As the 2016 season was progressing, I didn’t even contemplate Boomer not playing AFL in 2017. I know how he prepares behind closed doors, I see the blood, sweat and tears that go into his footy, I know how much he loves it. I thought he’d play on forever.
I was devastated when I heard the news that Brent’s time at North Melbourne was coming to an end. One thing I’ve enjoyed over time has been taking my kids to watch him play — they love going in the rooms and watching the Kangaroos. Those are the memories that I’ll always cherish the most from his record-breaking career.
When it finally hit me that those opportunities were going to stop it was upsetting for me, but more importantly, it was terrible for him because of the way he was playing. It was a complete shock.
The way he’s carried himself over the last 21 years has been incredible, so I wasn’t surprised at how dignified he was when he found out the news that his time at North was over. He puts everyone else before him. The timing of the decision was interesting with a finals campaign ahead of the group, but he managed to put it to one side and compartmentalise.
Given the fact he’s five years older than me, I thought I might stop playing locally before his AFL career was over! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it’d be the end of 2016 where he’d be hanging up the boots. Still to this day, it’s a massive shock to think about him playing local footy with myself at North Heidelberg — that next chapter is something I’ve been thinking about for years.
Despite the lure of playing alongside him my brother again, I wanted him to go on in the AFL because he has so much to give. He’d be in the top 10 players at any other team, so I would have loved to see him continue on but that’s how loyal he is. He’d had a fairly good run; he managed 18 more years than I did. Now I think about it, I’m glad that it’s all over and that he’ll be a one-club player.
Even though I grew up alongside him, It’s hard to put my finger on exactly when I knew he’d become the special player that he is. When I was 18 and I got drafted he’d been in the system for about four or five years and he started absolutely dominating games. I thought ‘wow, he’s better than I thought!’ No one could tag him. I really wanted to be like him — the professionalism, the way he trains — he deserves everything he gets.
The next chapter in the NFL
A few people have asked me which position I think he’ll play for us. I have said to him that if he comes into my forward line, he can go to another club, but all jokes aside, he can pick wherever he wants. His competitiveness will probably carry him into the midfield I’d assume, so good luck to whoever is provided the role of running with him!
This season, we lost in the Grand Final and to be perfectly honest, we should have won. Topping up with the best player that local footy has ever seen will benefit us in the long run.
We have a great following already at the football club, so last season we went away from charging patrons to get in. I’m tipping that when Brent plays that might change pretty quickly.
The coaches probably wouldn’t care if he rocked up to the club for the first time in April but knowing him, that won’t be the case. He’s not like that, he’ll be there for the first pre-season session — he’s already said that he’s going to train hard.
He’s so competitive he wouldn’t dare rock up and take all the glory on game day while others slog it out in the months prior. He’ll be first to training on night one, and the last to leave.
I’m lucky enough to have played down at North Heidelberg for eight or nine years so when he’s been free on a Saturday, he’d come down and watch us go round. He knows all the boys and has formed a number of relationships with past players who he played juniors with.
Dad also played at the club for 20 years, so given all of the connections, I know that he is excited to join and play with all the boys given the history.
We spent every Saturday at North Heidelberg watching dad play and back in those days, we wouldn’t leave the club until 11pm. We were basically brought up there and there’s seven other sons of former players already there. It’s a family club.
A few of the boys have been calling me and messaging to let me know that they’re pumped for the season ahead. They can’t wait to put the work in at training and to play with a legend like Brent. They know what he’s like off the field but they’re more excited to see what he’s like to play with.
Myself, Brent, Daniel Harris and Drew Petrie have always said that we’d like to play a year together once everyone’s AFL careers are over. You never know, Brent might get some more ex-teammates down to build a dynasty.
I’m excited for someone to try and rough him up so that I can go over there and give him a chop out. I’d do it for all of my teammates, but there’s an extra incentive when it’s your brother. I’m sure he can handle himself, though.
Brent and I joked with our kids that he’ll have to hang on for six or seven years and then maybe he can play with his son, Cooper.
Hopefully we win it this year, then go up to Division 1 and give it a shake the year after.