With his knee on ice and his mind contemplating a season-ending injury, it was a tick over six weeks ago ageless Sydney midfielder Jude Bolton wondered if this was the way it would end.
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Grimacing with pain in a fashion rarely sighted from Bolton, the 32-year-old sensed he would fall short of the 300-game AFL milestone but more importantly would miss the Swans' tilt at the premiership.
Both thoughts were incorrect.
"I know sitting on the sidelines against Carlton, I thought it was probably all over at that stage," Bolton said today as he prepares for Friday night's preliminary final against Collingwood, his 300th AFL match.
"I thought I'd done my knee.
"But you have to wait for the scans and I was lucky enough to dodge an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury."
Bolton would miss only three matches, one less than coach John Longmire had tipped.
"He's like that. Whether it be on the field or in the hyperbaric chamber - hard at it, dedicated and no-nonsense," Longmire said.
"You learn pretty quickly to put your head over the footy - the players I grew up idolising, that's the way they played footy."
The veteran has done more than just that in a career stretching back to when he was selected with pick No.9 in the 1998 draft.
There's his durability - at ANZ Stadium he'll become the third fastest person to tally 300 AFL games, behind only co-captain Adam Goodes and Adelaide legend Mark Ricciuto.
And since his debut in round 12, 1999 Bolton has missed only eight games.
His ability to pressure the opposition - Bolton is the leading tackler in AFL/VFL history.
And his selfless nature.
"I said to Johnny Longmire, I don't really care about the milestone as such. I'd rather just make sure I win and play 301 as soon as possible," Bolton said.
At Tuesday's press conference, where he was propped up in front of a large media contingent, teammates and club officials, Bolton was again confronted with the end.
"It's a bit weird sitting here now, it feels like retirement," he laughed.
Young guns Kieren Jack and Josh Kennedy have eased the "bash and crash" load on Bolton - he now spends less time in the midfield at the bottom of packs.
Now in his 14th season, questions about retirement are to be expected, but they're something Bolton doesn't have time for right now.
"We'll deal with that at the end of the season," he said."We've got more important things to deal with."
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