Andrew Mackie jokes that people outside Geelong finally stopped under-rating Corey Enright around the time he won his fifth AFL All-Australian guernsey.
Enright’s true worth had been plainly obvious to his teammates for many years before that – none more so than defensive partner Mackie, one of only five current Cats to have played alongside him in each of the 2007, 2009 and 2011 premiership triumphs.
Mackie, Steve Johnson and skipper Joel Selwood get to play active roles on Sunday as Enright celebrates becoming just the third Cat to reach the 300-game milestone in the home clash against Melbourne.
Jimmy Bartel was desperate to also return from a knee injury for the Simonds Stadium clash, but he ran out of time and so will be forced to watch from the sidelines along with James Kelly (ankle).
“We’ve always been able to look each other in the eye,” Mackie told AAP when pushed to describe what it was like playing alongside the unassuming Enright.
“I know he’s always got my back and as a teammate that’s all you can ask for – to know what you’re going to get from a bloke every single week.
“I’m very thankful to have been on the same side as him.”
Enright, 33, famously won his two club best and fairest awards in the premiership years of 2009 and 2011, in teams stacked with some of the best players in Geelong’s long and proud history.
“For any player to play that much footy means they have a tremendous amount of dedication and professionalism,” said Mackie of Enright.
“You don’t get this far without putting in the hard yards.
“A lot of that is done away from the footy club, with what he does and how he prepares.
“And it’s not just that he’s been able to keep playing, but that he’s been able to do so at such a high level.”
Enright brings stellar recent form into his 300th match, having been best afield in the Cats’ last-start victory over Port Adelaide.
There is increasing speculation that he could push on for a 16th senior campaign in 2016, when Ian Nankervis’s club record of 325 games would be well within reach.
The Cats will start as short-priced favourites to beat Melbourne in Enright’s milestone match, having won five of their past seven games after a sluggish start to the season.
“We’ve found some strong self-belief in the last couple of weeks and that’s a really powerful thing,” said Mackie.
“We’ve had a lot of turnover on the list due to injuries and it’s offered opportunities to guys who have shown a lot of potential and talent – guys who want to play the Geelong way, which is really pleasing.”
Which would be music to the ears of Enright – the very personification of the Geelong way.