Time and again, Perth Glory skipper Jacob Burns witnessed players get the dreaded tap on the shoulder telling them their career was up.
For some it was injury that brought about their downfall. For others, it was poor form or old age.
Burns, arguably the most competitive player in the A-League, didn’t want to go out like that.
So after consulting close family and friends over the past month, Burns came to the tough conclusion that it was time to retire.
That decision didn’t come easily for Burns, who only last month expressed his desire to play on.
But the 35-year-old wasn’t interested in becoming a part-time player. It was all or nothing, and Burns wasn’t sure whether he could maintain his high standards for another year.
The constant travelling and time spent away from his young family also took its toll.
Saturday night’s match against Central Coast will be Burns’ final home game, before he rounds out his illustrious 20-year career away to Sydney next week.
Burns, who played for Leeds in the English Premier League and also featured 12 times for the Socceroos, said he was happy to be able to bow out on his terms.
“A lot of players are forced to finish through injury or other things,” an emotional Burns said as his teammates watched on from the back of the room.
“But for me to finish at the top was very important to me.
“The past five years leading this club has been an honour. Something that I’ve cherished.
“To get paid to do something you love – what more could you ask for.”
Burns, who is keen to stay at Glory in either a coaching or administrative capacity, hasn’t been far from the headlines this season.
The veteran midfielder was part of the player revolt that resulted in the mid-season sacking of coach Alistair Edwards.
And rumours of a training pitch bust-up between Burns and Ryan Edwards fuelled talk of player unrest.
Glory’s 10-game winless run that saw them sink to last spot on the table also cast a dark shadow over the club.
But throughout it all, Burns never lost his competitive spark.
His fighting spirit often got him into trouble with the referees, and he remained ultra competitive right to the end – even at training.
“I think I got kicked more times by Jacob than anybody in my whole career,” interim coach Kenny Lowe said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, Central Coast suffered a mid-air scare on Friday when their flight from Sydney to Perth for this weekend’s game was forced to make an emergency landing in Adelaide.
The squad was among 266 passengers aboard the Qantas flight which was forced to land early when a warning light indicated there was smoke in the cargo hold.