Yesterday in Atlanta, New England Patriot Tom Brady further stamped himself as American football’s greatest player.
At 41 years and 184 days he became the oldest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl championship ring, the first to play in nine Super Bowls, and the first to win six.
That’s on top of four Super Bowl MVP awards, another record, and three NFL MVP awards.
There are many other career individual records as long as your arm, sufficient to say he’s one helluva footballer who is likely to go around next season as well for his 21st season with the Patriots.
So are there any Australian footballers in that Brady age bracket-longevity category?
Rugby league has Billy Wilson, rugby Tony Miller, soccer Mark Schwarzer, and the VFL/AFL’s Dustin Fletcher to give Brady a run for his money.
Champion Socceroos goal-keeper Schwarzer called halt to his stellar career of a record 109 international caps, at 40 years and 336 days.
That’s just pipping Tim Cahill’s 108 caps who played his last international at 38 years and 349 days, as the Socceroos top goal-scorer on 50.
Schwarzer’s career outside of internationals covered 625 games from 1990 to 2016, while Cahill’s 599 were between 1998 and 2018 – both long stints.
Billy Wilson was a rugby league prop who had three different contracts with the St George Dragons totally 171 games, but seven of those years were as an integral member of the club’s record 11 successive premierships.
He finished his club career with the North Sydney Bears over five seasons from 1963 to 1967 for 85 games, but his claim to fame was becoming the Kangaroos oldest captain at 36 years and 23 days against the Kiwis in 1963 when Arthur Summons was injured.
He played on for the Bears for four more seasons, and that made Billy Wilson 40 when he called it a day.
The end result was even older with rugby’s Tony Miller, who played every position in the Wallaby pack, bar hooker, among the 41 caps between 1952 when he debuted against Fiji, and his last in 1967 against the All Blacks, during his then record 41 caps.
‘Slaggy’ retired from international rugby at 38 years and 113 days – which is still the oldest Wallaby record, and not likely to be broken.
But he was still going strong for Manly in the Shute Shield when he was 46.
There was one memorable interview I had with him in the mid-70s after a club semi-final against Eastern Suburbs at TG Millner Field.
He was up against a mighty strong young prop Steve Finnane for the first time who was half his age, and not backward in proving his physical point on the paddock.
I walked into the Manly shed after the game, and there was ‘Slaggy’ sitting in the corner with deep bruises all over his chest and back, two black eyes, and a puffy face – exclusively Finnane’s handiwork.
“How did you find Finnane, Slaggy?” I asked him.
“Shows promise,” was his reply through swollen lips.
That was Tony Miller to a tee, one of the all-time great rugby men.
I’ve left the VFL/AFL until last as there are two ways of selecting their contender.
Technically, Vic Cumberland is the oldest to play VFL at 43 with St Kilda, but he was a bit of a nomad club-wise.
He played just 126 games for the club in 1903, 1904, 1907, and 1908 before rejoining in 1912 to 1915 when he enlisted to fight in World War 1 in France, returning to Australia in 1919, and playing one more season with the Saints in 1920.
Essendon’s Dustin Fletcher was more consistent in his 400 games between 1993 and 2015, chalking up 400 games, and playing his last at 40.
Every one of those mentioned deserve the highest praise for not only lasting so long, but still mixing it with the best, despite their ages.
That’s reserved for the elite.