Few have had as close a look at Brent ‘Boomer’ Harvey’s road to 400 games as teammate and close friend Drew Petrie – but even the 32-year-old, who has played alongside Harvey in 260 of his 399 AFL games, missed a fair portion of it.
“By the time I got to North Melbourne, he’d already played about 100 games, become a premiership player and won an EJ Whitten Medal,” Petrie told aflplayers.com.au this week.
Petrie remembers Harvey, five years his senior, as one of the first to welcome him to the Kangaroos when he arrived in November, 2000.
“Instantly, there was a friendship built.” After a 16-month stint with a host family, Petrie moved in with Harvey and lived with him for two years.
“He was a great housemate,” Petrie recalled.
“We got on really well and I learned a heap off him. To see how diligent he was with his training and how much effort he put into his football was really good for me.
“He’s a tidy boy and so am I, so we got on really well in that regard too. We shared cooking duties, and had similar interests and personalities.”
The two have remained close since and are driven by the prospect of playing in a premiership together.
In the lead-up to Harvey’s 400th match for North Melbourne, aflplayers.com.au asked Petrie how his great mate had achieved what only three others before him have – breaking the 400-game barrier.
It’s impossible to put such a significant achievement down to one personality trait or training habit – but here are five factors Petrie believes have played a part.
“We do goal-kicking as a forward-line group at the end of training sessions and there might be five or six guys do it, and there’ll be a winner and a loser. I remember a couple of weeks ago I came second-last and he came last. He hardly ever loses, so any time he does the boys put it on him.
“But he came up to me the next day and reminded me that I’d kicked one out on the full and he’d kicked a point, so therefore he’d beaten me and I was last. That’s how competitive he is. He probably spent all night thinking about it.”
Thanks to all the people who like me, but an even bigger thank you to all the people who hate me, because you motivate me.
— Brent Harvey (@Boomer_29) June 8, 2015
His preparation is elite
“There are no tricks to what he does. He trains hard and trains every session.
“A lot of people might think he might only train once a week and he gets looked after and wrapped up in cotton wool, and doesn’t have to do much of anything, but over the last five years he would’ve trained more sessions than the next person in line.
“He just does not miss training sessions. His attitude is every session is an opportunity to improve.”
He arrived at North Melbourne in the ‘90s
“Pre-seasons, back when he started – and I probably experienced this a bit in my first couple of years – involved lots and lots and lots of running, and heaps of weights. And you build a really resilient sort of body. Where now, some players come in and get too specific at times.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to throw players in and train hard and let their body become resilient and strong. That’s why, physically, he’s been able to play for as long as he has – because he had those pre-seasons under Denis Pagan back in the ‘90s.”
He hasn’t let footy change him … or his spending habits
“He’s not as cheap as he’s portrayed! There are plenty of blokes worse than him at the footy club. Having lived with him, I can tell you that he’s just a bloke who’s worked hard for everything he’s earned. He’s come from a family that’s worked hard for everything it’s got and he just doesn’t waste anything.
“I don’t think you can knock a bloke for being that way – he just hasn’t changed his ways or his principles because he’s got a few extra bucks now. He doesn’t take anything for granted.”
He still loves the game
“He absolutely loves the game – eats, lives and breathes it.
“I was speaking to him on Tuesday about the footy he’d watched over the weekend, and he said [after playing in North Melbourne’s win over Essendon on Friday night] he’d seen bits and pieces of every single game.
“He’s not the sort of person who’ll go home on the weekend and not turn on the footy – he’s always got it on and is always checking scores and seeing who’s playing well.
“Most players don’t watch too much footy these days… I’d say Brent would be the most passionate person about football on our list.
Even when he stops playing, he’ll love it
“He’ll stay involved in football, because he’s got a wealth of knowledge and he just loves it.
“I think he’d be good as a development coach, because I see what he does with the younger players and how he tries to teach them things that he’s learned over the years. That’d be right up his alley when he finishes.”