Essondon Bombers fullback Dustin Fletcher just keeps on keeping on. Putting pen to paper on a brand new one-year deal sees the AFL’s oldest player push through to his 21st season in the top grade. Fletcher needs 19 games to reach third on the all-time games list.
To put it into context, many rookies in this year’s draft were not born and in all likelihood, their parents had not even met when Fletcher first took the field for the Bombers. In 1993 Jurassic Park topped the box office, Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, the IOC awarded the Olympic games to Australia, and A Country Practice aired their final episode. As we stand in awe of his durability, we are reminded of several other sportsman who prospered well into their twilight years.
The All Black hard-man’s durability is on rivaled by his prolificacy with the dual international representing Queensland and the Kangaroos in rugby league, and the All Blacks in rugby union. He’s won competitions with the Brisbane Broncos and Canterbury Crusaders, State Of Origin series’, and last years rugby union World Cup. After a farewell tour of sorts that has seen Thorn enjoying stints in Japan and Ireland, Thorn has indicated that he could play another Super Rugby season with the Highlanders firming as a favorite to snare his signature. Mid-way through his glittering career, Thorn became disillusioned with the life of a professional sportsman and dropped off the map. He was found working as a bricklayer in the suburbs of Brisbane. Not what I’d call chill time but you can’t argue with the results.
Manly Sea Eagles cult hero Cliff Lyons continued playing NRL football into his late 30’s. Lyons won premierships with Manly in 1987 and 1995 and represented NSW and Australia during his 309 game career. His preferred training methods included chain-smoking and touch football. Having departed from the top grade, Lyons extended his career into his 40’s playing bush football for the Hornsby Lions and more recently the Narraweena Hawks.
Thanks to Warnie, Tubby Taylor, and Boonie, it’s assumed that cricketers can plug away while carrying a few extra kilos well into their 30’s but Matt Hayden is an exception to the rule because he avoided the ‘should we drop him yet or not’ post 30’s form wobbles and retired at the top of his game (ok, his last Test season was a little wobbly). Having a stuttered start to his Test career may have been a blessing in disguise as he belted rival attacks to all parts well into his 30’s. Upon his representative retirement at the age of 37, Hayden was praised by players past and present as our greatest opening batsman of all time, averaging over 50 in all forms of the game. Retiring in the era of 20/20 cricket ensured Hayden could continue making runs and cash in equal measure in the IPL and Big Bash League before finally hanging up the bat at 41.
As an early age silver fox, Andrew Gaze always looked like an old timer, but his retirement from the NBL at the age of 40 came after giving over 20 years service to the game in Australia. After several stints in the NBA, Gaze scored himself a championship ring with the San Antonio Spurs and represented the Boomers at 5 Olympic games.
The Fijian man mountain retired this year at aged 36 after 309 NRL games, three premierships, 33 appearances for QLD, and a staggering 45 caps for the Kangaroos. And it’s not like Petro was having a bludge out on the wing, playing his entire career up front in the engine room. Known for his tireless work-rate and stinging defence, plenty of youngsters will breath a sigh of relief now this old bull has hung up his boots.
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