FEARING for his safety, Matthew Lloyd wondered if he would be better off finishing the game on the bench.

The animosity between old rivals Essendon and Hawthorn – who begin their 2023 seasons on Sunday – had grown to such a point after Lloyd’s bump knocked out Brad Sewell in the round 22 clash in 2009.

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With a finals spot on the line and the Bombers trailing by 22 points at half-time, Lloyd came off the edge of the square and concussed Sewell with a bump that created mayhem in what proved to be the Essendon champion’s last game.

“We were down by 20-odd points at half-time, I was captain of the club. Sam Mitchell was killing us,” Lloyd recalled during the latest episode of Centurions

“I wanted to just try wake the team up because we weren’t going well. My intention wasn’t to iron Brad Sewell out, my intention was to just try and lay a big bone-crunching tackle or do something to try and get the team up and about.

“Obviously I did execute a hip and shoulder poorly, got Brad in the head. I knew the rules, if you hit someone in the head you’re done so I knew my career was over at that point.

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“But it was an intimidating second half to get through where they were coming at me from everywhere, under packs, they were dropping knees, throwing punches.”

In the crosshairs of the Hawks, Lloyd feared for his safety during a second half in which the Bombers kicked 11 goals to five.

With the anger showing no signs of subsiding, the champion goalkicker – who retired a month later after being offered a four-match suspension – wondered if he should finish the encounter on the bench.

“I knew that I had to live with that because of what I had done. My pride said to me, ‘Keep your head up, back into packs, fight, scrap, deal with what you deal with’,” Lloyd said.

“But I could sense the venom from Hawthorn supporters, starting to work their way towards the front rows and the abuse. I did have a moment (where I thought) ‘Should I finish this game off the field for my safety?’ But again I thought that would look cowardly, I’ve just got to deal with it so Alastair (Clarkson, then Hawks coach) did come at me after the game.

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“I had to get escorted to my car with security because a lot of people had worked their way into the MCG car park. It was mentally exhausting, I had my second child a week before that so there was a lot going on in my mind at that point.

“I retired a week later or so and it was like 10kg dropped off my back because I was going through so many emotions at that time.”

Back for a second season, Centurions catches up with the rockstars of footy’s past to unpack tales from the select group who’ve kicked 100 goals in a season.