There are 91 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 22 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.
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 (then why do you run a footy site, Mongrel? Touche’, arseholes…)
So, 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.
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 full back 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, has 39 finals to his name and the lazy seven flags, 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’m really hopeful he opts to come to the 2021 Hall of Fame induction – he deserves a night to recognise him 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 (300 GAMES 2005- )
JASON AKERMANIS (325 GAMES 1995-2010)
How can you have anyone but Buddy at full forward? Sneaks into the 300-game club with the last game of 2019 and will hopefully add to his legacy as we tick into the 2021 season. With 944 goals to his name, the 1000-goal mark may be slipping from his reach a little, but that does not impact how good Franklin has been for so long.
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 (316 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 often and 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 All-Australian and VFL team of the year member and is a four-time Essendon Best and Fairest. What a player.
And two more recent additions round out the onballers.
Scott Pendlebury has built a brilliant career. Six All-Australian elections, a Norm Smith Medal, five Copeland trophies… is Pendles one more big year away from being hailed as the greatest Magpie of the modern era?
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 a 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)
JIMMY BARTEL (305 GAMES 2002-2016)
SAM MITCHELL (329 GAMES 2002-2016)
MATTHEW PAVLICH (353 GAMES 2000-2016)
Yes, I am cheating. I have five players on the bench – 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.
I have slotted Jimmy Bartel into the mix due to his ability to play anywhere and basically, do anything. 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) see him beat out a few other worthy contenders for a role in the team, including one it pains me to leave out.
I have a friend that makes the case that Sam Mitchell was the best player for Hawthorn over the period they experienced their most brilliant run. And it is hard to argue against. Mitchell was awarded the Brownlow Medal in the wake of the Jobe Watson/Essendon fiasco and won five best and fairest awards with the Hawks in a star-studded team.
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.
DUSTIN FLETCHER – And 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.
JOEL SELWOOD – I am sorry. I feel dirty. He is maybe my favourite player of the last 20 years – hard, tough, courageous… a true leader, and I didn’t slot him in. He has six AA selections and three Geelong best and fairest awards to go with four AFLPA most courageous player awards. He was locked in a battle for the a place in the side with Scott Pendlebury and I opted for the Collingwood captain. I’ll go and have a scrub now…
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.
JUDE BOLTON – Just up against it in terms of others vying for a position.
DAVID MUNDY – Great clubman for the Dockers, 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.
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.
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 was 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.
MICHAEL O’LOUGHLIN – Almost snuck in, given the lower amount 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.
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?
HAWTHORN – 4
BRISBANE – 3
SYDNEY – 3
GEELONG – 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
WEST COAST – 1
FREMANTLE – 1
RICHMOND – 0
GWS – 0
MELBOURNE – 0
And finally, there are a few players that might join the 300-club this season.
Nathan Jones sits at 294 games
Shannon Hurn is at 286 games
Marc Murphy is at 285 games
Travis Boak and Jack Riewoldt are both on 283 games
And Tom Hawkins in on 277.
See any of them cracking this team? Nah, me neither.
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