I might be a gripe, but I try to be an honest gripe.
As I continue my series on the champion players of each club I become more and more aware of the statistical misfortune that has befallen all of the players caught up in the postponement and possible cancellation of the 2020 AFL football season.
It is not unique that players have been denied the opportunity to add to their games and goals statistics because of factors outside their control. In 1916, unless you had the good fortune to play for Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy or Richmond, your league career stalled and, for Melbourne players, didn’t resume until 1919.
The Second World War saw the withdrawal of the Geelong team for two seasons, in 1942 and 1943, and St Kilda play only half a season in 1943 to avoid the need for a bye. No doubt all these events resulted in a loss of games for some champions and saw their careers fall short of their potential.
In 2020 not only did the 13 young footballers who debuted in Round 1 potentially lose 20 or more games from their career total, but 23 players who restarted their careers at a second or third club will now find it a harder task to reach top 100 status, particularly at the older, more established clubs.
At the other end of the scale established champions may be robbed of the chance to achieve greater status at the end of their career in what may be their last year of AFL football. Kade Simpson needs only four more games to replace John Nicholls as the third greatest game player at Carlton. Scott Pendlebury needs 13 games to become No. 1 at Collingwood. Melbourne’s Nathan Jones needs just six games to become an AFL top 100 and 14 games to join the 300 club.
Of these, only Scott Pendlebury is showing the form to be still valuable in 2021. Already to my mind the greatest Magpie player I have seen, he currently sits in third position behind Tony Shaw and Gordon Coventry on the games played list for Collingwood.
Tony Shaw was a wonderful servant of the Collingwood Football Club, winning the club’s best and fairest in 1984. He won it again in the club’s premiership year, 1990, when he was also captain and the Norm Smith medallist for best on the ground in the grand final. He captained the Magpies for seven years and returned two years after retiring to coach them for four years, though with little success.
Tony Shaw and brother Ray bookend the Collingwood top 100 game players, with Tony first and Ray equal 99th.
Even I’m not old enough to have seen the great Gordon Coventry start his career in 1920, but his exploits speak for themselves. He was the first player to play 300 games, the first player to kick 100 goals in a season, the first player to kick 1000 goals, Collingwood’s leading goal scorer for 16 consecutive seasons and the VFL leading goal kicker on six occasions. Adding to those accolades, he claimed five premierships and a Copeland Trophy for best and fairest in 1933.
Coventry also represented Victoria 25 times and kicked 100 goals. His goal kicking record was not broken until 1999, and 100 years after he started his career he is still the second greatest goal scorer of all time and the greatest at any one club.
Alongside these two great champions as the only other Magpie to play 300 games is Scott Pendlebury. Pendlebury’s impressive record includes one premiership, five best and fairest medals, three Anzac Day medals, a Norm Smith medal and seven years as captain of the club.
Pendlebury’s silky skills result in the illusion that he has more time than most players to dispose of the ball, which he does with perfection. A natural left-footer, he averages better than a goal every two games. As well as his five Copeland trophies, he has finished runner-up on three occasions.
He’s a true champion I would love to see reach No. 1 on the games list at Collingwood.