Last Friday night Brent Harvey played his 426th AFL Game. In doing so he drew level with Michael Tuck for most VFL/AFL Games. When he takes the field next round against St Kilda he will take single ownership of the record.
To properly recognise this momentous achievement we at The Sportress declare the next 7 days – ‘Boomer Harvey Week’.
He isn’t exactly limping to the line either. His form is good enough to suggest another season, or two, isn’t inconceivable. Harvey seems to be in the process of setting a mark that will never be bettered.
With this in mind, in our first nod to ‘Boomer Harvey Week’, we take a look at some of the pages his story will rest beside in the Tales of Unbreakable Records.
Muttiah Muralitharan – Most Wickets in Test Matches
Sri Lanka’s spin wizard was a wicket taking machine like no other. In the history of Test Cricket he is one of five men to have taken 500 or more wickets in Test Cricket, one of two to have taken more than 700 and stands alone as the only man to have claimed 800 scalps.
Murali’s last day of Test Cricket couldn’t have been scripted better.
A large crowd at Galle, including Sri Lanka’s president, all impatiently waiting for history.
After lunch, Murali on 799 wickets, India’s last pair at the crease and 15 overs into an obstinate fight for survival. Then a sharp off-break….
P. Ojha c: Jaywardene b: Muralitharan 13
Victory for Sri Lanka. 800 wickets for Muralitharan.
800 wickets. It’s a number that is almost impossible to comprehend. A rate of wicket taking effectiveness beyond what has gone before and way beyond all those chasing it.
Bob Pratt & Peter Hudson – Most Goals in a VFL/AFL Season
150 goals. That is how many Bob Pratt and Peter Hudson each kicked to share the record for most goals in a VFL/AFL Season.
South Melbourne’s Pratt set the mark in the 1934 season, an 18 game home and away season. When you think only one player in the last 10 years has kicked more than 100 goals in a season in 22 game seasons, this feat is truly mind blowing. Not mind blowing enough for Premiership or personal glory. The Swans fell short in a high scoring Grand Final against Richmond and Pratt was personally unable to win either the Brownlow Medal or South Melbourne’s Best & Fairest. When Pratt confronted South’s Chairman of Selectors for a reason as to why he couldn’t win the Swan’s B&F he was remarkably told ‘he hadn’t been consistent enough’. Unbelievable.
When St Kilda prepared to face Hawthorn it appeared a foregone conclusion that Hudson would break Pratt’s 37 year record. Entering the season’s showpiece game Hudson had 147 goals and St Kilda coach Alan Jeans was resigned to him breaking the mark. Famously in the Saints last training session he told the group that they would need to be prepared for Hudson to kick 4 or 5 goals and that they would win the game by restricting his team mates.
From the back of the room a dissenting voice countered “he can’t kick goals if he is unconscious.”
After being the dissenting voice, Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale was able, with a crude tackle, to make true on his promise. The Hawthorn champ dazed from the hit, struggled to have his usual impact although he did have his chances. He kicked 3 to draw level with Pratt and missed 3 gilt edged chances. The quarter time siren beat his kick towards an open goal. Later when running into an open goal he managed to kick the ball out on the full. Most famously, when kicking for 151 from just outside the goal square he managed to kick the ball into the man on the mark.
Despite missing his chances to claim the record outright, he did have a share of it. Further, after the Hawks prevailed by 7 points in a thriller, unlike Pratt he had a premiership medal to show for his heroic season. 45 years after Peter Hudson kicked his chance at the record into Barry Lawrence, nobody has had a realistic shot at the record he shares with Bob Pratt. The way modern football is played it hard to see how anybody ever will.
Cal Ripkin Jnr – Most Consecutive Major League Baseball Games
When Cal Ripkin Jnr began his career, in 1983, the Major League consecutive games record of 2,130 games had stood for 40 years. The next year, the closest challenge to the record ended on 1,207 or effectively 5 full seasons short. It was considered unbreakable.
By the time the 1994 World Series was cancelled as a result of a players strike, Ripkin was 122 games away from the long standing mark. After 13 years of good health, good luck and the ability to play through pain, Ripkin was 1 season away from a special place in history.
With this knowledge, the Baltimore Orioles went about trying to adequately recognise the impending moment in history. Apart from ensuring that President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore would be at Camden Yards when the record fell, they all also came up with a novel and touching option.
Behind right field at Camden Yards is a warehouse and the Orioles decided to put the current streak number on the warehouse. As soon as each game became official, at the end of the 5th innings, music would play and the number would be updated.
September 5, 1995 was Cal Ripkin day and what a day it was. Ripkin hit a 4th innings home run that helped the Orioles to a 3-1 lead. After the California Angels were set-down in the 5th, the music chimed and the numbers changed one last time reflecting Ripkin claiming the record. Ripkin initially acknowledged the crowd but tried to have the game continue but at the beckoning of his team mates he began a lap of the warning track. What followed was 22 minutes of emotion and a moment locked in the memory of all those who saw it.
The streak ended in 1998 at 2,632 or roughly 16 complete seasons.
If that isn’t evidence enough of its invincibility, the current longest streak is 202.
Collingwood – Most Consecutive VFL/AFL Premierships
At the end of the 1920’s Collingwood dominated the VFL. ‘The Machine Team’ as they were known swept all before them as they claimed 4 consecutive premierships between 1927 and 1930. Under the stewardship of the game’s most successful coach, Jock McHale, the Magpies were the home of some the games brightest stars. The work of Brownlow Medallist midfielders Syd Coventry, Albert Collier and Harry Collier greedily finished off by the era’s most dominant forward Gordon Coventry. Coventry’s dominance of the goal square reflected in the fact that his career goal record stood for the best part of 70 years. In 1929 he also set the record for most goals in a Grand Final, since equalled by Gary Ablett in 1989, scoring 9 of the 13 the Magpies scored.
‘The Machine Team’ recorded, to date, the only undefeated home and away season on the way to their 1929 triumph. Poor old Richmond who had been on the losing end in both 1927 and 1928 defeated the unbeaten Magpies in the 1929 Semi Final. The final series at the time allowed for a beaten minor premier to challenge the winner of the final in a Grand Final. Collingwood invoked this after their semi defeat and completed their hat-trick of victories over Richmond in the Grand Final.
Collingwood’s fourth flag again saw Richmond defeated, this time in the semi-final before a loss to Geelong required the ‘Pies to invoke their Minor Premiers challenge before claiming the premiership with a solid win over the Cats the following week.
Collingwood’s unmatched run came to an end at the hands of their bitter rival Carlton in the 1931 1st Semi Final. Richmond, now free of their nemesis of the previous 4 years, qualified for the Grand Final. Unfortunately Geelong overturned the result of the second semi-final consigning the Tigers to their fourth Grand Final defeat in 5 years.
Two sides have come close to equalling Collingwood’s reign. The ‘Pies defended their proud record by upsetting three time defending champs Melbourne in the 1958 decider. The Demons won again in 1959 and 1960 making the 1958 slip up very costly. The Brisbane Lions were half a game away from joining Collingwood. After their own hat-trick Brisbane led Port Adelaide at half time before South Australia’s Magpies protected Collingwood’s record on the way to their first flag.
It might be argued that the record is at its most perilous with Hawthorn sitting on top of the ladder after 17 games in their own quest for flag number 4. Time will tell but I still feel this record won’t be bettered.
St George – Most Consecutive NSWRL/NRL Premierships
St George won 11 consecutive premierships from 1956 to 1966.
11 seasons, 222 first grade games, 184 wins, 5 draws, 33 losses, 5109 points for, 2153 points against, 11 Premierships.
The raw data of an era of dominance which is actually impossible to comprehend. An era of dominance which is difficult to capture adequately within a small snapshot. As you would expect St George’s run relied upon strong leadership both on and off the field, canny recruiting, junior development, the overcoming of stiff obstacles, luck and even a little bit of controversy.
Australian Rugby League recognises 8 players as Immortals of the game. Reflecting the mark this group had on the game, 3 of the 8, Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier and Graeme Langlands, were members of this all conquering team. Twice, St George recovered from being reduced to 12 men to win Grand Finals. In 1956 they prevailed over Balmain 18-12 despite being a man short due to injury for 67 minutes. In 1962 they had to replicate the heroics, hanging on in a classic 9-6, after having a member sent off early in the second half.
The 1963 Grand Final win over Western Suburbs has gone down in folklore for a number of reasons. Firstly, for the claims by many Wests players that the referee, a renowned gambler, had backed St George to win. A claim they believe is borne out by a number of controversial decisions. A tight affair played in horrendous and muddy conditions the Magpies were on the wrong end of an 18-7 penalty count and a disallowed try. However most consternation from Wests players related to St George winger Johnny King’s match winner. King set off down the Members Stand touchline and was knocked to the ground by scrambling Magpies defenders. Was he held? Referee Darcy Lawler didn’t think so and allowed the St George flyer to set off again for the try line upon regaining his feet.
Secondly, it was at the conclusion of this match that the iconic ‘Gladiators’ photo was taken. This image, seen as reflection of sportsmanship, shows opposing captains Norm Provan and Arthur Summons embracing after the final siren. This image has been the basis of the competitions premiership trophies since 1982.
But it wasn’t exactly as it seemed. Years later Arthur Summons revealed that he was in fact expressing to Norm Provan that St George were lucky to win. Or words to that effect anyway. It concluded a hat-trick of losing Grand Finals for Wests who were unlucky enough to be the beaten side 4 times in St George’s Grand Final streak.
Like all good things, St George’s reign had to come to an end. It did after a see-sawing Preliminary Final against Canterbury saw them fall short 11-12. The St George players formed a guard of honour for their vanquishers and made their way to the dressing rooms.
There was said to be tears and anguish in the rooms after the game. Coach Ian Walsh is even said to have apologised to the fans at the Leagues Club after the game. I think the best response though was from St George Secretary Fred Facer who put his around Walsh and said “Well old chap, we had to lose one day”.
With that the greatest reign that will ever be, ended.
So there are five chapters from the Tales of Unbreakable Records, what do you think? Did we get it right or are these breakable? Which other records would you add?