Brent Harvey is one of seven nominees for the AFL Players’ Association Madden Medal, an award that recognises more than on-field performances, with off-field achievements, personal development and community spirit also taken into account.
He played for 21 years and a record 432 AFL games, but what is the secret to Brent Harvey’s longevity at the elite level?
Harvey was widely regarded as competitive as any player in the league and kept himself in peak physical shape throughout his two decades at North Melbourne.
But becoming more apparent is the mental toll of playing AFL for a long period of time and it’s something the 38-year-old kept on top of throughout his storied career.
“I still enjoyed my football at the end as much as I did at the start,” Harvey told Aflplayers.com.au.
“A lot of guys who become too consumed in footy get burnt out pretty quickly and having something away from the game also helped my longevity in the game.
“I think I’ve always prepared and gotten myself into a good headspace to be able to get away when I need to. I hung around with all my friends from school, so that was an outlet to be able to get away and be a normal person from time to time.
“I’m not sure if that’s the secret to playing for so long but if I did it all again I wouldn’t change anything.”
Harvey ticked off some short courses early in his AFL journey and ran a couple of small businesses throughout his record-breaking career, but spending time at football clinics and giving back to the community were some of his favourites.
Being engaged off the field was important for Harvey’s lifestyle and the former Kangaroo believed having a family is one of the best escapes a footballer can have from the sport.
“When your head is always in footy mode, you tend to lose sight of everything else.
“I had a great balance later in my career just from having three children but when you’re at the football club, it is all about the game. So when you get out you need to do something that releases you from football, whether that’s community work or studying or anything else productive.”
Being a father, Harvey’s always understood the importance of setting a good example as a footballer in the spotlight.
That comes with presenting well off the field also, a part that that’s changed considerably since Harvey was growing up.
“Being a role model is something that doesn’t sit well with a lot of others. When I was a kid, we wanted to be just like footballers but it was almost strictly for what they do on the field,” Harvey added.
“Nowadays, it’s important to set the standard and I do that first and foremost as a father to my kids. For me it was always about setting a good example and making sure you’re always doing the right thing. Being a role model extends beyond the field and involves the way we behave off it.”
Since retiring at the end of 2016, Harvey has taken up a mentoring role with North Melbourne where he’ll be working with the club’s younger players, the junior clinic program, as well as its father-son and next generation academies.
Harvey will help develop North’s younger players on and off the field and said it’s important that the players coming through the ranks find a balanced lifestyle.
“I think you need to steer young players in a direction, you can’t just say ‘go out and do something’ because if they don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they won’t do it well. I loved football but I also loved everything else I did outside of it.
“My advice to young players is do something outside of football but make sure it’s something you really love doing.”
Brent Harvey’s achievements on and off the field:
On Field Achievements
- 432 AFL Games
- North Melbourne Best and Fairest 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010
- All-Australian 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008
- Australian International Rules Squad 2000, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2014
- 2nd Brownlow Medal 2007
- 2nd Best and Fairest 2001
- 3rd Best and Fairest 2012
- North Melbourne Premiership Player 1999
- Jim Stynes Medal 2003
- E.J. Whitten Medal 1999
Off Field Achievements
- Released Autobiography – Boomer
- Certificate 4 in Building and Construction
- Certificate 3 in Fitness
- Wildlife Victoria Ambassador
- Pan Macmillan Ambassador
- Harvey’s Heroes Clinic Ambassador
- North Melbourne Captain 2009–2011
- AFL Games Record Holder (432)
- North Melbourne Captain
- North Melbourne Life Member