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Friday, May 12, 2006


What a legend Robert Harvey is! We congratulate him on being the best Saint’s player ever, and we have had a lot of great players, but for me Harvs tops the lot! Onya mate...

ROBERT Harvey is a great player and an even better student of the game.

Turning 35 in August, the dual Brownlow medallist probably has no right to be running out for a club record 324th game for St Kilda against Geelong at Telstra Dome tonight, but on form he would be just about the first Saint picked.

From his debut as a 16-year-old schoolboy from Seaford against the Bulldogs on a wind-swept Western Oval in 1988 through to tonight's landmark occasion at the ultra-modern Dome, Harvey has lived, learned and flourished.

"I had a few interesting battles early on with Greg Williams. He gave me a few beltings early, which taught me about what to do," Harvey said yesterday. "Especially because he wasn't a quick player and he had to use other things and tactics to get by. As a young player he really taught me a lot about what I should do."

Back-to-back Brownlow medals in 1997-98 were testimony to his status as one of the game's greats, as are his four club best-and-fairests and eight All-Australian selections.

But arguably his greatest achievement is being able to play in three different decades, as the game has grown from a semi-professional sport played on suburban mud-heaps to a full-time, ultra-slick occupation for super athletes.

And to survive into a 19th season with a full knee reconstruction and an almost chronic history of hamstring and calf injuries is nothing short of phenomenal. Just how much longer his career will go on is debatable.

"The way the hamstrings have been the last 18 months, I've never been able to look too far ahead. As recently as Brisbane (Round 3) when I did my hamstring, you just don't know what's going to happen, that's the way my body goes," Harvey said.

"I suppose as you get older you don't want to look forward too far. I'm obviously proud of what I've done and how long I've been able to play but I've still got stuff I want to do. You can never get too comfortable."

That captures the essence of the man – still learning, still striving to get better.

"Just after I turned 30 I was still trying to train and do what I used to do without any changes," he said. I've had to sacrifice a fair bit in the last few years just to get myself through and arguably my body is in better shape now than it was then because I get much more advice about what I should be doing. And I actually do it, rather than push through and try to do stuff I shouldn't.

"It has always led to injuries – missing three games here and four there. I'm in a good routine now and, in my body, I'm actually feeling younger."

His style of play had to change too. His desire to run all day has had to be modified.

"When I play I feel like I can't do things that I used to do," Harvey said. "I've obviously lost a bit of pace and that happens to everyone, but I've tried to tweak a few things, use my experience. I don't carry the ball as much as I used to, for instance. It's just something that has to happen as you get older."

Coach Grant Thomas gave a compelling insight into the nature of Harvey.

"Harvs is gifted from a skill perspective, but you wouldn't put him at the absolute top of the tops. It's more about his workrate, his mental toughness, his ability to endure pain and continue on," Thomas said. "The ability to keep going when lesser people have said `That's enough'.

"He is an extraordinarily driven person. When he gets to a situation where most of us would say `Well, that's a damn good job, that's enough', he actually then goes from third to fourth gear and keeps going. "He's pretty much like those wind-up toys, you just turn the key on the back a few times, kick him up the bum across the line and away he goes. When he runs out, you wind it up again - but he doesn't run out too often."

Robert Harvey, we salute you, as one of the great ambassador’s of the finest sport in the world!

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