AFL games record holder Brent Harvey in action

MORE than five years after the last of his record 432 AFL games, Brent Harvey still looks like he could slot into the North Melbourne side tomorrow.

Supremely fit, he looks the image of his playing days when he was a five-time best and fairest and four-time All-Australian, if only a touch more grey.

Well, that's probably because his playing days haven't actually finished.

HALL OF FAME HUB Full list of inductees

He's still running around in Division One community football in northern Melbourne, breaking away from packs, dodging bemused defenders and kicking plenty of goals, all with the thrill of playing alongside his brother Shane and, amazingly for one game last year, with eldest son Cooper.

He loved training, he loved working on his skills, loved being a one-club man at the Kangaroos and just loved every part of playing footy.


It's why he still plays, and why Hall of Fame induction is such an honour that it takes his breath away when he reflects on it.

"To be really good at footy, because it's such a hard game to play, you just have to love it and be prepared to do the work over and over again and to learn everything you can possibly find out," Harvey says.

"I wanted to train all the time from the time I was a little kid, which wasn't much smaller than I am now, and I still love training and I still love playing.

"There's going to be a day when I won't be able to play, so I play every game I can."

Kangaroos legend Brent Harvey is chaired off the ground by teammates

On the occasion of his drafting, North Melbourne coach Denis Pagan was famously said to have remarked to his recruiting staff, 'I want footballers and you've got me a jockey'.

It wasn't the first time Harvey had heard the gibe, growing up in Preston, but none at the Kangaroos would possibly know the intensity of the fire burning within the bargain pick No.47, after years of similar comments before he'd even played a senior game.

"Everybody wanted to judge me on my size when I was a young player, so I always felt I had a lot to prove.

"I could do my best work on the field and show everybody I could be a good player.

"I thought I could out-run everyone and that I had pace."

Kangaroos captain Brent Harvey in full flight against Sydney. Picture: AFL Photos

In his first year of 1996, the North side was too strong for him to be there on Grand Final day but, by the time of the 1999 flag, he had starred in the last of the State of Origin contests between Victoria and SA with five goals, and everyone knew he was a dangerous forward. And he had pace.

For the turn of the century and a new decade in a changing North team, he would elevate himself to the elite of competition midfielders, while never losing his ability to kick a goal.

"From afar, I would watch Robert Harvey and Shane Crawford and how they ran in games and I knew I would have to get to their levels to get the best out of myself.

"Denis Pagan was absolutely pivotal for me to become the best footballer I could be. He taught me so much about workrate and beating taggers and what I had to do.

"I had great coaches all the way through at North, and had a good relationship with each of them, but Denis and I have that premiership bond and he was a hard figure that I needed for my football.

"He was totally ruthless but I loved it."

Kangaroos captain Brent Harvey celebrates a goal. Picture: AFL Photos

Harvey was fiery at times as he dealt with bigger opponents and taggers, and jokes now that Pagan could have been to blame.

"He did tell me, 'you don't want to be pushed around on the field and that I might have to take a week at the Tribunal every now and then', but I put that in my book and then he denied he said it to me, but he said it.

"I told Denis that regardless of what he said, I came from Preston and that I didn't want to be pushed around anyway."

Staring his career in that era under Pagan in the mid/late 1990s, Harvey would assume there would be regular finals every year and more premierships to come. It didn't pan out that way, but even now he finds himself dropping 'Pagan-isms' before he realises he is saying them, and he cherishes playing his whole career at Arden Street.

"I'm here now playing with my brother and I'm saying stuff like, 'Practice matches are like dancing with your sister.

"If you have a teammate kick a couple of cheap goals late in the game against a poor team, well Snowy off the tram could do that."

A CV of 432 games in the AFL – a record that seems an impossible mountain for another player to climb – combined with his multiple club and All-Australian honours, made him a first-year walk-in for the selectors, but not to the man himself.

400 Club members (L-R) Dustin Fletcher, Kevin Bartlett, Shaun Burgoyne, Brent Harvey and Michael Tuck pose for a photograph at Marvel Stadium on July 2, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

"It was a shock to get the call from Richard Goyder. I had to text him back and apologise later and say sorry that I seemed so quiet, but I was so surprised and I didn't want to make a scene.

"I didn't know anything about the eligibility and how long a person has to be retired for, and you're not sure if what you did is enough to get in there for the Hall of Fame when you know the people that are in there.

"It was incredibly important to me to be a one-club player and I'm proud I stayed my whole career with North and never went anywhere else."

When asked to reflect further on his career, Harvey is proud to state that a relentless drive for the highest standards would be the calling card he would write for himself.

"I guess being the AFL games record-holder is unique, and at the peak of my career I had All-Australians and best and fairests.

"I always wanted to train, be better, be fitter and be the most difficult player for my opponents.

"As my career kept going, I hoped that I was valuable to my team and I was still making contributions right to when my career finished."

At the end of it all, it's the friendships that he cherishes – Petrie, Wells, Cochrane, Harris, Thomas of his contemporaries and Anthony Stevens of his older teammates – and that North is a home for him.

He looks back fondly now on the clashes with the likes of Cameron Ling, Shaun Hart and Kane Cornes, even if they drove him nuts at the time.

Brent Harvey was a bargain selection at pick 47 in the 1995 National Draft. Picture: AFL Photos

Approaching 44, the game has given him this chance now to play a good standard of football with his brother and a game alongside his son Cooper last year, who is now forging his own path.

He says that experience rates alongside the 1999 AFL premiership.

"I was such a stress-head about my training and playing at North that I never really enjoyed having my brother in the same team, and we only got a few games together.

"Once I finished at North, it was really important to me to be able to play some footy with my brother and it was such a great thing to have a premiership with him and then to play a senior game as well with Cooper.

"I put those things in the last few years alongside the premiership with North as the best things to have happened to me in football."

To conclude, Harvey's younger son Hudson turns 11 this year.

Don't rule out a senior game for Brent with him just yet.

Brent Harvey's career honours

  • 432 games for North Melbourne, 518 goals (all-time AFL games record-holder)
  • 1999 Premiership
  • 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 Best and Fairest
  • 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008 All Australian
  • 1999 Whitten Medal
  • 2003 Jim Stynes Medal
  • 2009-2011 Captain