It seemed entirely appropriate that Zach Tuohy celebrated his 200th game in the blockbuster between Geelong and Richmond on Friday night.
The major off-field news of the week centred around the impending retirements of various well-known players, and it seemed those of any note had a connection with Ireland or Carlton. Tuohy has a close connection with both.
First cab of the rank was Essendon player Conor McKenna, whose positive COVID-19 test caused the postponement of his side’s clash with Melbourne.
Recruited from County Tyrone, where he had displayed his ball skills in the All-Ireland Minor Football Championship final as a 17-year-old, he landed at Essendon in October 2014 and less than 12 months later debuted for the Bombers against Richmond in Round 22, kicking a goal with his first kick in AFL football.
The following week he played against Collingwood in Round 23, and four years later, also in Round 23 against Collingwood, he topped the disposals in a game (35) equal with Collingwood’s Adam Treloar.
A highly skilful ball-handler, he wore No. 45 jumper more than any other Essendon player and thrilled the crowd with a kick to himself at full speed – a feature with the round ball in Gaelic football – in a game in 2017.
Like McKenna, Pearce Hanley was recruited from Ireland. His Irish father and Welsh mother moved to County Mayo sometime after Pearce’s birth in England. Also like McKenna, Hanley adapted quickly to the set of skills required for AFL football when he arrived in Brisbane in 2007.
Mentored by earlier Irish recruit Colm Begley, Pearce debuted in the final round of 2008, replacing Begley in the team. His standout game was Round 18 in 2014, when he amassed 44 possessions against fellow Queensland side Gold Coast. By 2017 he had joined Gold Coast, and although he never reached the same heights there, having finished second and fourth in Brisbane’s best and fairest, he still provided the club with good service in his 40 games.
By dint of Brisbane and Gold Coast being younger AFL clubs, his 169 games and 60 goals are enough for him to figure prominently in each club’s top 100 game players and goalscorers lists, and no doubt he will be a welcome member at celebrations for both.
The Carlton connection comes from the retirement of one prominent No. 1 draft pick still at the same club, Matthew Kreuzer, and one prominent No. 1 draft pick now at Adelaide.
Kreuzer, the No. 1 pick in 2007 kicked a goal with his first kick in AFL football, like fellow retiree Conor McKenna, when he debuted for Carlton in Round 3, 2008, against Essendon. Although injury restricted him to only one game in 2014 and again this year, he still managed to play 189 games and kick 94 goals for the Blues, and these totals place him inside the top 100 game players and goalscorers for Carlton, the club with the highest benchmark for top 100 goalscoring status.
While he ranks 95th on the goal kicking list, it still should ensure he has a number of years mingling with the elite.
Adelaide retiree Bryce Gibbs of course spent the bulk of his 14-season career at Carlton. He the No. 1 draft pick in 2006 and part of the leadership team before he had even played a game. Like fellow retirees McKenna and Kreuzer, he kicked a goal with his first kick in his debut game, which was in Round 1, 2007.
Gibbs requested a transfer to Adelaide at the end of the 2016 season but was denied. One year later the clubs met again and agreed to a transfer, but his years at Adelaide have not seen him produce the form that had him gain a club record-equalling 45 disposals in a game in 2010 or a best and fairest award in 2014.
Gibbs’s tally of 231 games and 137 goals at Carlton sees him well entrenched in the club’s top 100 lists, being top 30 in games and top 60 in goals. Unfortunately, his record at the Crows sees him finish outside the top 100 in both categories.