Submitted by Peter Blucher
What does a number sequence that goes 843-7-6-6-106-7-8-7-689-9-78-7-7-13-21-357-7-16-572 mean to you?
It’s a page out of Braydon Preuss’ diary. Or at least it would be if he was counting the days between senior games in his AFL career.
It’s a painful summary of an AFL career plagued incredibly by injury.
Drafted to North Melbourne on 3 December 2014, the now 26-year-old ruckman has, as at last Saturday, been in the AFL system a total of 2766 days. That’s the sum of the 19 numbers listed above.
He was 843 days from draft day to game #1 at North in 2017, 689 games between game #8 and #9 after missing the entire 2018 season and switching to Melbourne, 357 days between game #15 and #16, and 572 days between his 18th game at Melbourne and his 19th game with GWS.
In his eighth AFL season, his best run of consecutive games is four. He’s done it twice, having played Rounds 1-2-3-4 and Rounds 19-20-21-22 in his first season.
To put that into some sort of perspective, while Preuss has played 19 games since his football dream was realised in the 2014 AFL draft Gold Coast’s Touk Miller, taken in the same draft, has played 141. Brisbane’s Harris Andrews and Collingwood’s Brayden Maynard have played 139.
Yet this week, having finally worn a Giants jumper into battle on Saturday after being traded to the club on 9 November 2000, GWS coach Leon Cameron and Preuss are rightfully up and about.
It’s like the 206cm giant has been reinvented as one of the League’s brightest young ruckmen after an outstanding GWS debut against the Gold Coast Suns at Sydney Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
The doom and gloom that has hung over his head during a seemingly interminable time on the sideline has been replaced by a renewed belief that he has the capability to be a genuine No.1 AFL club ruckman for an extended period.
It should not come as any sort of surprise because that was exactly why the Giants traded picked #31 in the 2000 AFL draft for Preuss. But Giants fans could have been excused for having a few doubts as they waited and waited for him to play.
On Saturday, playing against the Gold Coast Suns at Sydney Showgrounds, he had a career-best 16 possessions, a career-best 12 contested possessions, a career-best seven clearances, an equal career-best five tackles and the second goal assist of his career. Plus 34 ruck hit-outs. And he played only 69% of game time in the Giants’ 26-point win.
For the first time in his career he figured in the coach’s votes, picking up four votes – two from Cameron and Suns coach Stuart Dew – to rank the fourth-best player on the ground behind teammates Stephen Coniglio, Tom Green and Tim Taranto.
It was a truly outstanding performance, and more than vindicates his not insignificant trade price.
It’s not possible yet to put an actual value to pick #31 in 2020, which travelled between Melbourne, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn before being used by Collingwood to draft yet-to-play key forward Liam McMahon.
But it’s reasonable to say McMahon will have something given that Sydney took Errol Gulden at #32, and in his first season Gulden was the only player from the 2020 draft to poll in the Brownlow Medal and finished 5th in final Rising Star voting.
It was almost appropriate that Preuss’ breakout debut for the Giants came against the Suns, who had first identified him as an AFL prospect playing rugby league as a 16-year-old at school in Townsville.
The Suns got him into football, signing him to their Academy and encouraging him to join the Hermit Park juniors in Townsville before relocating him to Gold Coast to play with Surfers Paradise in a bid to elevate his AFL prospects.
On Saturday it was like the pupil against the master as Preuss, the ‘coodabeen’ Suns ruckman, took on Jarrod Witts, the Suns 2019 club champion and co-captain 2019-2022. And beat him.
Preuss, with just five wins from 19 AFL games, will add another two firsts to his AFL career when he plays for the Giants against Fremantle in Perth. It will be his first game against the Dockers and his first game in Western Australia.
He’s still yet to play in South Australia, having previously ticked off Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, plus the Northern Territory. And he’s still to play against Adelaide, Brisbane, Essendon and Port Adelaide.
At least he’s spread himself around in his home state – his three games in Queensland have been one each at the Gabba, Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast and Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns.
He’s also making real progress up the team sheet, having worn jumper #31 at North and #21 at Melbourne before taking #11 at the Giants. Next? He might aim to be a walk-in captain at his next club so he can wear #1!!
The #11 jumper is no average allocation at the club that wears orange – among those who have worn it at the Giants are Jack Steele, now St.Kilda captain, and Taylor Adams, possibly the next Collingwood captain. And it was first worn at the Giants by ex-Port Adelaide champion Chad Cornes.
In other major Queensland news from Round 3:-
- Adelaide’s Elliott Himmelberg also had a breakout game in the Showdown against Port Adelaide, kicking four goals in the Crows’ after-the-siren win to double his career-best. The former Redland key forward was critical in the win, kicking two goals in the second term and the two immediately before Jordan Dawson’s winner. In his 30th game he had 14 possessions and eight mark to earn six coach’s votes, rating him the third-best player on the ground behind Dawson and Port’s Todd Marshall.
- Brisbane’s Charlie Cameron (two goals six behinds) and Dayne Zorko (28 possessions) earned two coaches votes each in the Lions’ 108-point massacre of North Melbourne.
- Sadly, Sydney ruckman Tom Hickey suffered a knee injury in his side’s loss to the Western Bulldogs that will sideline him for six-eight weeks.
Peter Blucher is a Consultant with Vivid Sport.