West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui put on a star display as the Eagles came from 22 points down to beat Geelong by nine points in Perth on Saturday night.
My last few articles have concentrated on the players likely to disappear from the AFL top 100 goal-scorers list in 2019, so now my focus is the AFL top 100 game players.
The first entry into the series is the 203-centimetre West Coast Eagles ruckman Dean Cox, who finished his career in 2014 after 290 games. He currently sits in equal 98th position of the AFL’s all-time top 100 game players with Essendon legend Bill Hutchinson and current-day Swans champion Lance Franklin. Franklin will move ahead of Cox and Hutchinson when he plays his first game in 2019.
If Greater Western Sydney’s Heath Shaw plays nine games for the season and Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury play 14 games, they will raise the bar for entry to the top 100 club to 291 games, meaning Hutchinson, 77 years after his first game, and Dean Cox, 18 years after his first game, will miss out.
Cox is still the greatest game player at the Eagles and will remain so until at least the end of the 2020 season, when the only Eagles player currently in the club’s all-time top 20 for games played, Shannon Hurn could equal him in 42 games – assuming an exceptional injury-free run and good form.
Cox’s original team was the Dampier Sharks, Dampier being a small port town in north-west Western Australia, and he moved to WAFL club East Perth colts in 1999 after being recommended to the team by his uncle, George Michalczyk, one of three brothers to play for East Perth.
Cox was already under notice by the Eagles, who rookie listed him in 2000, but he really came of age after winning the Simpson Medal for best afield in the 2000 WAFL grand final, won by East Perth.
He debuted for the Eagles in Round 2 of 2001 and played 17 games, as he did in his final season in 2014. Only once during his 14-year career at the club did he play fewer than 17 matches, a tribute to his durability.
An All Australian representative on six occasions, including in four consecutive years, Cox played in the West Coast Eagles 2006 premiership side. He won the club’s best and fairest in 2008 and finished in the top three on four other occasions. He was the best clubman in 2006 and won best on ground, the Ross Glendinning Award, in the Western Australia derby in 2011.
Cox was no slouch as a goal-kicking ruckman either. In three of his 14 seasons at West Coast he kicked 20 goals or more for a grand total of 169 majors. Despite the influx of three of the club’s greatest goal kickers in the past few years, he still holds down 12th position among the West Coast Eagles all-time top 100 goal kickers.
So being No.1 on the games played list and No.12 on the goals scored list, Dean Cox will feature prominently at the Eagles top 100 functions for many decades. In fact his daughter Charlotte may need to resign herself to representing dad’s achievements when the time comes – perhaps they can arrange to hold the annual parties at the seafood restaurant Beluga in Claremont, owned by Cox and former teammate Andrew Embley!