The Brisbane Lions are living perilously close to the edge ahead of their Round 4 clash against the Western Bulldogs.
It is not surprising when you look at the number of games that the leading game player at the two fledgling clubs – Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney – have played and discover that it is less than 200.
After all, both clubs only bought up their 200th AFL game in 2020. However it is surprising that one other club also does not have a 200-game player on their current list.
Western Bulldogs’ most experienced player in 2021 will be Easton Wood who has played 173 games – more than Greater Western Sydney’s Callan Ward, but fewer than Gold Coast’s Jarrod Harbrow.
At the Western Bulldogs it places him in 40th place, equal with the legendary Charlie Sutton, captain-coach of the Bulldogs first premiership in 1954 and winner of the Best and Fairest in 1950 (now named the Charles Sutton Medal).
He also won the club goal-kicking in 1951, the year he became coach. He coached the club until midseason 1957 when he was replaced by Ted Whitten, but returned in 1967 to replace Whitten.
Position 40 is by far the lowest position occupied by the most senior player at any club, and most have a player in the Top 10 all time game players at the club (10 clubs) or at least Top 20 (another five clubs).
This lack of a highly experienced leader is offset to some extent by the plethora of six players in positions 51 to 72, meaning the Bulldogs can match it with most long established clubs with a total of seven Top 100 game players on their current list.
The really pleasing aspect for the Western Bulldogs is that three of the seven are players whose fathers are existing members of the Bulldogs’ all time Top 100 game players list.
Tom Libratore, the ninth greatest game player at the Bulldogs, has the unique record of having won the three major awards for the best player in the under eighteens, reserves (twice) and seniors (Brownlow Medal) in a career that spanned 283 games between 1986 and 2002.
Tony Libratore is still the 62nd greatest goal scorer in the Bulldogs history, the same rank that son Tom holds on the greatest game player’s list.
Stephen Wallis – father of Mitch – came to the club from Leongatha in 1983 and proved to be a fine team man who captained the club in 1989 and in all played 261 games for the club – 110 games more than Mitch has accumulated so far, but if he maintains form and fitness into his early 30s Mitch should be able to challenge his dad’s total.
Lachie Hunter, part of the third father-son Top 100 combination involving a current player has already surpassed his father’s total number of games.
Mark Hunter – recruited from the Melton Bloods – played in 130 games between 1988 and 1996 and currently sits in 84th place on the Bulldogs Top 100 all time game players list.
The Bulldogs can claim another two players whose dads played for the club: Rhylee West and Zaine Cordy, but both are a long way from making Top 100 yet.
The tight bunching of current day players on the Top 100 games played list means that a number of traditional milestones – all 150 games – hopefully will be achieved in season 2021: Tom Libratore needs only two games, Marcus Bontempelli requires five games, Jason Johannisen requires seven games and Lachie Hunter will take at least until Round 12 to reach the 150 game total.
In addition, the smallest player in the league, Caleb Daniel will be hoping to become the eighth current Bulldog to make the list.
Although 2cm shorter than Giant Brent Daniels, Caleb is 5 cm taller than Tony Libratore who also held the mantel in his playing days.
Goal kicking wise, the retirement of Tory Dickson means the Bulldogs have no one in the Top 40 goal scorers of all time, and only two on the 100 elite list.