The best of the best

Matthew Boyd, pictured for Doveton in the 2019 AFL Outer East Division 1 grand final. 198092 Picture: ROB CAREW

With community football, state league, NAB League and the AFL on hold for now as a result of Covid-19, the Gazette’s Nick Creely has taken a look at the top 30 AFL players over the last two decades from the area. To qualify for the list, players must have been drafted from the Casey, Cardinia or Greater Dandenong regions from the 2000 rookie-draft onwards.

Here is the final part – this week taking a look at positions 10-1…

10. Shane Tuck

AFL club(s): Richmond

AFL games: 173

The son of Hawthorn legend and former VFL/AFL games record holder Michael, the Beaconsfield and Dandenong Stingrays product was initially rookie listed by Hawthorn in the 2000 Rookie Draft, but was unable to crack into the side after three years. After a season in the SANFL, Richmond swooped on the big-bodied midfielder in 2004, where he went on to become a hugely important cog in the midfield across 173 games. As durable and consistent as his father, Tuck broke onto the scene with a brilliant 2005 season, and played 104 consecutive games until early 2009. At his best, Tuck was a contested beast and an admired clubman who fittingly ended his AFL career with his one and only final, the 2013 elimination final.

9. Shane Mumford**

AFL club(s): Geelong, Sydney, GWS

AFL games: 192

Taken as a mature-age rookie by Geelong in 2008, the Bunyip big man’s journey in the AFL has been nothing short of extraordinary. After two seasons at the Cats, the ruckman left the club after the 2009 premiership after missing out on the grand final despite playing 18 games, and made a move to the Harbour City to play for the Sydney Swans. Quickly establishing himself as one of the premier rucks in the AFL, Mumford played in the Swans’ premiership in 2012, before moving over to GWS in 2014 where he won the club best and fairest in his first season at the club. After retiring at the end of 2017, it was unfinished business for the big man who came out of retirement to help the Giants secure its maiden grand final berth in 2019. With at least one year left in 2020, Mumford will be hoping to add another premiership before calling it quits.

8. Michael Firrito

AFL club(s): North Melbourne

AFL games: 275

Remarkably durable and reliable across a career at the Kangaroos that spanned almost a decade and a half, the Gembrook-product enjoyed a fine career at AFL level as a lockdown defender, debuting in 2003 and rarely missing games of football until his final game in 2016. Without much fuss and fanfare, ‘Spud’ neared 300 games and played 13 finals matches, as well as representing Australia in the 2008 International Rules series,. Recently, the defender has gone back to his roots down at the Brookers, featuring heavily for his home club in the AFL Outer East competition where he has made a terrific impact on not only the football club, but the community.

Former AFL player Michael Firrito (left) playing for his junior club, Gembrook.

7. Adam McPhee

AFL club(s): Essendon, Fremantle

AFL games: 223

The Narre Warren boy and Dandenong Stingrays product enjoyed an excellent career at the highest level for both the Dockers and Dons, where he played primarily as a defender with the ability to float forward and kick goals, as well as an occasional tagger. Drafted to Fremantle with pick 39 in the 2000 AFL draft, McPhee returned home and was traded to Essendon after just two years. In 2004, McPhee took his game to another level, winning Essendon’s best and fairest and being named in the All-Australian team after just four years in the AFL, in what was a stellar individual season. But after five solid seasons thereafter, and in particular 2007 where he averaged 20 disposals and eight marks a match, the defender returned to the Dockers and played three further seasons before retiring after a strong finals series.

6. Chris Newman

AFL club(s): Richmond

AFL games: 268

An AFL coach in waiting and ex-Richmond captain, the Beaconsfield product has made a huge impact on AFL football since being drafted down to Punt Road with pick 55 in 2000 out of the Dandenong Stingrays. It took time for the classy left-footer to find his feet at AFL level, but a breakthrough season in 2005 was the catalyst for a strong and consistent decade of football for the Tigers from an individual level. In 2009, after serving as vice-captain in 2008, Newman was named captain of Richmond, helping set up the culture for future success despite a tumultuous period from an on-field perspective for the team. At the back-end of what was an underrated career, Newman played in his first final in 2013 – his 233rd game – before retiring at the end of 2015 after an elimination final loss to North Melbourne. Newman guided Box Hill to the VFL premiership as coach in 2018 and is touted as one to watch for any AFL coaching vacancies in the near future.

5. Tom Scully**

AFL club(s): Melbourne, GWS, Hawthorn

AFL games: 174

One of the best talents to have ever walked through the doors of the Dandenong Stingrays program, the Berwick and Narre Warren teenager landed on the door of Melbourne with the number one pick in the 2009 AFL draft with huge expectations. It was a stunning debut season for the gut-running midfielder, playing all but one game and averaging almost 22 touches a game, including 39 against the Western Bulldogs. But after just two seasons in Melbourne, Scully was signed by expansion club Greater Western Sydney on a monster six year deal. Playing solid footy for the Giants for a few seasons, Scully broke away into one of the elite running midfielders in the game in 2016 and 2017, turning out brilliant seasons of football to almost help the Giants into grand finals. A nasty broken ankle early in 2018 brought an end to Scully’s time in Sydney, traded back to Victoria to play with Hawthorn. Despite being given little chance of playing much footy in 2019, Scully featured at AFL level 21 times to give the Hawks a huge boost.

Tom Scully (middle) is one of the finest talents to emerge out of the Dandenong Stingrays program. 29207 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

4. Adam Treloar**

AFL club(s): GWS, Collingwood

AFL games: 163

The proud Noble Park boy and ex-Dandenong Stingray is not only a quality gut-running midfielder with the ability to pick up stacks of the footy, but he has also still so heavily invested in the community where he came from even to this day. Originally signed by GWS as a teenager, Treloar spent the origin years of the club up in Sydney, where he was already gathering momentum as one of the rising players in the game, before being traded back home to Collingwood, where he was forged himself as one of the ball magnets of the competition. Noted now as a big game player and an important cog of an impressive Pies midfield, at just 27 there is plenty of footy still left in the tank. But in the last few years Treloar has also given back, coaching the Noble Park under 12s to a premiership – the club that gave him his start.

3. Kade Simpson**

AFL club(s): Carlton

AFL games: 326

The Emerald product has been an unbelievable servant of the Carlton Football Club after being drafted in the 2002 AFL Draft, and at 36, is still going strong in his beloved navy blue. It was a slow start to Simpson’s career, but in 2005, he finally broke in as a regular in the AFL side, before playing every game in 2006. Since then, the half-back/winger has only played under 20 games twice, averaging well in excess of 20 touches a game during what has largely been tough years for the club. In 2013, Simpson had his most prolific season at AFL level, winning Carlton’s best and fairest and helping the club break through into the finals series. Despite the Blues being unable to break back into finals action since, Simpson’s output hasn’t wavered, and the club great played his 300th game against Port Adelaide in Round 15 of 2018, picking up three Brownlow votes with his 37-touch effort. With at least one, maybe two more years left in the tank, the Emerald favourite son could still be around for Carlton’s push back up the ladder.

2. Matthew Boyd

AFL club(s): Western Bulldogs

AFL games: 292

After missing out on his draft year, the Narre Warren and Dandenong Stingrays product was eventually snaffled up by the Western Bulldogs as a rookie in 2002 after playing for Frankston in the VFL. And boy, has that been one of the great steals in recent memory, and he’s now remembered as one of the south-east’s best footballers of the recent era. It didn’t take long for Boyd – a natural midfielder – to make his name on the AFL stage, building on his eight game debut season to become a senior regular until his retirement. After starring in 2008, Boyd’s 2009 was remarkable, averaging almost 29 touches a game to claim his first club best and fairest and All-Australian honour. Winning two more best and fairests and another two All-Australians, as well as a three year stint as club captain, Boyd has gone on to become one of the all-time greats of the club. Boyd’s remarkable loyalty was rewarded with the 2016 premiership with the Western Bulldogs, before retiring at the conclusion of 2017. Boyd rekindled his local roots with a breakthrough premiership with Doveton in the AFL Outer East’s Division 1 competition in 2019, where he had a brilliant grand final.

1. Stephen Milne

AFL club(s): St Kilda

AFL games: 275

Hampton Park boy and Noble Park-product Stephen Milne’s standing in the game is almost undisputed these days – he’s one of the greatest small forwards to have ever played the game, and one of the most freakish and exciting players to grace the field. It’s quite remarkable that Milne slipped into the rookie draft, where he was taken by the Saints in 2000. But the ‘Tip Rat’ didn’t let the Saints faithful down, winning his first goal kicking award in 2002 among three more across a glittering career. Milne was already a star by the time 2005 rolled around, and his 11 goals against Brisbane of Round 22 of that season was one of the greatest individual performances of recent memory. Despite being small in stature, Milne kicked 50 goals or more in a season six times, eventually ending with 574 goals across 275 goals – remarkable numbers for a small forward. During his peak years, where the Saints were vying for flags in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Milne was nearing unstoppable on his day, and if not for one unruly bounce in the dying seconds of the 2010 grand final against Collingwood, could have easily added a premiership to his glittering resume. Milne has bobbed up regularly in local football over the last few years, and continues to bring people through the gates.

**Indicates that the player is still playing