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Farewell to Geelong's changeling

Cameron Ling says the Cats won't lack for a leader in his place.

Cameron Ling says the Cats won't lack for a leader in his place.

CAMERON Ling scratches his mane of red hair and pauses for a moment when asked which Cat will replace him as captain.

The 30-year-old retired yesterday, saying after the Cats clinched their third premiership in five seasons, he had ''pushed everything I possibly could out of my body''.

With Geelong's name not yet engraved on the premiership cup, the club has begun the search for next season's leader on the field.

Most expect Joel Selwood to inherit the mantle, but Ling diplomatically would not pick a former teammate for the job yesterday.

''I think it's a big group ? I think that's been the beauty of the club over the past six or seven years,'' the 246-game veteran said. ''There's such a big group of leaders who really contribute.''

Ling said his role was supported by Matthew Scarlett, Darren Milburn, fellow retiree Cameron Mooney, Brad Ottens, Andrew Mackie and Matthew Stokes, describing them as ''selfless, quality guys'', who helped nudge the team in the right direction.

''Whoever ends up getting the title of captain, they're going to get a lot of support, and they're not going to have to change much about the way they go about things.''

Coach Chris Scott was also not giving anything away, only agreeing with Ling that there were ''lots of options''.

''But we can't try to replace Cameron like-for-like because there is not another Ling,'' he said. ''We have just got to make sure that we keep developing good people.''

Ling's leadership tenure began in January last year, after dual premiership captain Tom Harley retired.

Club chief executive Brian Cook said Geelong's onfield leadership group and coaches would meet soon to discuss candidates, with a recommendation put to the board in February.

Ling, who was born and bred in Geelong, said he was fortunate to play with the Cats. He said he had played alongside some of the greatest players to play the game, singling out Scarlett, Corey Enright, Steve Johnson and Joel Selwood.

''I shouldn't have started naming names. They are going to be recognised as legends, just absolute greats of the game.

''We have worked our backsides off, we have gone through some hell preseason sessions together, we have gone through some tough times. And we have managed to come out of it staying really strong together as a group and as really good mates. That's the thing I'm going to miss most about this footy club, the boys.''

Ling said retirement had been at the back of his mind all year. But it wasn't until last Sunday, while sharing a beer with Chris Scott in a quiet pub in Newtown, that he was ''100 per cent certain that I am finished''.

''I always said that I wanted to win one premiership, that's all that would have made me happy. I could have retired happy then.

''But the personality of us guys, and myself in particular, was as soon as I had won one, I just wanted to win another.

''I didn't know if winning on Saturday would make me want to do it again, but ? I had that quiet moment on Sunday when all the boys were around and just being able to sit with Scotty. I was pretty happy, pretty content.''

Scott said he believed Ling could have played another season, but he respects his wishes.

Ling rated Scott's former Brisbane teammate, Simon Black, as being one of his toughest opponents.

''I always loved playing on Simon Black. He's just a ripping bloke, such a nice guy.

''On the field he was just hard and tough and wanted to win, a ruthless competitor. We really worked each other over. [But] then he could always finish and shake hands at the end of the day, and even catch up afterwards. I just really loved playing on Blackie.''

Ling said he would like to stay involved with football, but would take a break from the game for the next 12 months.

When asked if he would join his predecessor Harley in the media, Ling said: ''I wouldn't mind just going surfing for a bit and hanging out with some family and friends.

''My sister is about to have a baby in half an hour so I'm pretty pumped about that as well. It's pretty exciting, so I'm going to rush off to the hospital to see her.

''I don't want to do a hell of a lot between now and Christmas. I do want that time to just freshen up and clear my head a little bit, and take a deep breath and work out what I want to do.''

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