It happens less often in modern AFL Football than it used to because of a more active player trade, but every so often two players at the one club will have careers that run almost identically and chase each other’s game totals, never being more than five games apart over a decade of playing together.
These players often reach significant milestones together. I have called them the ‘milestone twins’ as – although they may come from different backgrounds and have significantly different skill sets and personalities – they are bound together by parallel circumstances: playing for the same team for long periods of time and suffering (or not suffering) similar form and fitness situations.
My attention was drawn to these coincidences last week when I noted that both Daniel Rioli and Jayden Short played their 123rd game in Round 9, which took them into a tie for 100th place with the then incumbent, Craig Lambert. Their 124th game in Round 10 took them into a tie with Don ‘Mopsy’ Fraser, who is remembered more for his fiery approach than his talent, which was considerable, and his teammate Havel Rowe and led to the demise of Craig Lambert from Richmond’s top 100 game players. It also restored the number of current top 100 game players on Richmond’s list to a remarkable 11 players, more than any other team that has been around as long or longer than them in the VFL/AFL and an indication of why the Tigers are still such a dominant force.
Rioli was the 1137th player to debut for the Tigers, and only one player (Jacob Townsend) debuted before Short arrived on the scene in the same year, 2016. Rioli bought up his 100th game in Round 6, 2021, and Short’s was two games later in Round 8. Both would be expected to continue their rise up their clubs’ game players ladder.
At Hawthorn Liam Shiels and Luke Breust started their careers in 2009, are both injury-free and are expected to play their 249th game against Gold Coast on Saturday night, taking them one game past Grant Birchall and to within one of Hawthorn legend Shaun Burgoyne. Both players weigh in at 84 kilograms, but Breust is one centimetre taller, at 184 centimetre.
At Brisbane, Charlie Cameron (although he already had four years under his belt at Adelaide before his move to Brisbane) and Oscar McInerney have an amazingly similar history at the Brisbane Lions. Born only five days apart in July 1994, Charlie Cameron debuted as the 195th Lion in 2018 and Oscar McInerney as the 199th Lion in the same year. At debut Cameron was 30 days younger than McInerney. Both should play their 89th game for the Lions against Greater Western Sydney on Saturday afternoon at the Gabba.
They’re different heights and different weights and have different ages and debut years, but Tom Jonas and Ollie Wines should play their 192nd games for Port Adelaide in the last match of Round 11 against Essendon on Sunday afternoon at the Adelaide Oval. This will take them to equal with Michael Wilson as the 11th greatest game player for Power. One week later they should jointly join Hamish Hartlett as the tenth greatest game player of all time for Port Adelaide’s AFL team.
Other teams that have possible milestone twins include Geelong’s Cameron Guthrie and Marc Biclavs and West Coast’s Liam Duggan and Jack Reddan, while at the Western Bulldogs Jason Johannisen and Lachie Hunter are both stranded on the same number of games but for different reasons.