Cameron Ling bowed out of football the way every player dreams of, as a premiership captain for the team he supported his whole life.
Not blessed with immense talent or quick speed, Ling got the absolute most out of a career that spanned over a decade and 246 games. An unfashionable footballer, he was universally respected and loved by fans and peers alike due to his character, passion and all-round good bloke nature.
Drafted to his beloved Geelong as a full-forward in 1999, no one would have ever foreseen the career that unfolded. In just his second ever AFL match, the Cats hierarchy knew they hadn't found the club's next power forward when a fresh-faced Ling somehow managed to fail to score when having a shot from inside the goalsquare.
He moved to the midfield where despite not being quick off the mark, he was always able to find plenty of the ball. But it wasn't until he was given a 'tagging' role that the real Ling was born. He quickly became the game's premier negator with his incredible tank ensuring he could keep up with the competition's best.
Commanding cult-figure status at Geelong with his long red hair and love for the blue and white hoops, Ling was anointed mayor for the day following the Cats' drought-breaking premiership in 2007.
Geelong repeated the dose in 2009, but Ling's career looked all but over when in his first season as captain he looked old and slow in the 2010 finals series when the Cats bowed out in the preliminary final.
Everyone wrote him – and the Cats – off, but he responded in the perfect way by leading his side to their third premiership in five years. He played an enormous part in the finals series too with superb shutdown roles on Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell (19 touches) in the qualifying final and Brownlow Medallist Dane Swan (20) in the Grand Final.
His leadership qualities are up there with the greats and it is fitting that he goes out on his terms. At 30-years-old, Ling would be entitled to go on another season, but when you've just kicked the final goal in your side's Grand Final triumph over Collingwood, there is no better way to bow out.
He finishes up as a three-time premiership player, an All Australian (2007), a best and fairest winner (2004) and one of Geelong's most loved players in their history.
Ling's absence will be greatly missed by players, fans and everyone else involved in the game, except for opposition midfielders, who are sure to be breathing a collective sigh of relief now that they don't have the 'pink pig' following their every step on matchday.