STEPHEN Kernahan did it all during his time at Princes Park, but the Carlton legend still cherishes the moment Dick Reynolds spoke to him after he broke the triple Brownlow medallist’s longstanding record for VFL/AFL games as captain in his 250th and second last match in round 18, 1997. 

Now it is Kernahan's turn to return the favour, 25 years later.

Geelong skipper Joel Selwood will break Kernahan's longstanding record - one that may never be broken – when he leads the Cats for the 227th time in Saturday night's clash against Collingwood at the MCG.

Selwood reached and then surpassed some of the greatest leaders to ever play the game last year. First, he went past Brisbane Lions champion Michael Voss (210), then Team of the Century captain Ted Whitten (212) and St Kilda icon Nick Riewoldt (221), before starting this season level with Reynolds (224).  

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME The driving force behind Cats skipper

"I've seriously always admired the way he went about it; he's a seriously hard player and he leads by example and that’s why he's been the lone captain out there for as long as he has been. I really couldn’t be happier it is going to someone you couldn’t knock," Kernahan told AFL.com.au.  

"Joel has been a standout at Geelong. It will be hard to beat. With the way captaincy and leadership groups are now, it will be hard to beat. I couldn't be happier for a bloke like that, to hand it on to him."

Joel Selwood addresses his teammates ahead of round 23, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

When Selwood first walked in the door after being taken at pick No. 7 in the 2006 AFL Draft, Tom Harley had just replaced Steven King as captain following a disastrous year at Kardinia Park that ultimately led to a fortune-altering review before the Cats blossomed into a powerhouse. 

Harley, who captained Geelong to the 2007 and 2009 premierships before becoming the Sydney Swans' head of football in 2014 and then CEO in 2018, said his first impression of Selwood personifies the person he still is today. 

GREATEST CAPTAIN EVER? Geelong champ eyeing another record

"My first memory of Joel speaks volumes of him. He was drafted at the end of 2006 and I'd just been appointed captain. I remember after the draft I spoke to [then Geelong list manager] Stephen Wells and asked for the draftees' phone numbers. I started making the calls and I called Joel first and it went straight through to message bank, which you'd expect given he'd just been drafted and it was a foreign number," Harley said. 

"Within less than a minute he called back and said, 'This is Joel Selwood, I've just had a missed call from this number'. Not many 18-year-old kids would call back a number they don’t know without listening to a message, and I introduced myself and just thought: How impressive is this young bloke?

A young Joel Selwood brushes Hawthorn opponents aside in round 17, 2008. Picture: AFL Photos

"He walked into the footy club as the Cats' first pick and an air of confidence without arrogance, and I think that's always been one of his most redeeming features all the way through his career. Very, very confident in who he is as a person, but not arrogant."

Tom Hawkins arrived at Geelong on the same day as Selwood and has never known life in
the AFL without him in the building. The pair started life at the Cats as housemates and
have become super close friends over the past 17 years, to the point where the Hawkins
and Selwoods are family.

The four-time All-Australian key forward and the six-time All-Australian midfielder have
competed in everything since they became friends, from backyard cricket to ten-pin
bowling and many more random pursuits in between. But there was a scorching hot day
at Geelong West Tennis Club that sums how competitive Selwood is in all facets of his life.

Joel Selwood and Tom Hawkins embrace before the 2020 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

"We were both keen tennis players. I play with a bit of top spin and try and look to guide
with a double-handed backhand, whereas he just gets the ball back without much style. It
was stinking hot and he brought a water bottle," Hawkins said ahead of Saturday night's
game.

"We thought we were just going to have a bit of hit and giggle, which turned into a set. He
lost it and wanted another set. It's genuinely 40 degrees and he wins the next set and I
said: Well done, it's a tie. He goes, 'No way, we are playing another set.' I said: 'That’s fine I
just need some of your water'.

"He wouldn’t give me any of his water. He made me sweat it out and we played for like
three hours. I kid you not, if it wasn’t 40 degrees it was very close and he eventually wore
me down. In a friendly way, it just goes to show his competitiveness. He wasn’t going to
get beaten that day."

Hawkins and Selwood are two of only six men to play more than 300 games in the hoops
and shared the 2009 and 2011 flags together – Selwood played in 2007 – but it is about
much more than football with these two.

Joel Selwood holds the 2011 Premiership cup aloft with Tom Hawkins. Picture: AFL Photos

"Football has brought us together, but we're friends beyond walking through the doors of
the football club now. The enjoyment I've got out of seeing Joel break many records,
particularly this one, I'm really proud of Joel as someone beyond the football club," Hawkins
said.

"The biggest thing for me about celebrating what he's been able to do is to understand
the person outside of a Geelong Football Club jumper or polo or representing the club. He
is such a selfless person, wonderful friend and when our time is done in football I look
forward to being able to go to the footy with him and reminiscing. It is so hard to put into
words a 16-year relationship, but I'm bloody proud as a friend."

WHO WINS ROUND THREE? Check out the experts' tips

The Selwood name has been woven into the fabric of the game since Troy was taken at pick No. 19 by Brisbane and Adam at pick No. 53 by West Coast in the 2002 AFL Draft. Joel entered the competition four years later, before Scott joined his three older brothers in the competition at the end of 2007. 

While this weekend is all about Joel overtaking Kernahan, last year the Selwood brothers overtook the Daniher's – Terry, Neale, Anthony and Chris' – record of most VFL/AFL games by a set of brothers, which stood at 752. That mark now stands at 767 games and counting – Adam played 187 games, Scott 169 and Troy 75.

03:12 Mins
Published on

'All hell broke loose after that': How Mrs Selwood kept her boys in check

Joel and Scott Selwood recall their Pathway Moments, thanks to NAB

Published on

"We always knew growing up that Joel was destined for the AFL, " Troy Selwood recalled this week.

"He was just quite a rare talent growing up in Bendigo and so far ahead of kids his age it just wasn’t funny – that was across all sports. We all knew that was where life was heading. But I think the thing that blew Adam and I away was just his natural leadership and his natural awareness to bring others along with him, even as a young 11 and 12-year-old.

"Joel was obviously dominating games of football in Bendigo, but he would be aware of some of the kids that may not have had a touch in the game and his ability to run play through them and be part of the game, to have that awareness as a kid was quite amazing. To then captain the club that he barracked for and do it in such a way that we are all unbelievably proud of, it's been an incredible journey for all of us."

Joel Selwood (second from right) with brother Scott and parents Bryce and Maree after winning the 2007 Rising Star award. Picture: AFL Photos

For those who have spent time inside the Cattery since Selwood walked in the door, they know how fiercely he has driven standards over the journey. While his empathy has been appreciated by everyone associated with the club, his desire to get the most out of the group has been a key reason why the Cats have been a juggernaut for the best part of two decades. Everyone has been held to account, including his own blood. 

"We were down at the Torquay footy ground and I'd jumped in for the session. I was the VFL captain at the time and it was one Saturday morning and I was feeling alright this Saturday morning and I sat on his back and was running right next to Cameron Ling, and then in the last effort I thought to myself I had him. I cracked the whip and beat him in the final run," Troy said.

"I was on my haunches at the end of the run and he's come by and given me a bump and said, 'don’t ever do that again, don't ever save it for the last effort'. I thought, 'jeez getting told off by your little brother in front of all these premiership heroes is probably one of the more humiliating things ever', but I just nodded."

11:42 Mins
Published on

Selwood on THAT 'in-house bickering', Scarlett's Ballantyne punch

Joel Selwood opens up to Damian Barrett about his journey at Geelong, and life after footy, thanks to Hostplus

Published on

Selwood hasn't just left his mark on the Geelong Football Club, but almost every captain that's been appointed since he was elevated to the position in 2012. Selwood makes a point of reaching out to other skippers around the competition, helping navigate the challenges that come with leading an AFL club.

West Coast captain Luke Shuey has leant on Selwood across the journey, but unlike other skippers around the AFL, the Victorian has a deeper connection to Selwood. Scott was Shuey's best man at his wedding and the Selwood family has been involved in the 2018 Norm Smith Medallist's life for a long time. 

"Through my relationship with 'Scooter' (Scott Selwood) I got to know Joel really well. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say he has inspired every captain around the competition, mainly in the way he plays," Shuey said. 

Joel Selwood contemplates losing the 2020 Grand Final as Richmond players celebrate. Picture:

"I think the fact he was given the captaincy so young. A lot of guys succumb to that pressure and get thrown in the deep end, whereas someone like him it hasn’t seemed like it has been a job to him over the years, it is something he has just taken in his stride and it's just become a part of his journey. 

"The way he plays you can see the care he has for the jumper he pulls on, and you speak to people from the footy club and the one thing they say about Joel is they can't believe how well he gets to know everyone, from the back office to the boot studders to his teammates; he knows their families, he knows their kids. Above everything he does as a captain and as a footballer, he's a really good human."

Records are made to be broken, but this one may stand for a very long time.