Nearly a decade after his AFL playing career ended in heartbreak, Nathan Buckley still curses Jimmy Bartel’s genius.
It is an unprecedented week for individual milestones in the league, with Bartel to play his 300th game and teammate Corey Enright to break the Geelong games record with his 326th.
Former Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich will reach the 350 mark and North Melbourne legend Brent Harvey sets the AFL all-time record with his 427th match.
Bartel is renowned for his heroics in tight situations for the Cats.
Buckley vividly remembered Bartel’s crucial role in the 2007 preliminary final win over Collingwood.
The Magpies nearly pulled off a massive upset, but Gary Ablett snapped the goal that put the Cats back in front.
In the frantic moments between Ablett’s goal and the final siren, Buckley sat on the interchange bench with a hamstring injury and watched Bartel ensure that Geelong would win.
“I have an issue with him, because in my last game in `07, Geelong beat Collingwood by five points and we were coming quite hard,” Buckley said on AFL360.
“There were three stoppages in a row with about a minute to go on our 50m arc.
“The hitout came down to him and then he ran directly at the closest Collingwood bloke and then locked the ball up – three times.
“It was clear it was intentional, but he knew the rules, he understood the nuance of the game, how it was being umpired, what neede to happen and he got it done.
“It was frustrating, but you had to admire what he was doing and I reckon he’s done that in nearly every game he’s played, in some shape or form.”
A week later, the Cats broke their 44-year premiership drought with a record grand final win over Port Adelaide.
Buckley ended his outstanding playing career without a flag and now coaches the Magpies.
He and Cats coach Chris Scott also paid homage to Harvey’s career.
“He’s one of those rare older players who seems to have maintained his speed,” Scott said.
“If anything, he has gotten better as the game has evolved.
“He seems to fit the modern game as well as anyone.”
Buckley said Harvey had the rare ability to match personal ambition with team needs.
“That’s usually the thing that gets you – you either get too self-interested about your own opportunities, or you sacrifice absolutely for the team,” he said.
“He’s been able to balance that really well – it’s remarkable.”