the be-all and end-all," he said, tears streaming on Tuesday.
It was the third time there had been tears on the day, for he had cried when letting the leadership know of his decision in the morning and later when the full playing list was informed.
This time it was tears of sadness, of what he was leaving behind, unlike the tears he shed after the 2013 premiership which he declared "was the best day of my life".
Gibson's retirement continues two years of farewells at Waverley, for Mitchell left for West Coast this year, and announced his retirement last week, while Lewis is now at Melbourne. Luke Hodge, the general through the Hawks' grand era, has two matches left in his career. Gibson played in the opening 12 matches this season but hasn't been seen since.
The Hawks ceded two draft picks for Gibson in 2009, sending their second (pick 25) and third-round (pick 41) selections to North Melbourne, with the Roos' fifth-round selection (pick 69) going to the Hawks. That pick 69 would morph into Taylor Duryea, while the Roos used their picks on Aaron Black and Ayden Kennedy.
Gibson thanked Alastair Clarkson for taking a "punt" on him. Clarkson, however, knew he was signing a "ferocious competitor", having seen what Gibson was capable of when manning Franklin.
"Sometimes it takes a long time for players to realise they have it in them to compete at that level. Sometimes they just need the belief and self-confidence," Clarkson said.
"I had seen enough of 'Gib' at North. Strangely enough, his record on 'Bud' when we played against North in those years was really, really strong. I just liked the fact that he liked to take on big challenges despite the fact that he was six feet two and played against bigger opponents. You can only do that if you if you are a really ferocious competitor. He has been a real warrior for us for a long, long period of time."
Gibson and Franklin would become premiership teammates and best mates. Since Franklin's departure for Sydney, their battles have been must-watch viewing.
"The fact that he has been so durable and played so much footy and no one ever really knew about them, except himself and our club, and perhaps North, says a lot of about the passion and spirit with which he played the game," Clarkson said.
Gibson recalled making an inauspicious start with his second club, having had Barry Hall boot five goals on him in a pre-season clash. But that would be quickly forgotten, in part because Gibson was also an elite trainer.
"To be a contributor in '13, '14 and '15 when we won flags is enormous and there are a lot of guys that played in those games. He was ranked by our club as best and fairest in two of those three premiership years – it says a little bit about him," Clarkson said.
Gibson said it was "all about playing in premierships", that when you came to Hawthorn that is the "carrot they dangle in your face".
"We got to 2012 and lost [the grand final]. I was really worried whether we were going to get there again. Some guys had won one in '08 – are the guys going to go to the well again?" he said.
"I just wanted to make sure that I could do everything I could so if we had that opportunity, the result turned our way."
Gibson, whose father hails from Barbados, has also made an impression with his fashion and hairstyle through the years, at one stage having an afro and later a Mr T mohawk.
"I didn't rate it much," Clarkson said, sparking laughter in a room full of Gibson's teammates, coaches and club administration.
What is for certain is that Gibson enjoyed a maximum rating on the field.
HOW JOSH GIBSON SPOILED THE PARTY
           2011-17 (H&A)   Total   Rank
Spoils:                             995     2nd
Intercept Marks:              217    15th
Intercept Possessions:   824     7th
Disposals (Def 50):         969      5th
* Only Alex Rance has had more spoils over that time.
* Stats: Champion Data


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