THEY'VE evolved from wearing a special white armband to fluorescent yellow to pink, but no matter what they wear, runners are still involved in the game nearly seventy years after they were first introduced. 

From Brett Kirk to Brent Harvey, Daniel Jackson to Tony Brown, there is still an element of yesteryear when it comes to the men running messages in the AFL.

Coaches started using runners to deliver messages to players in the 1950s. It started, like many things, before it had been given the green light by the league, with trainers getting the coach’s words to his charges. 

Finally, in 1955, the VFL permitted one trainer per team to act as a messenger, with the runner wearing a special white armband. 

Collingwood runner Gavin Brown intervenes during the club's R7, 2001 clash with North Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

Fast forward to 2022 and they are still out there delivering messages. Things have changed. They now wear pink and they can no longer roam the ground for as long as they want, like they once did.

Runners looked like going out of business only a few years ago when the AFL clamped down on the amount of time they can spend on ground, implementing LED-style boards to communicate from the bench during play. 

But they are still around, still playing a role in the hustle and bustle of the 120 minutes that count each weekend. has named the runner at your club and what they do from Monday to Friday when they aren’t being barked at down the phone from the coaches box. 

ADELAIDE – Daniel Jackson
The former Richmond midfielder, who won the Jack Dyer Medal in 2013 before retiring 12 months later at just 28, returned to clubland at the start of 2020 after six years out of the system, predominantly spent out of the country travelling and studying in Scotland. Jackson was appointed Adelaide's leadership development manager two and a half years ago and has quickly made his mark at West Lakes. The 36-year-old has also played games for the reserves in the SANFL.

Daniel Jackson acknowledges the crowd after Richmond defeated Melbourne in R8, 2013. Picture: AFL Photos

BRISBANE – Grant Birchall 
After enjoying a late career revival under Chris Fagan's watch at the Gabba, Grant Birchall has remained in the Sunshine State. The four-time premiership Hawk, who added 39 appearances for Brisbane to finish with 287 games in total, is still involved on game day for the Lions running messages for Fagan, around his work as coach of Brisbane's Academy helping develop the next Eric Hipwood or Harris Andrews, who are products of the Lions' farm system. 

Grant Birchall gives instructions to Brisbane players during the 2022 AAMI Community Series game against the Western Bulldogs. Picture: AFL Photos

CARLTON – Matthew Bode
The South Australian joined Carlton's fitness department in 2017 as the Blues' performance preparation coordinator and has been used as the runner, a role he also performed at Adelaide after his playing days came to an end. Bode played 29 games for Port Adelaide, before adding 79 games for the Crows at the start of the century. 

COLLINGWOOD – Mannon Johnston 
The Magpies' player wellbeing coordinator and VFL operations coordinator Mannon Johnston is the runner at the AIA Centre. Johnston joined Collingwood on a permanent basis at the end of 2019 from Headspace, but had previously been involved in the Magpies' next generation academy and VFL program. 

ESSENDON – Alex Sakadijian
Ben Rutten has had a couple of different options in this space in 2022 with Matt Little fulfilling the role before he departed the club. Former star midfielder and current VFL coach Brent Stanton filled in once, but now the role is in the hands of strength and conditioning coach Alex Sakadijian, who joined the club over the pre-season after previously working for Melbourne. 

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FREMANTLE – Jackson Dennis 
Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir relies on experienced strength and conditioning coach Jackson Dennis to deliver messages for the Dockers on game day. Dennis works under highly regarded high performance manager Phil Merriman, who was poached from the Demons at the end of 2020. 

GEELONG – Shannon Byrnes 
The Cats made sweeping changes to its football department at the end of last season, bringing home a few premiership players, including Shannon Byrnes. The 2007 and 2009 premiership winner is a player development manager at GMHBA Stadium, fulfilling the same role he held at Melbourne after retiring at the end of 2014. 

Shannon Byrnes and Tom Hawkins celebrate a Geelong goal against St Kilda in the 2009 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

GOLD COAST – Rhyce Shaw 
Stuart Dew has been known to use a member of Gold Coast's communications department from time to time, but the usual runner is former Sydney and Collingwood half-back Rhyce Shaw. The 40-year-old joined the Suns ahead of the 2021 season after he spent 18 months coaching North Melbourne, following three years in John Longmire's coaching department at the Swans. 

Gold Coast runner Rhyce Shaw gives directions against the Western Bulldogs in R5, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

GWS uses a member of its high performance department to deliver messages on game day. Brad Newton is the physical performance coach at the club, working under the watch of fitness boss Nick Poulos. Newton previously worked in the high performance team at Adelaide with Poulos.  

HAWTHORN – Kristan Height 
Former Box Hill Hawks captain Kristan Height ran messages for Sam Mitchell in the VFL and has been brought across to the AFL program in 2022. Height was a star in the VFL back in the day and remains involved at Box Hill City Oval as a leadership coach, working under senior coach Clinton Proctor and senior assistant Andy Otten. Yet another example of why the alignment between Box Hill and Hawthorn is as strong as it gets in the state league.

MELBOURNE – Reece Conca
The reigning premiers added Reece Conca to their football department after the former Docker and Tiger retired from the game at the end of 2021, following 150 games across both clubs. Conca is Simon Goodwin's runner on game day when he isn’t working as the Demons' player development manager. The 29-year-old was also added to Melbourne's COVID top-up list on the eve of the season.

Melbourne runner Reece Conca gets instructions from Simon Goodwin against Fremantle in R11, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

He might be 44 and have 432 AFL games – plus more on the board in the Northern Football League – but Brent Harvey still looks like he could play for North Melbourne. The Kangaroos great is still involved at Arden Street as a development and goalkicking coach, around his duty as David Noble's runner. Harvey is still getting a kick for North Heidelberg and turning heads as North Melbourne's man delivering the messages, most recently in the Northern Territory. 

PORT ADELAIDE – Calvin Philp 
Chad Cornes was the man for this role for a long time under Ken Hinkley before he was promoted in the football department. The runner role was almost Tyson Goldsack's before a back injury ruled him out. Now it's in the hands of Calvin Philp, who is also the rehab coordinator at Alberton under high performance boss Stuart Graham. Not to be confused with Leeds United superstar Kalvin Phillips. 

RICHMOND – Sam Lonergan
Former Essendon and Richmond midfielder Sam Lonergan returned to Punt Road as a development coach at the end of 2019, working closely with the Tigers' first to fourth year players. After his AFL career ended, Lonergan returned to Tasmania to play and coach before coaching Woodville West Torrens in the SANFL. He now works closely with the VFL program at the Swinburne Centre. 

ST KILDA – Tony Brown 
There aren't many more experienced runners in the AFL than Tony Brown, who is also one of the most popular people inside RSEA Park. Brown started running under Mick Malthouse at Collingwood before moving back to his old club when Scott Watters got the coaching job at Seaford. The 45-year-old quickly became one of St Kilda's player development managers, where he is widely regarded as one of the best in the AFL. Brown played 108 games in six years for the Saints before he was delisted at 23. He went on to win a Magarey Medal for the Port Adelaide Magpies before returning to teach in Victoria. 

St Kilda runner Tony Brown during the round 11, 2021 clash with North Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images

SYDNEY – Brett Kirk
The 2005 premiership midfielder has performed most roles inside the SCG across the past two decades. From tagger to midfield coach, Brett Kirk is now in the high performance and development department. The 45-year-old spent time at Channel 7 and Fremantle after retiring following 241 games in red and white, before returning to the club at the end of 2015 to join John Longmire's staff. 

WEST COAST – Chris Masten
The 2018 premiership player has recently returned to the club he played 215 games for after being selected with pick No. 3 in the 2007 NAB AFL Draft. Masten has become increasingly involved in the wine industry since he retired at the end of 2019, helping represent boutique producers in the hospitality trade. Renowned as one of the best runners to walk in the door of the Eagles, the 33-year-old is back running for the club, albeit in a different role. 

Chris Masten with son Max after West Coast defeated Collingwood in the 2018 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

While plenty of clubs use people from the development space, the Western Bulldogs use someone from high performance. Des O'Sullivan is the Dogs' strength and conditioning coach, working under physical performance manager Mat Inness at the Whitten Oval. He runs messages for Luke Beveridge on game day, around his work in the warm-up and warm down.