There are 102 players to have topped 300 games in the V/AFL, which for the purpose of this article, is pretty handy.
What it does is that it gives us plenty to work with as we narrow it down to the best 23 in their positions from that group. To further narrow it down, I have opted not to include those whose entire career was complete before the VFL morphed into the AFL in 1990.
As such, I’ve left players like Ted Whitten (321 games from 1951-70), Jack Dyer (312 games from 1931-49) and Gordon Coventry (306 games from 1920-1937) out of the team. Suffice to say, I never really saw full games of them playing and I don’t feel comfortable commenting on things I don’t know much about. Of course, that doesn’t stop most people, does it?
And given that stance on those who played exclusively before the VFL became the AFL, don’t even bother asking to include those who had 300+ SANFL or WAFL games. If they didn’t play AFL, they don’t qualify. Simple as that.
Speaking of simple, here are the criteria.
Must have played 300 games.
Must have played a portion of those 300 in the AFL era (1990-onwards).
Must play in position.
With a few more joining the 300 club in 2023, it is time to revise our team. This started as what seemed to be an easy task, or so I thought. However, it quickly became apparent that some great names were going to miss out. And of course, fans of those players will argue the point. I welcome that. It gets tougher every year.
This season, we’ve seen Todd Goldstein, Steele Sidebottom, and Trent Cotchin all go past 300 games. Where do they fit in this side? Do they get a look in, at all?
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the team and see who we can fit in and, just as importantly, who we can’t.
GAVIN WANGANEEN (300 GAMES 1991-2006)
STEPHEN SILVAGNI (312 GAMES 1985-2001)
ANDREW MCLEOD (340 GAMES 1995-2010)
Hard to argue against any of these three. Silvagni was named as fullback in the team of the century and is one of the more celebrated defenders of all time.
McLeod’s ability to switch up and move through the midfield gave him a string to his bow that many defenders simply did not have. Two Norm Smith Medals are difficult to argue against as well.
And Gavin Wanganeen won a Brownlow as a small defender with the Bombers before switching forward late in his career. If you’re not familiar with early Wanganeen, you’re really missing out. Some of his exploits in defence for the Bombers were ridiculously agile. Jump on youtube and check out some highlights – well worth your time.
LUKE HODGE (346 GAMES 2002-2019)
PAUL ROOS (356 GAMES 1982 -1998)
GLENN ARCHER (311 GAMES 1992-2007)
Very, very tough selections. I toyed with the idea of slotting Matthew Pavlich in at centre half-back, but instead went with Roos, given he spent his entire career in the role. He was a pillar of strength for both the Lions and Swans.
Luke Hodge won two Norm Smith Medals as a half-back flanker who could run through the middle, as well. Despite playing midfield in his younger days, he is best remembered for his exploits as a defender, and somehow managed to add to that legacy with a two-year stopover in Brisbane.
And then there is the Shinboner of the Century. Archer walked where angels fear to tread. Insanely courageous on the field, his inspirational play made him very difficult to overlook.
MICHAEL TUCK (426 GAMES 1972-1991)
ROBERT HARVEY (383 GAMES 1988-2008)
CRAIG BRADLEY (375 GAMES 1986-2002)
Yeah, Tucky squeezes in by having a couple of seasons at the tail end of his career in the AFL. But people tend to remember Tuck as the old bloke who kept on keeping on – he was so much more. He finished second in Hawthorn’s B&F an incredible seven times – that’s what happens when you play alongside Leigh Matthews, I guess. He has 39 finals to his name and the lazy seven flags, in four of which he was captain.
Rob Harvey was an aerobic animal and his two Brownlow Medals indicate he would be a walk-up start in any team of this nature. How could you leave him out? Had eight All-Australian selections over the journey and is the only man to collect three EJ Whitten Medals as the best player for Victoria in State of Origin games.
Craig Bradley was another who just refused to stop running. I can remember thinking at one point around the late 90s… “geez, Bradley will have to hang them up soon”. He did… in 2002. He has legend status in the Carlton Hall of Fame, but he also has three best and fairest awards at Port Adelaide before making the move into the then-VFL. Oh, and four Fos Williams Medals for South Australia in State of Origin are not too shabby, either.
ADAM GOODES (372 GAMES 1999-2015)
NICK RIEWOLDT (336 GAMES 2001-2017)
BRAD JOHNSON (364 GAMES 1994-2010)
You’d hate to match up on this half-forward line.
Adam Goodes is one of the most versatile players to ever play the game. Ruckman, onballer, forward… he was someone that could do it all. Too often, his onfield contributions have been overshadowed by other aspects of his career, but as a footballer, Goodes had few equals. I was rapt to see him enjoying festivities at the Swans’ premiership reunion last season – he deserves to be recognised as one of the greatest players of all time.
I loved watching Nick Riewoldt play footy. The work ethic, the “run til your opponent can’t run anymore” style and the fearlessness in the air… he might go down as St Kilda’s greatest ever when people look back over the passage of time. The number one ranked player of all time for marks, knocking Gary Dempsey into second place.
Brad Johnson was a wonderful forward, capable of shouldering the load when the Dogs needed him to. Also, quite a favourite of Mrs Mongrel, who loves the way his eyes get all squinty when he smiles. Six All-Australian selections and 558 goals over his career see Johnno occupy a half forward flank.
BRENT HARVEY (432 GAMES 1996-2016)
LANCE FRANKLIN (341 GAMES 2005- )
JASON AKERMANIS (325 GAMES 1995-2010)
How can you have anyone but Buddy at full forward? Made his way into the 300-game club with the last game of 2019 and added the 1000-goal milestone in 2022. Will one day be elevated to Legend Status in the AFL Hall of Fame – there has been no one bigger than Buddy in the modern game. No one.
The games record holder sits in the forward pocket, having averaged over a goal per game for 16 of his 21 AFL seasons. There is a pretty strong argument that Brent Harvey had a bit left in the tank when he was… errr… “moved on” by North, but with 432 games and five best and fairest awards at North Melbourne, I opted for him in the pocket over Eddie Betts due to Harvey doing more over a longer period.
Jason Akermanis was a joy to watch. Always balanced, always in control and always dangerous, he had a Brownlow Medal to his name, four All-Australian selections and two Brisbane Best and Fairest awards. Plus, he was a stone-cold killer when the pressure was on.
SIMON MADDEN (378 GAMES 1974-1992)
SCOTT PENDLEBURY (342 GAMES 2006- )
GARY ABLETT JR (357 GAMES 2002-2020)
When I was a kid, I hated Essendon. Yet strangely, I liked Simon Madden. There was a gracefulness about him and in terms of rucks, he was the only one I thought would take it up to Gary Dempsey and often emerge victorious. A great tap ruckman who could go forward and kick a bag. He is a Norm Smith Medallist, has a combined nine selections as an All-Australian and VFL team of the year member and is a four-time Essendon Best and Fairest. What a player.
Scott Pendlebury has built a brilliant career. Six All-Australian elections, a Norm Smith Medal, five Copeland trophies… Pendles cannot be far away from being hailed as the greatest Magpie of the modern era? maybe of all time when he finally hangs them up.
And then there’s Gaz. Gary Ablett Junior has a CV that blows others away. Two Brownlows, five MVP awards, eight All-Australian selections, six best and fairest awards across two clubs and three coaches association player of the year awards. Possibly the greatest player of the modern era.
COREY ENRIGHT (332 GAMES 2001-2016)
SIMON BLACK (332 GAMES 1998-2013)
JOEL SELWOOD (355 GAMES 2007-2022)
PATRICK DANGERFIELD (303 GAMES 2008- )
MATTHEW PAVLICH (353 GAMES 2000-2016)
Yes, I am cheating. I have five players on the bench and I am not making one the sub… because subs are bloody stupid – shoot me.
Corey Enright was a star in a star-studded Geelong team. Six AA selections and two Geelong best and fairest awards in premiership years, Enright was the consummate defender for Geelong through their glory years and beyond.
Simon Black is at times overshadowed by the brilliance of Michael Voss as the leader of the Lions, but the consistency of this Brownlow Medallist cannot be ignored. A Brownlow, a Norm Smith and the Lions’ best and fairest awards, Black went onto captain the side following the triumphs of the early 2000s.
Joel Selwood is maybe my favourite player of the last 20 years – hard, tough, courageous… a true leader, and I didn’t slot him into the starting 18. He has six AA selections and three Geelong Best and Fairest awards to go with four AFLPA most courageous player awards. He cannot be left out of this team and us unlucky not to be my starting centreman.
And finally, Matthew Pavlich… he was in contention for roles at centre half-back (Roos), centre half-forward (Riewoldt), the half-forward flanks (Johnson and Goodes) and the forward pockets (Harvey and Akermanis) so it was only fair that he took up a spot on the bench. Hell, he was good enough to occupy any one of those roles. A six-time All-Australian, Pav has probably now been surpassed as Fremantle’s greatest player, but his contribution to the Dockers has been enormous, and his versatility holds him in good stead here.
So, who missed out?
There are some pretty decent names not to make the team – I mean, you don’t get to 300 AFL games by being ordinary. There has to be something a little special about you.
I’m sure I’ll hear about this from Tiger fans, but anyone who’s read my stuff will be aware that I have nothing but respect for the former Richmond captain. It came down to him and Simon Black on the bench. The Norm Smith kept Black just ahead if him.
Had to displace Simon Madden to take the number one ruck spot, and you could argue that as the all-time leader in hit outs, he should. But Madden’s work up forward is too good to ignore. He is +420 goals on Goldy. That seals it for me.
Could really only take a wing spot, and I am.nit sure his career is anywhere near as good as the two blokes in those roles currently. Had a great 2018, but not at the level of Tuck or Bradley for the rest.
DUSTIN FLETCHER – I think I’ll probably be assaulted in the street by an Essendon fan over this one. Fletch was incredibly unlucky to come up against Silvagni at his preferred position. I did think about a back pocket role, but displacing either of Wanganeen or McLeod, both of whom actually played the role, seemed unfair.
JIMMY BARTEL – Bartel made way for his teammate Joel Selwood in 2022. I reckon Cats fans could go either way on this one. Deceptively good overhead, reliable in big moments, and able to lift his team when required (the number of times he did that versus my Hawks was infuriating)
SAM MITCHELL – As much as it pained me to do it, I bumped Mitchell out of the starting 22 (or 23) to add Patrick Dangerfield. Mitchell was a great warrior for the Hawks, but when I put him beside Danger, I thought the Cat just had an edge. Now, I feel dirty
KADE SIMPSON – Just no way he displaces anyone in that back six. Put him shoulder to shoulder with any of the defenders selected and I pick the guy standing next to him. Wonderful club servant, but not in the same league as those blokes.
BRENDON GODDARD – One of the best in the game for a couple of seasons. Couldn’t displace a defender to slot him in.
DREW PETRIE – Plenty of games but not in the mix with the blokes selected
EDDIE BETTS – Tough one. I went with Brent Harvey in the forward pocket over Eddie. I feel that Harvey offered more running through the midfield. Really stiff to miss out.
HEATH SHAW – Similar to others, so much quality in defence.
JARRAD MCVEIGH – See above.
TRAV BOAK – Continues to excel and could really give things a shake if a couple of things fall into place for him. Some big finals games and the possibility of a Norm Smith… it’d be hard to deny him with those added to his CV.
JUDE BOLTON – Just up against it in terms of others vying for a position.
DAVID MUNDY – Great clubman for the Dockers and just kept on going, but not up there with the blokes named
SCOTT WEST – Very stiff to miss out and you wonder how much one Brownlow would have made to his perception. Seven B&F awards – the bloke was a consistent star for the Dogs, but would you take him over Rob Harvey? How about Black, Pendlebury or Ablett? I wouldn’t.
SHAUN BURGOYNE – The second 400-gamer not to make the cut. Jack of all trades and as a result, cannot push past those who specialised
PAUL SALMON – Fantastic two-phase career with the Bombers and Hawks just pipped at the post by his old mate, Simon Madden for the number one ruck spot. The Bombers really did have it all in the 80s.
SHANNON HURN – An incredible defender who was as solid as a rock in the Eagles’ 2018 triumph. Should have been AA captain that season
STEWART LOEWE – Wonderful key position player for the Saints who carried a huge load both when the team had Plugger and then without him. Led the league in average marks six times, was second twice and third on four occasions. So, top three in twelve of his 17-year career. That’s outstanding. Main competition came from the bloke who would take more grabs than anyone in the history of the game, however.
CHRIS GRANT – Dual positions were a great thing but also a hindrance to him here. Great centre half forward and excellent centre half back, but when you consider Roos playing the majority of his career at half back and Riewoldt playing the entirety of his career as a centre half forward, they both kind of pushed Grant out of the team.
MARK RICCIUTO – One of my favourite players to watch, but I couldn’t squeeze him in over the other mids listed
TIM WATSON – A tough one. So influential early in his career and then came back to have an influence all over again.
DOUG HAWKINS – Owned the wing at the Western Oval but I couldn’t squeeze him in over Tuck and Bradley given their finals credentials
MICHAEL O’LOUGHLIN – Almost snuck in, given the lower number of mid-size forwards that go onto play 300.
MICK MARTYN – Opposition too strong at full back position.
ROHAN SMITH – Too many very good defenders.
KANE CORNES – I love a good tagger, and Cornes was an excellent one, but opted to go for blokes who win the footy over those who prevent them from doing so.
Would have to displace Buddy. Nup… not gonna happen.
See Jack Riewoldt.
Of course, there are others, and I am sure you guys will let me know, but this is my crack at the All-300 Game AFL Team. Not a bad side, if I may say so myself.
So, how did we go, team by team?
GEELONG – 4
HAWTHORN – 3
BRISBANE – 3
SYDNEY – 3
ESSENDON – 2
CARLTON – 2
NORTH MELBOURNE – 2
ST KILDA – 2
WESTERN BULLDOGS – 2
PORT ADELAIDE – 1
ADELAIDE – 1
FITZROY – 1
COLLINGWOOD – 1
GOLD COAST – 1
FREMANTLE – 1
WEST COAST – 0
RICHMOND – 0
GWS – 0
MELBOURNE – 0
And finally, there are a few players that might join the 300-club over the next 12 months or so.
Daniel Rich is on 275
Luke Breust is on 272
Jack Ziebell is on 272
Dustin Martin is on 282
Luke Parker is on 272
See any of them cracking this team? Nah, me neither.
Just kidding – Dusty will push someone out… but who???
Aker? Danger, like he pushed him out of the contest in the 2020 Grand Final? Black? Harvey?
Someone’s in trouble…
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