Jarrod Harbrow will take something of a heavy heart into his 200th AFL game in Q-Clash 14 at the Gabba on Saturday afternoon.
Rodney Eade, a constant in Harbrow’s outstanding 11-year career, will not be there.
Eade coached the former Cairns flyer through the first four years and 70 games at the Western Bulldogs, and has seen him through the last three years and 51 games at the Gold Coast Suns.
It would have been a fitting shared celebration if he’d been the coach to send him out to become the 12th Queenslander to post his AFL double-century when the Suns visit the Brisbane Lions.
But having been told by the Suns his contract would not be extended beyond the end of the season he quit on Tuesday, and instead caretaker coach Dean Solomon will be the coach of record for the milestone occasion.
Harbrow, an influential senior figure in the Gold Coast playing group, is close to Solomon. But he was closer to Eade. Very close. And, as much as it won’t influence the 29-year-old’s approach to the game or his performance, it is not what he would have been counting on.
Harbrow will join a veritable Who’s Who of Queensland football in the 200 Club.
In chronological order, members are Jason Dunstall (1994), Scott McIvor (1997), Gavin Crosisca (1997), Marcus Ashcroft (1999), Michael Voss (2003), Jason Akermanis (2004), Mal Michael (2006), Max Hudghton (2007), Nick Riewoldt (2011), Cheynee Stiller (2012) and Daniel Merrett (2016).
He will be the third Queenslander after Michael and Stiller to crack 200 after starting as a rookie.
It’s been a remarkable career after Harbrow left the family home in Cairns to move to Mooroopna and play with the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup before getting his chance via the 1997 Rookie Draft.
Ironically, it was Scott Clayton, now the Gold Coast Suns List Manager, who picked a little-known Harbrow as a Bulldogs rookie after he’d been overlooked entirely in a 2006 National Draft in which Bryce Gibbs, Scott Gumbleton, Lachie Hansen, Matthew Leuenberger and Travis Boak filled the top five spots ahead of seven Queenslanders.
Clayton, liking what he saw from Harbrow, took his thoughts to Eade, then coach of the Bulldogs, and after Eade agreed to take a gamble on the speedy utility player and has been rewarded for his gamble with a stellar career.
Harbrow debuted for the Dogs in Round 4 2007 against Richmond at the MCG, picking up six disposals, four marks, one tackle and one goal assist.
It was also the AFL debut of fellow Queenslander Tom Williams, who retired at the end of the 2016 AFL season after 85 games in a career heavily restricted by injury. He had two disposals and tackles in his first game.
Harbrow is one of only seven players from his first game still in the AFL – former teammates Matthew Boyd, Ryan Griffen (now at GWS), Shaun Higgins (now at North), Dale Morris and Robert Murphy, and ex-Tiger Brett Deledio (now at GWS).
Harbrow will be hoping for a better outcome in his big milestone game than he has enjoyed in previous milestone games.
In his 100th AFL game for Gold Coast against Sydney at Metricon in 2012 he was on the wrong end of a 72-point hiding, and in his 100th game for the Gold Coast against Melbourne at Metricon last year he lost by 73 points.
Harbrow is the Suns games record-holder and shares with Pearce Hanley and Tom Rockliff the record for most appearances in a Q-Clash at 12, ahead of Matt Shaw (11), Tom Lynch (11), Dayne Zorko (10), Daniel Rich (10), Michael Rischitelli (10), Jed Adcock (10), Steven May (10), Daniel Merrett (10) and Sam Day (10).
Aaron Hall, named to play despite failing to see out last week’s loss to Fremantle in Perth with a hamstring, will play his 10th Q-Clash on Saturday.
Harbrow also ranks fifth on the all-time Q-Clash possessions list with 218. He trails Rockliff (347), Hanley (315), Ablett (253), Jack Redden (230), and leads Zorko (215) and Dion Prestia (207).
Rich (189) and Hall (183) are in line to join the Q-Clash 200 Possession Club.
Lynch, who will miss the game this week with Gary Ablett, heads the all-time Q-Clash goal-kicking list with 25 from Harley Bennell (13), Zorko (12), Jonathan Brown (12), Rich (11) and Brandon Matera (11). Only Rich of this group will play.
Brisbane, with an aggregate 8-5 advantage in all Q-Clashes, will be looking to complete their third cleansweep after their two-point win in Round 1 this year.
Brisbane also won both games in 2012 and 2013, while Gold Coast swept the Q-Clash in 2015.
Each side originally named four players new to the Q-Clash – Brisbane’s Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry, Cedric Cox and Jacob Allison, and Gold Coast’s Daniel Currie, Max Spencer, Jack Scrimshaw and Darcy MacPherson – but Berry was subsequently ruled out with a foot injury.
In other Q-Clash selections on Thursday night, the Suns lost Ablett and Lynch to injury and dropped Jarrad Grant and Mitch Hallahan. They welcomed David Swallow and Jaryd Lyons back from injury, recalled Callum AhChee and Ben Ainsworth. Queenslander Jack Bowes was among the emergencies.
Then on Friday ex-Lion Hanley was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Bowes was added to the side, and fellow Queenslander Brad Scheer was added to the emergencies.
The Lions originally dropped Josh Schache and lost Alex Witherden to injury, and then lost Berry.
Sam Mayes returns from injury, Michael Close was recalled, and then, after Berry’s late withdrawal, Claye Beams joined brother Dayne in the side for his first game since Round 9.
Josh Clayton joined Queenslanders Archie Smith and Claye Beams as the emergencies.
The other Q-Clash “debutant” will be Suns caretaker coach Solomon, who takes charge for the last three games of the season at the end of his seventh season with the club.
Solomon, hugely popular with the Suns players and regarded as a senior coach in the making, played 209 AFL games with Essendon (1998-2006) and Fremantle (2007-09) and was a 2000 premiership player with the Bombers.
By Peter Blucher.