BRENT Cowell's fondest football memories all came after he arrived at East Perth ahead of the 2001 WAFL season as he now looks to life after the Royals even if the boots haven't totally been packed away.
Cowell retired after his 150th WAFL match following East Perth's Round 8 loss to Swan Districts, but left behind him a strong legacy as one of the best and toughest midfielders in the game over the last decade where he played in two premierships, won a fairest and best and represented WA.
There's no doubt that Cowell found that the game continually changed and he felt it harder to keep up with the increased pace as the years went on, but right up until his final game he remained a prolific ball winner who could use the football well and set up his teammates.
"The game has definitely changed a lot. The pace of it has gone up and I don’t know if it's because I've gotten old, but footy seems to be more for younger guys now and it's not the same physical type of footy anymore," Cowell said.
"It's more about the wide open spaces where you can run and carry the footy now, but I tried to adapt to it as much as I could. I guess the pace thing got to me in the end though."
He does feel that it was the pace that brought him undone in the end, though, but he hasn’t stopped playing totally after having the odd kick while working up in Port Hedland and even signing up with South Bunbury.
His body and mind is certainly enjoying the break from the dedication he put into East Perth, though, and he might consider coaching somewhere down the track.
"I think the body definitely enjoys a bit of time off these days, but your football's not too serious when you're not at the elite level and I'm just trying to enjoy it again and see what happens. I've got no commitments at this stage and who knows what will happen next year," he said.
"I actually kicked seven back in under-15s one day and that was the highest amount I've kicked and it was good to do it again. I don’t kick many these days so it was good to kick seven for the Karratha Kats.
"I've always said that I'd like to coach one day at some level and maybe I'll take some time away from the game and that might give me the hunger to get into coaching. I'm sure one day I'll sit in the coaches' box and say my piece."
Cowell has no doubt that it was his father that was his hero growing up and still is to this day. He played and coached throughout country Victoria and for a brief time in Canberra, and if the 30-year-old gets into coaching it will be with his dad in mind.
"I still remember the days going to listen to him speak and even watching him play because he played until he was about 40," he said.
"He spent a lot of years at Bairnsdale, Lindenow, Eastlake in Canberra he even went up to and he was well regarded back in the Gippsland area. Going to watch him play and speak as a coach was definitely a highlight and something I'll remember forever."
Nobody could ever doubt the commitment and professionalism Cowell showed towards his football at East Perth. That brought him tremendous respect and helped him achieve a super playing career, but it also left his focus away from setting himself up off the field.
By the time he retired, Cowell was left pondering what to do with the rest of his life and he's currently doing some work up in the mines and is going to weigh up different options in the coming months to see what he wants to do, and where.
"Something I regret now is that I think I should have taken it a bit more seriously to think about life after football, but it was my No. 1 priority for so many years," Cowell said.
"I now know that footy's not going to be there forever and I really have to get myself sorted career-wise now. I've got a couple of things in the pipeline and things are definitely looking up in that respect."
Playing in the premierships of 2001 and 02 remain Cowell's highlights clearly, but there has been some experiences that you can't quite bank on that he looks back fondly on.
"Over the last couple of years I've had the opportunity to go over and play in Singapore and Malaysia. Me and Trav (Knights) have been over to play with the Malaysian Warriors and I've had the experience to play against sides in Bali, Singapore and Malaysia," he said.
"I even made an All-Asian side last year and given the opportunities to do things like that was awesome. Playing an exhibition game in London is something I also look back on fondly and playing on AFL grand final day with St Kilda reserves was another highlight even though we got beat by Essendon when they stacked their side after losing that prelim the week before against Carlton."
Cowell came through the TAC Cup ranks with the Gippsland Power and was drafted while 17 by St Kilda. He found it tough at first as the only 17-year-old on the Saints' list, but did find that he quickly found his feet and played some football and was unlucky not to play a game.
After two years, Cowell was moved on and lobbed on Geelong's rookie-list for the 2000 season before a groin injury ruined that year and he was out of the system by season's end.
"I had dislocated my shoulder that year and I was quite surprised to get drafted and looking back I probably wish I spend another year playing under-18s," he said.
"Getting delisted at 19 and then going to Geelong and finishing up my time in the AFL after three years and being 20 years of age was a bit tough. I would have liked to have done things a bit differently, but that's the way it panned out and I still had some good experiences at both clubs."
While Cowell has forgiven St Kilda coach Tim Watson for not giving him an AFL game despite being first emergency a number of times, his dad hasn’t.
"It's definitely a regret and I would love to have been able to play one game," Cowell said.
"In those three years I played in a grand final and won a best and fairest, but to come away not being able to say I played one AFL game was disappointing and that would have been a highlight. It wasn’t to be. I've forgiven Tim Watson, but my old man hasn’t and still has it in for him."