I waited nearly all year for it to happen, and in the end it didn’t.
Collingwood, the team that has played more AFL/VFL games than any other team, had only three current Top 100 game players at the start of season 2020 but for one of those three players, Scott Pendlebury, the season proved to be full of individual milestones.
Sitting on 301 games at the end of 2019, Pendlebury was already a member of the AFL’s Top 100 and the third greatest game player at Collingwood of all time. In Round 6 against Hawthorn he played his 307th game thus overtaking the games tally of one of Collingwood’s greatest champions, Gordon ‘Nuts’ Coventry.
Coventry played his first game for Collingwood 100 years ago, in Round 15 against St Kilda. In total he played five games that season including three finals. In the preliminary final win he kicked five goals and in the grand final loss to Richmond a further three goals.
This was the start of a phenomenal career that spanned 18 years and set many, many records, some of which still stand today. Coventry was the first man to kick 100 goals in a season, the first man to play 300 VFL games and the first man to kick 17 goals in a game (against Fitzroy in 1930).
This record stood for 17 years before being broken only once by Melbourne’s Fred Fanning in 1947. He represented Victoria on 25 occasions, kicking 100 goals, played in five premierships and kicked 111 goals in finals.
He held the record for the most number of goals (1,299) for six decades before being overtaken (again, only once) by Tony Lockett. He led the Magpies goal kicking for every year from 1922 to 1937 and was the League’s leading goal kicker on six occasions.
One thing that Gordon Coventry did not care about was the jumper number that he wore. Thus in different seasons he wore numbers 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 29 and appears in only 2 Top 10 goal scorers in jumper numbers; seven (fourth) and eight (fifth).
Pendlebury – in Round 18 against Port Adelaide – played his 314th game thus overtaking Tony Shaw as the greatest game player at the Magpies of all time.
Pendlebury played in the two finals for Collingwood and finished the season on 316 games. Tony Shaw. Shaw started at Collingwood in 1977 and will always be remembered as the player who led the club to the drought breaking 1990 premiership in which he won the Norm Smith Medal. He later coached Collingwood for four years with little success.
Pendlebury was a member of the 2010 Premiership team and played in the 2018 grand final. During the season, he also overtook the only two players who had captained the club on more occasions than him: Syd Coventry and current coach Nathan Buckley.
The winner of five Best and Fairest, Pendlebury will be playing on in his 16th season in 2021.
Misdemeanours and Covid-19 restrictions limited Collingwood’s second most senior current player Steele Sidebottom to only nine games for the season, but in those nine games he managed to climb past Ben Johnson and equal former coach Phonse Kyne on the Magpies Top 100 game players list.
Johnson, ten years older than Pendlebury, was a teammate in the 2010 premiership and served the Magpies well from 2000 to 2013 in his 235 games.
Phonse Kyne was a dual premiership player and a dual premiership coach whose playing career was hindered by World War II. On his return to full time playing at the club in 1946, he won the Best and Fairest three times in a row.
Ben Reid (BR) was the only other Top 100 game player at the Magpies at the start of the season, and lack of form and injury meant he only took the field for the seniors on two occasions in his final year at the club.
That took his game tally from 150 to 152, but that was enough to take him past RB (Ricky Barham) and equal to BR (Bob Rose). From South Warrnambool, Barham represented the Magpies from 1977 to 1986. A crowd favourite in the famous Number 1 jumper he retired at 27 years of age. Bob Rose was one of the most respected players in football.
Recruited from Nyah West, he won the Best and Fairest at the club on four occasions and even won the goal kicking in 1953 as a rover when he finished second to Essendon’s Bill Hutchinson in the Brownlow Medal. He later coached Collingwood and Western Bulldogs with distinction but no premierships despite two close losses.
During the 2020 season, Ben Reid was nearly overtaken on the Magpies Top 100 game players list by the only new entrant, Brodie Grundy who finished the year only one game behind Reid. On a well-paid long term contract, it would be expected that Grundy will finish significantly higher than his current equal 92nd placing.
Next season, it would be expected that the durable Jack Crisp will be the only new player at Collingwood to make it onto the list. Crisp’s remarkable run of 135 consecutive games at Collingwood in his six seasons at the club sees him well placed to make the Top 100 mid-season.
His run of consecutive games actually started six games earlier as he finished his career at Brisbane in 2014, and is 46 games longer than Anthony McDonald Tipungwati (Essendon), the second current longest streak.