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Modest Lappin given fitting farewell

NIGEL LAPPIN was noted for displaying a quiet and thoughtful dignity throughout his 279 games as a Brisbane Lion. And on Saturday night he farewelled the club in exactly the same way.

Lappin officially said goodbye to the Lions at the 2008 Club Champion dinner on Saturday night, having recently turned down an invitation from new coach Michael Voss to reconsider retirement.

The Lions and their fans have plenty to thank Lappin for, after his skillful and courageous contributions to the hat-trick of premierships between 2001 and 2003.

But true to his modest personality, Lappin spent much of his speech thanking those who had helped him in his time at the club – from family, to outgoing coach Leigh Matthews, former teammates, assistant coaches, a wide range of support staff and the players who will carry forward the Lions’ fortunes in 2009 and beyond.

“There are a lot of great people involved in footy clubs. Often, not a lot gets said about those people but they are so important,” Lappin said.

“To my teammates, you’ve all given me something and shared with me a lot of your experiences. I will take away a piece of you guys and hopefully you guys do the same with me.

“You’ve been a great support and not only have I loved playing with you but loved watching you play footy as well – there are some great footballers among you.

“I wish all the boys all the best, I know you’ll do well next year.”

In just a few minutes on stage, Lappin managed to encapsulate many of the important milestones of his life and career.

Notable mentions included meeting his wife Claire as teenagers, getting drafted by the-then Bears as a 17-year-old (leaving behind anxious parents in Chiltern), obtaining his driver’s license and opening a bank account for the first time, become a father to four young daughters and finding on-field success with the Lions after some tough early years.

After 15 seasons at the club, the 32-year-old gave the impression he had done much of his growing up at the Gabba.

“I came here as a skinny 17-year-old kid with a mullet. I think Robert Walls called me a bushie and I pretty much was,” Lappin said.

“The mullet has come back a few times but I’m not a shy kid any more. I’ve always believed in my ability and I’ve had a great time at the footy club.

“I’ve been really proud to have been a part of the success of the Brisbane Lions and make some sort of contribution to that.”

Lappin’s contribution was not missed by any of the other speakers on the night, with Merrett-Murray medalist Jonathan Brown summing up the high regard in which he will always be held.

“Nige has been a great mate – I tried to talk him out of retirement but obviously I couldn’t quite get him over the line,” Brown said.

“I still remember the 2003 finals series where he got cleaned up and broke his ribs. I’ll never forget the fitness test he did the night before the grand final at the Albert Oval, where I think Aaron Shattock had to tackle him and run through him a few times and test out his ribcage.

“One of the things people forget was that Nige was actually one of our best players on the day with busted ribs and a punctured lung.”