WE want the fairy tale finish for our sporting heroes. Farewelling a true long-time servant of any game is often an emotional rollercoaster.
We want to see a great exit on their terms, ideally on an epic title-winning note.
But Hollywood-style finishes are rare.
Melbourne Storm’s Billy Slater, who many deem the NRL’s greatest modern fullback, will vie to do just this on Sunday after tumultuous preparations and questioning on his eligibility.
Grand finals can do that.
When there is so much at stake, intensity in scrutiny is heightened. Every move, every possibility is under acute pressure.
NRL commentators and fans have been divided after Slater was cleared in a marathon tribunal hearing of a shoulder charge from the preliminary final that threatened to rob his fairy tale finish.
- READ MORE: Billy Slater free to play in NRL grand final
The judiciary chairman instructed the three-man panel – as they should – to reach their verdict “completely free of emotion or sympathy” and to not factor in the next game would be the grand final.
There is uproar from rival clubs, commentators and fans fearing this could set a dangerous precedent for such a bump. But grand finals can do that.
Whether the fall-out will mar Slater’s decorated career ending is up to him – how he prepares and plays for a blockbuster finale at Stadium Australia.
Slater, aged 35, declared in early August he would retire while his mind and body could keep with the game. Regardless of the result on Sunday night, Slater will pack up his boots on his terms.
Fairy tales are harder to pull off.
One year ago, the greatest sprinter of all time Usain Bolt ended his final solo 100-metre sprint not as the world champion. The Jamaican superstar collected bronze, the first in his international career, at the IAAF world championships in London.
The good guy lost to a crowd-perceived villain, reformed drug cheat Justin Gatlin.
Then, a week later he tore his hamstring and hobbled across the line in the anchor leg of the 4x100m final in what was the final race of his career.
Bolt the Hero, it seemed, really was human.
For Ballarat’s Brad Sewell, a potential storybook ending was out of his grasp in a tough final chapter to his AFL career.
The Newlyn product was rookied to Hawthorn in 2001 from North Ballarat Rebels and made his AFL debut in round three, 2004.
A dual Hawthorn premiership player, Peter Crimms medallist as the Hawks’ best in 2007 and two-time Australian International Rules player, Sewell was dropped from the Hawks’ preliminary final team in 2014 – one week after clocking up his 200th AFL game.
- READ MORE:Game over for Brad Sewell
In an injury-riddled year, Sewell was named an emergency, watching from the sidelines, as the Hawks won the premiership against Sydney, announcing his retirement at the club best and fairest within the fortnight.
Agree or disagree with the ruling on Slater, he has a rare chance to end his career in a way many athletes dream about.
Sport can be cruel, but it can also serve up moments better than anything you will find in a movie.
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