Harvey small in stature, but AFL giant - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Harvey small in stature, but AFL giant

By Leonard Siragusa 23/05/2008 09:08:44 AM Comments (0)

A timely break and a good word from an AFL talent spotter saved North Melbourne star Brent Harvey from becoming just another kid denied a chance at AFL football because he was too small.

Rewind back to the 1995 AFL draft.

The Kangaroos were looking for a speedy midfielder with their second-last pick in the draft at selection number 47.

Then-coach Denis Pagan sounded out his recruiting officer Neville Stibbard.

Stibbard recommended a little 17-year-old rover, who stood at just 168cm and weighed 65kg, from the Northern Knights. But Pagan was far from convinced.

"He was tiny and at that stage somebody said to me he's smaller than (jockey) Darren Gauci," Pagan recalled this week.

With serious reservations, Stibbard told Pagan to ask AFL national talent manager Kevin Sheehan about Harvey, while the draft's host broadcaster went to a commercial break.

Sheehan told Pagan the little rover had excelled during the Under 18 championships for Vic Metro and was best on ground for the Knights in the TAC Cup grand final.

"They queried his size but he had the heart of a lion," Sheehan recalled.

"He always had this absolute belief he could win the football."

Finally convinced, Pagan punted on Harvey.

"How many 47s make it? Not many 47s make it - you're in the hands of the Philistines," Pagan said.

Stibbard, who admitted he was super keen to snare Harvey, said his talent was confirmed during his first hit-out for the club.

"Obviously size was a huge concern, but he had a few things going for him," Stibbard recalled.

"He had outstanding elite skills, elite in the athletic side and his understanding and game sense was elite.

"I said `I think we got ourselves a beauty here' after the first practice match and he never looked back from there."

Pagan handed Harvey his debut in round 22 in the club's premiership year of 1996, but said he was not part of the club's planning for the flag.

"What we liked about him was his ability to open the game up, his leg speed was enormous," he said.

"We knew he had ability, but he was very small.

"Once he matured physically, size didn't come into the equation."

Fast forward to 2008 and Harvey will run out for his 250th game against the Western Bulldogs this Sunday.

His list of achievements includes three best and fairests in the past five years, he is a three-time All-Australian and was equal second in last year's Brownlow Medal count.

He was a member of the `Roos' 1999 premiership side, best afield in the 1999 State of Origin match for Victoria against South Australia and has represented Australia in seven International Rules games.

Not bad when you consider he is the AFL's smallest player at 172cm, along with Port Adelaide's David Rodan.

His past three years have seen him attain an impressive level of consistency, averaging more than 23 possessions a game and he is keeping at that same pace this season with 192 touches from eight matches.

He has become the club's most important player during the prime of his career.

Pagan is a big admirer of Harvey's courage, but said the key to his success was his willingness to push himself to the bounds of exhaustion to repeatedly reach contests.

"He is certainly very courageous, he doesn't fear footballers with bigger bodies, but he was encouraged to run when his lungs were burning - there are not too many people who outrun him," Pagan said.

"He's one of the great North Melbourne players, he's right up there in the top bracket, when you consider what he's achieved, when you look at his size and stature, it's amazing."

For his part, Harvey said questions over whether he would measure up became inconsequential once he cemented himself as an AFL footballer.

"No one really said that to me. I guess there were rumours around when I got drafted but I guess the average (AFL) life span is four years and I've sort of gone past that so I'm pretty happy with my career to date."

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