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One famous player once said there can be no greater honour than to be considered courageous by your peers.
Geelong captain Joel Selwood has been voted the AFLPA Most Courageous Player four times by other players in the league.
Selwood is football’s ultimate warrior, often leaving the ground with scars and bandages around his head. Leaving the ground with blood dripping down his face, displaying over two hours of the most intense physical action one can endure is regularly in the minds of many AFL fans.
Selwood will play his 350th game when Geelong take on the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.
He will become the first Geelong player to ever reach this milestone. In doing so, he also becomes the 21st player in VFL/AFL history to reach 350 games and the fastest to reach this momentous occasion.
Such is his standing among the AFL, his resume includes a swathe of accolades. He is a triple premiership player, a six-time All-Australian, and three-time captain of that team.
Selwood has won the Carji Greeves Medal three times as Geelong’s best and fairest player. In 2013, he narrowly missed out on a Brownlow medal, coming second to Gary Ablett Junior.
The ever-humble skipper says the tributes that have flown his way this week have been overwhelming.
“You do get overwhelmed, it’s really special,” the Cats skipper said during the week.
“I love this club, I always have, even when I wasn’t here. And I understand it’s pretty special for the club.”
Selected at pick seven in the 2006 AFL Draft, he made his debut in round 1 of 2007, under then-coach Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson. Selwood quickly cemented his place in a star-studded line-up which included the likes of Gary Ablett Junior, Tom Harley, Matthew Scarlett, James Bartel, the mercurial forward Steve Johnson and Cameron Ling.
He became a key part of the drought-breaking premiership later that year and was vital in the Cats’ premiership triumphs in 2009 and 2011.
Recognised for his leadership, he was appointed captain at just 23 years old and has led the Cats since 2012.
The inspirational captain has continued to lead his team to continued success. They have reached finals almost every single year, and narrowly missed out on another premiership in 2020 when they lost to Richmond in the Grand Final.
He is such a durable player, having missed just 30 games since his debut, and never more than four consecutive matches.
Selwood is still desperate for that elusive fourth premiership flag.
The inspirational captain has had such a stellar career, he has claimed the fourth-most wins by a player in VFL/AFL history. Selwood has played in 253 wins out of his 349 games to date. The only other players who have featured in more wins are Michael Tuck, Shaun Burgoyne and Kevin Bartlett, who all played over 400 games.
By the time he had his 30th birthday, he had already played in 193 wins. That was more wins than any other player at the same age.
Not only is he a great of the competition, he is also a leader in his family.
His three brothers Troy, Adam and Scott also played AFL at the highest level; but even combined together they could not emulate his achievements. Joel has 253 wins to date, and they had 222 wins from 431 games combined. He played 14 games against his brothers and won 12 of them.
He also holds the record of most games as captain, having led his side in 239 games so far and broken Stephen Kernahan’s long-lasting record at the beginning of the year.
And his coach Chris Scott was full of praise for the Geelong skipper. He said Selwood has had the biggest impact of any player on or off the field that he has ever coached.
“He is the best player that I’ve seen in my time when you take everything into consideration”, the Cats coach said.
“The only slight disappointment that I have as a coach is that I never got the chance to play with him because that would have been the one, following him into battle.”
High praise when you consider the calibre of the players Scott was lucky enough to play with and against. Some of the game’s most decorated players, including triple premiership captain Michael Voss, his brother Brad Scott, Alastair Lynch, Jason Akermanis, Simon Black, Jonathan Brown, and opposition players such as dual Norm Smith Medallist Andrew McLeod, dual Brownlow medallist Robert Harvey, Shane Crawford and James Hird just to name a few.
As for playing on into a 17th season, the 34-year-old is still unsure. Right now his focus is on winning a fourth premiership, this time as captain.
Geelong fans absolutely love how hard Selwood goes at it and his courage, never shirking away from the contest.
Fans from other clubs just wish he was playing for them.
His teammate Patrick Dangerfield was also full of praise. “He’s a gladiator on the field. He always stands up in big moments, he’s super consistent, his ceiling is extraordinary,” he wrote in his column for 7news.com.au.
And Dangerfield says that while his on-field actions are incredibly inspirational, Selwood is just as instrumental off the field.
“His on-field exploits are incredible. What he’s been able to do in big moments for Geelong for 16 years, that part is legendary and he will be a legend of the football club if not already. But it’s the stuff that we see as players and staff behind closed doors that I think is the most significant with Joel and why he’s made such a big impact on the club,” Dangerfield said.
The top-of-the-ladder Cats face the eighth-placed Western Bulldogs in a crucial clash on Saturday night. The match could have huge ramifications for the finals.
Last year’s grand finalists will be doing everything they can to disrupt Selwood’s party and keep their finals chances alive.