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Mr Nice Guy reaches 250

North Melbourne spearhead Drew Petrie celebrated his 250th AFL match with a win last weekend. Kangaroos captain Andrew Swallow, who has run out alongside Petrie in 125 of those games, reflects on Petrie’s career and influence at Arden Street.

Known around the club as Mr Nice Guy, Drew Petrie is as ferocious competitor as I have seen once he crosses the white line. Married to the lovely Nicole and now father to three beautiful young children, Drew has been a wonderfully loyal servant to the Kangaroos over the past fourteen years.

AFL 2013 Rd 06 - North Melbourne v Port Adelaide

Maybe it was his upbringing (his parents regularly travel from Ballarat to watch games) but I have never heard anyone say a bad word about Drew. He will always be the last person out at a family day signing autographs and chatting to supporters. On interstate trips, the rest of the boys will be waiting for five or ten minutes while Drew goes around to make sure all supporters, sponsors and reporters have got all they need. So loved is the big fella that one particular fan got the number plates DREW20. ‘Boomer’ Harvey reckons his good mate Drew can never make up his mind, as he’d rather ‘sit on the fence’ than disappoint or upset anyone. That’s just the way big Drew is.

Drew on the field is completely different to the Drew off it. He definitely has symptoms of white line fever; not to the extent of the Shinboner of the century Glenn Archer, but nevertheless, it’s there. Some forget Drew has been thrown all over the field throughout his career. When I first started at the club, Drew was playing down back on the big, monster full forwards with the occasional pinch-hit through the ruck. In recent years he has gone down to his customary forward line role of our number one spearhead.  This has culminated in over 300 goals and an All-Australian selection.

Unlike most players, Drew has the ability to tear a game apart. I remember two particular games fondly – both played at the home of footy, the MCG. The first was in Glenn Archer’s 300th against the Western Bulldogs in 2007. Drew kicked seven goals for the game, but six of them came in the first quarter to pretty much seal the win. I was in my second year of footy and marveled at a bloke who, at almost 200cm, was launching himself at the footy one moment and then reaching down and picking it up off the turf and snapping goals the next. His athleticism and work rate for a big fella is second to none.

The second game I remember was against the Tigers in 2012. We were battling to get on top of Richmond before Drew strolled out in the last quarter and kicked a lazy five goals to single-handedly get us across the line. Everything we kicked to him he just clunked in that quarter. I’m sure Alex Rance, who for the first three quarters had done a pretty good job on Drew, would have felt helpless as Drew made the impossible look easy.

Drew strolled out in the last quarter and kicked a lazy five goals to single-handedly get us across the line.

Seeing as I’m supposed to be writing about his milestone achievement of 250 games, I didn’t want to bring up the recent criticism of Drew – but I feel compelled to. Although Drewy may be down on his own lofty expectations, we rate him as having been one of our most important players this season. He is not only our vice-captain, and stand in skipper, but also the general of the forward line. He sets up and instructs and has been crucial in providing the forward pressure that is so important in the modern game. Our coach, Brad Scott has said publicly that there is no better tall forward in the game than Drew in being able to tackle and chase, and I whole-heartedly agree.

Let’s also not forget that nowadays Drew is outmanned in almost every game he plays. The first call for most opposition teams is to get a spare defender back to stop Drew from being able to run and jump at the footy. It’s a testament to the competitor that Drewy is, that he hardly ever gets outmarked in a two-on-one contest, bringing the ball to ground and creating opportunities for our small forwards and midfielders.

I would like to say a massive congratulation to Drew on 250 games; it’s an incredible milestone that he should be extremely proud of. He is a family man and a wonderful leader around the club. I look forward to playing many more years with him as we continue our quest to hold the elusive cup up together one day.