Queenslanders in the AFL – Round 11

By Peter Blucher 

Ben Keays walked off Adelaide Oval last Sunday evening one very proud young man, having celebrated his entry to Queensland’s 100-Game AFL Club in perfect fashion. Almost.

Keays, delisted by the Brisbane Lions four years ago, played a pivotal role for the Adelaide Crows in a 17-point win that ended his former club’s seven-game winning streak and restored the Crows’ finals credentials.

His first win in four games against the Lions, it was a belated ‘you got it wrong’ for the club where he played 30 games from 2016-19 and two each in 2018-19 before being told his services were no longer required.

There was only one thing slightly amiss in the Sunday fairytale …. It was his 101st game.

The Morningside junior, former Queensland Under 18 captain and dual All-Australian Under 18 selection, had played his 100th AFL game in Round 10 against the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat.

It wasn’t the day he would have hoped for, contributing a season-low 11 possessions (two contested), three tackles and one clearance to a 45-point loss. Statistically it was his worst game since June 2020.

But he more than made amends in Round 11 last Sunday, when he had a season-high 28 possessions (12 contested), nine tackles and six clearances against the Lions.

Keays tagged Lions co-captain Lachie Neale in the first half, keeping the Brownlow Medallist in close check as Adelaide grabbed the upper hand in a game which will forever live fondly in his memory.

Winner of the Hunter Harrison Medal as the best player in division two at the 2015 Australian Under 18 carnival and picked up by the Lions with pick #24 in the National Draft that year, Keays has done a wonderful job reigniting his AFL career after being cut by the Lions.

Thrown a lifeline by the Crows via pick #7 in the rookie draft, he has enjoyed the sort of success he would have hoped for in Brisbane after he joined the club with pick #2 Josh Schache and pick #14 Eric Hipwood.

It was a trio that was meant to be a key part of the resurrection of the club that had finished 13th-15th-13th-13th-12th-15th-17th in the six years prior to their arrival. But only Hipwood, now a 138-game fixture with the Lions, is still there.

Schache, who played 27 games with the Lions in 2016-17, followed with 45 games with the Western Bulldogs from 2018-22 and now finds himself at Melbourne. But having played just once at AFL level with the Demons this year he faces a battle to save a career that has stalled at 73 AFL games.

Not Keays. Having made the most of his second chance, he’s become the 55th Queenslander to play 100 AFL games and having won a spot in the Crows’ leadership group after finishing 5th and 2nd in the B&F the last two years, he’s looking at 200.

Keays, 26, isn’t the first Queenslander to reach 100 games after being de-listed by the Lions. Daniel Pratt was cut by North Melbourne without playing and Brisbane after three games before an unlikely third chance at the Kangaroos saw him reach 119 AFL games. And Joel Macdonald, cut by Brisbane in 2009 after 80 games, added a further 44 games at Melbourne from 2010-13.

Steven Lawrence also reached 100 games after leaving Brisbane for St.Kilda but he wasn’t delisted. The Southport junior and son of St.Kilda ace Barry Lawrence elected to join his father’s old club at the end of 2000 after 81 games in Brisbane colors.

Traded to the Saints for pick #33 in the 2000 National Draft, which became triple premiership player Martin Pike, Lawrence played 39 games as his second club.

But Keays has done it extra well. So much so that his 100-game possession count of 2019 is fifth among all Queenslanders. Only Dayne Beams (2420), Scott McIvor (2125), Dayne Zorko (2058) and Michael Voss (2045) had made at the same point in their career.

Keays also ranks third among Queenslanders for Brownlow Medal votes in his first 100 games. Having polled 11 votes in 2021 and 2022, he has 23 votes plus any he may pick up in the first 10 games of this season, and trails only Voss (43), Jason Dunstall (41), Nick Riewoldt (41) and Beams (36).

Having debuted for the Crows in Round 2 2020 – the restart of the competition after the Covid delay – Keays has not missed a game. He’s played 71 in a row, averaging 23.4 possessions (9.4 contested), 4.6 tackles and 4.4 clearances.

His live streak is the equal 11th best in the League, behind Collingwood’s Jack Crisp, who is poised to play his 200th in a row since leaving Brisbane, Melbourne’s Christian Petracca (118), Bulldogs’ Jack Macrae (108), Brisbane’s Charlie Cameron (103), Sydney’s Luke Parker (99), St.Kilda’s Callum Wilkie (96), Hawthorn’s Karl Amon (84), Geelong’s Tom Hawkins (82), Sydney’s Oliver Florent (80) and Richmond’s Liam Baker (74) and equal with Collingwood’s John Noble (71).

Parker’s run could end one game short of triple figures pending his tribunal appearance tonight.

In other Queensland highlights from Round 11:-

Port Adelaide’s Aliir Aliir continued his All-Australian season, dominating as the Power beat Richmond by 10 points at MCG for their eighth win in a row. He had 15 possessions – 10 intercept possessions – and picked up four votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award.

Brisbane’s Charlie Cameron was the only other Queenslander to figure in the votes, picking up one for four goals in his side’s disappointing loss to Adelaide.

GWS defender Lachie Keeffe played his first game of the year against Geelong at Kardinia Park, doing an excellent job in holding Cats’ spearhead Tom Hawkins to two marks and one goal.

North’s Bailey Scott followed his first 30-possession game of Round 10 with another against Collingwood at Marvel Stadium. He had a team-high 30 possessions and a goal as the Roos lost by 35 points.

Sydney’s Tom Hickey, still not fully fit after an injury-disrupted start to the season, played his second gam of the year and made a significant impact with 15 possessions and 25 hit-outs as the Swans beat Carlton by 26 points at the SCG.

And Gold Coast’s Alex Davies enjoyed arguably the best win of his 22-game career, contributing 14 possessions and an equal career-best six tackles to a heart-pumping seven-point win over the Bulldogs in Darwin.

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