Fletcher stars again for Bombers - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fletcher stars again for Bombers

Roger Vaughan 16/04/2011 07:07:38 PM Comments (0)

Jeff Garlett is the latest AFL forward who wishes Dustin Fletcher would start acting his age.

The Essendon veteran somehow reached Garlett with a lunging tackle that stopped the speedy Carlton player running into an open goal late in Saturday's draw at the MCG.

Carlton were a point ahead and had Garlett goalled, they would have won.

It confirmed Fletcher was best afield - not bad for the league's oldest player, who turns 36 on May 7.

Fletcher has played 332 AFL games since his debut in 1993 as a 17-year-old schoolboy, but he shows no signs of losing his impact as a player.

Coach James Hird said Fletcher, his team-mate in the 1993 and 2000 premierships, had held the backline together against the Blues.

"I think I said last week he's a star - this week, he's ... I haven't seen Dustin probably play better," Hird said.

"At 35, he's only getting better, he's just putting it all out there and whatever happens, happens for him.

"He is an absolute star and champion of the game."

Hird also made it clear he will hear no criticism about the role that Fletcher plays in the Essendon defence.

"People who talk about him previously not playing on the best forwards, well, he had roles today on their best forwards, he had roles on the small players, he played all over the ground, he kept cutting off contests, he kept setting up the ground for us, setting up the attack for us - there's nothing more he could have done," Hird said.

"He did everything possible to win us the game and a great effort by Dustin."

Fletcher has a strong rapport with Essendon backline coach Sean Wellman - another 2000 premiership team-mate - and gives invaluable feedback from out on the ground.

Asked how much coaching Fletcher needed, Hird noted that even Kevin Sheedy did not have to give the tall backman too much guidance.

Fletcher, with his long "Inspector Gadget" arms and incredible ability to read the play, has always acted on impeccable instincts.

Garlett had Fletcher well covered for pace, but the AFL's old man cut the angle superbly to lay the most crucial tackle of the match.

The effort left the Fletcher on the ground and struggling with cramp - a sign he is, indeed, aged 35.

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