Brendon Goddard’s eventful journey to 200 matches and beyond

Earlier this season Brendon Goddard became the 26th person to play 200 VFL/AFL games for the St Kilda Football Club, when he achieved this milestone in Round 18 against the Western Bulldogs Brendon was 27 years and 70 days old making him the third youngest to play his 200th game for the Saints, behind past teammates Nathan Burke and Robert Harvey and just ahead of current teammate Nick Dal Santo.

During his decade in the AFL Goddard has shown great durability to play 204 of a possible 237 matches to be ranked first for games played by the players selected in the 2002 National Draft.  After injuring his knee in Round 7 2007 Goddard required a knee reconstruction, he missed 17 games and made his comeback in Round 3 2008. This is the only time in his AFL career that Brendon has missed four consecutive games or more.

In his 204 games for St Kilda Brendon has averaged 12.6 kicks, 8.7 handballs, and 6.1 marks per game with a superb disposal efficiency of 80.1%. During his career Goddard’s strengths have been his skilful ball-use, spectacular marking, and versatility which has allowed him to be a damaging player in all three areas of the ground, defense, midfield and the forward line.

In each of his first three seasons Goddard averaged less than 15 possessions a game, he then had a breakout season in his fourth year at the Saints in 2006 to be ranked second at the club for kicks and marks resulting in his first top finish in the St Kilda best and fairest. The only season since 2006 that Brendon has not finished in the top 10 of the Trevor Barker award was his injury affected 2007 season.

St Kilda were Grand Finalists in 2009 and 2010 and it was during these two seasons that Goddard’s sublime skills, excellent decision making and ability to significantly impact on the scoreboard despite earning the majority of his disposals in the defensive half elevated him into the elite of the AFL competition earning him All-Australian selection and a top three best and fairest finish in each of these seasons.

Although Goddard ranked in the top five at St Kilda for kicks, marks and handballs during each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons he averaged 24.0 disposals over the past two seasons a drop of 14.3% from 28.0 disposals per game in 2009-2010. During 2011-2012 Goddard has remained a very good ball-user with a disposal efficiency of 76.5% down slightly from 78.2% in 2009-2010 however he has not been as influential with his possessions which  resulted in his scoreboard impact falling significantly.

After 22 Rounds of the 2012 season Goddard has polled 12 votes in the True Sainters Player of the Year Award to be in third position behind Lenny Hayes on 18 votes and Nick Riewoldt on 15 votes.

In the final year of a three year contract, speculation about Brendon Goddard’s future has continued to rise throughout 2012. St Kilda have offered Goddard a contract however he has decided to test the market as a restricted free agent before deciding which AFL club to sign his next contract with.

Speaking about Goddard’s contract situation St Kilda coach Scott Watters said “I’m confident and really optimistic. He is a really committed Saints person. It’s a challenging time for Brendon and it is a different situation that AFL clubs haven’t been in before.” 1 Whilst Watters isn’t comfortable with the uncertainty surrounding Goddard’s future he is confident that the 27 year old utility will remain at St Kilda for 2013 and beyond.

Against Carlton this afternoon Brendon Goddard will play the final game of his 10th AFL season and possibly his last game with the St Kilda Football Club. Goddard grew up as a Carlton supporter and after Carlton finished on the bottom of the ladder in 2002 and received a priority pick giving them the first two picks in the 2002 National Draft it appeared certain that Goddard would join Carlton as the number 1 selection.

Before the 2002 National Draft Carlton were penalised for gross salary cap breeches which resulted in them forfeiting the first two selections at the 2002 National Draft.  St Kilda who finished second last in 2002 with five wins, a draw and 16 losses were promoted from selection 3 to selection 1 due to the penalties imposed on Carlton.

In the AFL Under 16s in 2001 Goddard won the Kevin Sheehan medal for best player at the 2001 National Under 18 Championships, he captained the Australia Under 17 team against Ireland in an International Rules test and made the  All-Australian team at the National Under 18 Championships in 2002. Goddard was a member of the AIS/AFL academy in 2001/2002.

The St Kilda Football Club selected Brendon Goddard with No. 1 selection at the 2002 AFL National Draft. At the time of being drafted at 17 years of age Goddard was 189 centimetres tall and weighed 82 kilograms.   His profile in AFL 2003 the official statistical history of the AFL said “Can play midfield, forward or back, reads the play well, is strong overhead and a superb kick with either foot.”2

Brendon Goddard played two games in the VFL before making his AFL debut at 17 years of age in Round 4 2003 on Easter Monday against Richmond at the Telstra Dome (now Etihad Stadium). On debut Goddard had seven kicks, four handballs, four marks, laid four tackles and kicked a goal.

In Round 6 against the Western Bulldogs, Goddard took one of the Marks of the Year and then a week later against Carlton in Round 7 received a Rising Star nomination for a performance in which he had 14 kicks, six handballs, four marks and laid three tackles, he used the ball superbly to have a disposal efficiency of 90% and one goal assist.

After Goddard debuted in Round 4 he played 18 of the remaining 19 games of the 2003 season, missing Round 18 with a thigh injury. During his debut AFL season Goddard also completed his VCE.

Goddard spent time playing in the forward line and defense, during a debut season in which he showed great promise it was Brendon’s impeccable and penetrating kicking that stood out the most. In 2003 Goddard averaged 93 minutes, 8.7 kicks, 4.6 handballs and 4.3 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 85.0%. Goddard was ranked third at St Kilda for Rebound 50s with 42, behind Aussie Jones and Robert Harvey. In 15 games during his debut season Brendon had a disposal efficiency of at least 80% and he had more than 16 possessions on seven occasions.

Of the 23 nominations (Matthew Lokan and Ashley McGrath were both nominated in Round 22) for the AFL Rising Star award in the 2003 season nine players received votes from at least one of the seven voting members who voted 5,4,3,2,1. The top five players were Sam Mitchell 33 votes, Graham Polak 26, Luke Ball 17, Daniel Wells 12 and Adam Schneider 8.  Of the top five only Mitchell and Wells have remained at the club that drafted them for their entire career, being Hawthorn and North Melbourne respectively. Future All-Australians Aaron Sandilands (Round 14), Goddard, and his St Kilda teammate Leigh Montagna (Round 20) all failed to poll a vote.

Goddard played all four games in the Saints 2004 Wizard Cup including the Grand Final victory over Geelong. Brendon had at least 10 possessions in the first seven rounds of 2004, however after having less than eight possessions three times in seven matches from Round 8 onwards he was dropped for Round 15, being named an emergency, ending 20 consecutive games at AFL level for St Kilda.

After being recalled to the St Kilda side in Round 16 Goddard had at least 17 possessions four times in  seven games and received the first Brownlow Medal votes of his career in Round 22 against Fremantle with the umpires judging him to be best afield. Goddard had eight kicks, a game-high 13 handballs, six marks, four hit-outs, laid three tackles and had a disposal efficiency of 86% in the 29 point victory against the Dockers.

In 2004 St Kilda made the finals for the first time in six years and Brendon played in all three games however after getting 12 possessions in 76% game-time in the Elimination Final loss to Brisbane at the Gabba he played less than 20% game-time in each of the next two finals, the Semi Final victory against Sydney at the MCG and the Preliminary final loss to Port Adelaide at Football Park, having one kick and one handpass in each game.

Playing predominantly at half-back during 2004 Goddard played 24 matches, averaging 87 minutes, 7.3 kicks, 5.3 handballs and 4.5 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 79.5%. Goddard was ranked third at St Kilda for marks and signed a two-year contract with the Saints.

During the first 17 rounds of the 2005 season Goddard only missed one match, Round 11 when he was a late withdrawal due to having the flu, however he only played three of St Kilda’s final seven games of the season due to injuries. Brendon missed Round 18 and Round 19 with a hamstring injury and was named an emergency for Round 20. Goddard returned to the St Kilda side in Round 21 however he injured his calf the following week against Brisbane which forced him to miss the Qualifying final victory against Adelaide. Brendon returned to the St Kilda side for the Preliminary Final loss to Sydney.

Goddard played with greater consistency in his third season and had less than 11 possessions only once in 2005, Round 22 when he injured his quad and had five possessions in 33% game-time. In Round 8 against West Coast Goddard had 26 possessions, five more than his previous best and played a brilliant all-round game with 17 kicks, nine handballs, nine marks and 92% disposal efficiency. During 2005 Goddard played 19 matches, averaging 102 minutes, 9.4 kicks, 5.5 handballs and 4.8 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 82.0%.

In 2004 and 2005 Goddard received much criticism with his harshest critics saying that he was not quick enough to be an effective midfielder and was not big enough or strong enough to hold down a key position.

It is concerning that early selections from the National Draft are under even more scrutiny in the early stages of their career now than what Goddard was. Young draftees frequently need a second pre-season under their belt before they even come into consideration for senior selection due to the increased physical demands at AFL level compared to Under 18s level.

Over his first three years at St Kilda Goddard had added considerable muscle to his frame and at the start of the 2006 season he weighed 96 kilograms an increase of 14 kilograms from when he was drafted, which had him much better placed to handle the rigours of playing in the AFL.

Against West Coast in Round 1 2006 Goddard had 22 possessions, the second highest tally of his career, however after having 10 possessions in Round 2 against Richmond and 13 possessions in Round 3 against Brisbane he was dropped for Round 4, being named an emergency.

After one week out of the St Kilda side Brendon returned in Round 5 and played the remaining 19 games of the season with the Saints. In 2006 Goddard predominantly played on a half-back flank and elevated his game to a new level to average 21.7 possessions a game, an increase of 6.8 possessions a game on his previous best of 14.9 per game in 2005. In 61 games during his first three seasons Brendon had more than 21 possessions only once, however with significant improvement in his fourth AFL season he averaged over 21 possessions a game.

During 2006 Goddard played 22 matches, averaging 103 minutes, 14.6 kicks, 7.1 handballs and 8.0 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 81.3%. In recognition of his very good form throughout  2006 Goddard represented Australian in the International Rules Series played in Ireland. Goddard finished equal fifth in St Kilda’s 2006 best and fairest and was ranked second for kicks and marks, third for inside 50s and rebound 50s, fourth for loose-ball gets and fifth for tackles.

Brendon polled six Brownlow medal  votes in 2006 comprised of two best afield performances in Round 6 against the Western Bulldogs and Round 14 against Collingwood.  In the 14 point Round 6 victory against the Western Bulldogs Goddard had 15 kicks, 10 handballs, 11 marks and 92% disposal efficiency. In the 59 point Round 14 victory against Collingwood Goddard had 14 kicks, 12 handballs, six marks and kicked a goal.

The profile for Goddard in the AFL Record Guide to Season 2007 said “The strong utility is at his best across half-back, where he distinguished himself with his strong marks and accurate disposal.”3

Continuing to play across half-back Goddard commenced the 2007 season in the same strong form that he displayed during his 2006 season, however in the first half of St Kilda’s Round 7 game against the Sydney Swans, Goddard fell hard on his left knee which resulted in a ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament and forced him to miss the remainder of the season.

In the first six matches of the 2007 season Goddard had between 12 and 16 kicks and at least 97% game time in every game, he had the highest kick to handball ratio of his career with 2.2 kicks to every handball. In three of his matches, Round 1 against Melbourne, Round 3 against the Western Bulldogs and Round 4 against Essendon Goddard had at least 22 possessions and greater than 94% disposal efficiency.

Goddard played seven matches in 2007 averaging 103 minutes, 12.7 kicks, 5.9 handballs and 8.0 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 89.2%. “In the first six games he ranked No. 1 at the Saints in marks and effective kicks, and was also ranked second in uncontested possessions, highlighting St Kilda’s desire in getting the ball in his hands.”4

In Round 2 of the 2008 season Goddard returned through the VFL and after only one match at this level he made his return to the St Kilda side in Round 3 against the Western Bulldogs, 11 months after suffering the knee injury, Brendon didn’t miss a beat having 13 kicks, seven handballs, 10 marks and was outstanding with his ball-use to have 95% disposal efficiency.

After his return to the seniors Goddard played in all of St Kilda’s remaining 23 games including three finals. Whilst Goddard continued to play at half back during the first half of the season, he then started to spend more time in the midfield. Brendon relished the increased opportunities in the midfield to average 26 possessions per game in 13 matches from Round 13 onwards compared to 19.9 possessions per game in 10 games up to Round 12.

At the half-way point of the season St Kilda were in ninth position with five wins and six losses. During the second half of the season when Brendon spent more time in the midfield he was voted best on ground by the umpires in Round 19 against Collingwood and Round 21 against Adelaide.  Against Collingwood Goddard had 17 kicks, 15 handballs, a team- high 10 marks and kicked a goal, whilst in the win again Adelaide he had 17 kicks, 13 handballs and a game-high 13 marks, seven clearances and kicked two goals.

The Saints finished the home and away season very strongly, defeating Essendon by 108 points in the final game of the home and away season to finish in fourth position 0.82 per cent ahead of the Adelaide Crows who also finished the 2008 season with 13 wins and nine losses. Whilst Goddard didn’t poll a Brownlow vote in Round 22 against Essendon he was phenomenal with his ball use to have 100% disposal efficiency whilst amassing 30 possessions comprised of 20 kicks and 10 handballs.

After Geelong defeated St Kilda by 58 points in a Qualifying Final St Kilda responded in great fashion, recording a comfortable 34 point victory over Collingwood in a Semi Final. For the third time in five years St Kilda lost to the eventual premier in a Preliminary Final with Hawthorn recording a 54 point victory.

In 2008 Goddard played 23 matches, averaging 111 minutes, 14.7 kicks, 8.7 handballs and 7.9 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 81.4%.  Brendon had the most consistent season of his career to that stage, having at least 19 possessions in every game except Round 7 against Richmond when he had 15 disposals.

Goddard was ranked third at St Kilda for kicks and marks, second for rebound 50s and loose-ball gets, despite missing the opening two rounds and returning from a knee reconstruction Goddard finished seventh in St Kilda’s 2008 Best and Fairest.

With a scintillating start to the 2009 season Goddard polled six votes in the Brownlow Medal during the first three rounds of the season comprised of best afield performances against Sydney in Round 1 and West Coast in Round 3. In the 15 point victory against Sydney at Etihad Stadium Brendon had 12 kicks and14 handballs, he also had season highs for contested possessions and clearances with 12 and seven respectively.

Goddard displayed that he could be utilised as an extremely damaging key forward when he started the Round 3 match against the West Coast Eagles at Full Forward and dominated, proceeding to kick four goals in the first quarter. Goddard spent most of the match after quarter-time playing up the ground and did not kick another goal for the game but gained 28 disposals, took 11 marks and proved to be extremely effective for St Kilda in a variety of roles throughout the 97 point victory.

For the remainder of the 2009 season Goddard was rarely used in the forward line and kicked multiple goals on only one other occasion, two goals in Round 10 against Melbourne.  With 15 goals for the season Goddard was ranked seventh at St Kilda, the top Saints goalkickers four proved to be very potent, comprised of Riewoldt (78 goals), Justin Koschitzke (48), Stephen Milne (46) and Adam Schneider (34).

In 2009 Goddard polled 14 Brownlow Medal votes, ranked fourth at St Kilda behind Hayes (20 votes), Dal Santo (17) and Riewoldt (15). Brendon was voted best afield four times and polled the single vote twice, his best afield performances after Round 3 were against Richmond in Round 13 with 20 kicks, 15 handballs and seven marks, and for the second time that season against Sydney in Round 18 with 18 kicks and 11 handballs.

The only match that Goddard missed during 2009 was against Hawthorn at Aurora Stadium, with  other St Kilda stars Dal Santo, Fisher, Hayes, Montagna and Riewoldt also missing the Saints played outstanding intense football to defeat the Hawks by 25 points to take their winning sequence to a club record 19 matches.

This sequence was broken the very next week with a two point loss to Essendon, followed by a five point loss to North Melbourne in Round 21 with both matches being at St Kilda’s home ground, Etihad Stadium.  Brendon was restricted to 18 possessions in the loss against Essendon, one of only two games in 2009 that he didn’t have at least 21 possessions, the other time was in Round 2 against Adelaide with 17 possessions.

Throughout 2009 Goddard was mainly used as an attacking half-back and in the midfield, he further elevated his status during the 2009 season to that of elite footballer and was a critical player during St Kilda’s outstanding 2009 season in which they won 20 of 22 home and away games.

St Kilda recaptured their form from earlier in the season to comfortably defeat Collingwood by 28 points in a Qualifying Final and recorded a seven point victory over the Western Bulldogs in a low scoring Preliminary Final in which immense pressure was almost always applied to the ball carrier by the team without the ball. Goddard continued his excellent season being named in St Kilda’s best in both finals and despite the increased pressure applied in finals football he remained remarkably composed to have a disposal efficiency of at least 90% in both of these matches.

Goddard broke his collarbone in the third quarter of the 12 point loss to Geelong in the 2009 Grand Final, but continued to play out the game with the injury in an attempt to help his team to victory. Even though Goddard was hampered by his injuries when he returned to the field he had 21 disposals, laid nine tackles, (the second most by a Saint behind Jones with ten) and kicked a goal to be named in the Saints best yet again.

Goddard revealed the extent of his injuries, explaining how he continued to play in such dire physical condition during the Grand Final. “I was slightly concussed, but was pretty good, I broke my nose first and it was probably only a space of five or 10 minutes after coming back on that I broke my collarbone. I was just restricted in my movement across my body. I could do most things, but was obviously pretty weak and I didn’t have full strength in my arm to do a lot of things. I just managed to get through.”

During the 2009 season Goddard averaged a career best 27.2 possessions per game and had his time in the midfield increase again. Brendon finished runner -up to his captain Nick Riewoldt in St Kilda’s Best and Fairest receiving 638 votes, only four votes behind Riewoldt. It was one of the tightest best and fairest counts in St Kilda’s history with Leigh Montagna finishing third on 635 points, only seven votes behind Riewoldt followed by Dal Santo 618, Hayes 603 and Clinton Jones in sixth position on 587 votes.

Brendon Goddard made his first All-Australian team in 2009 being named on the interchange, and was joined in the team by his four St Kilda teammates that had finished in the top five in the Trevor Barker award. Riewoldt was named centre half-forward and captain, Hayes in the centre, Montanga on a wing and Dal Santo joined Goddard on the bench.

In 2009 Goddard played 24 matches, averaging 107 minutes, 15.0 kicks, 12.2 handballs and 6.3 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 77.3%. Goddard was ranked third at St Kilda for kicks, second for handballs, third for disposals, fourth for handballs received, rebound 50s and hard-ball gets. Goddard ranked in the top dozen players in the AFL for disposals, kicks and effective kicks. In December 2009 Goddard and Montagna each signed three year contract extensions that kept them at St Kilda until the end of 2012.

The profile for Goddard in AFL Prospectus 2010 said “He generated the sixth-most inside 50s at the club, with 31% of these resulting in a goal – the best strike rate of any midfielder at St Kilda – while he was involved in 28% of the Saints’ scoring chains when he played, ranked second at the club.”5

In Round 2 2010 against North Melbourne Goddard was very effective in the midfield and in the forward line, having 29 possessions, taking 11 marks, kicking four goals and setting up another to receive two Brownlow Medal votes, it was only the third time in his career that Goddard had kicked more than three goals in a match.

Against Fremantle in Round 4 at Etihad Stadium St Kilda were missing their two highest goalkickers from the previous season, captain Riewoldt with a severe hamstring injury suffered the previous week against Collingwood and Koschitzke through suspension.  Goddard spent most of the match playing as a key forward and provided St Kilda with a much needed marking target in the forward line. Goddard kicked a career best five goals and had 21 disposals to be among the Saints best during their hard fought 15 point win against Fremantle.

Goddard’s instrumental performance against Fremantle  earnt him a match- high eight votes in the AFL Coaches Award, Goddard had six inside 50s, one goal assist and took nine marks including a brilliant one hander against Chris Tarrant. The Saints midfielders could be just as confident kicking the ball to Goddard whether he was on the lead or in a contested situation as they would have been if they were delivering the ball to regular centre half forward Nick Riewoldt. In a game in which only 21 contested marks were taken, Goddard took four of them, behind only Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands with five. Goddard kicked five goals two behinds, to have the astoundingly accurate total of 12 goals two behinds to that point of the 2010 season.

In Round 5 2010 Koschitzke returned from his three match suspension which led to Goddard spending less time in the forward line,  half of Brendon’s 24 goals for 2010 were kicked in the first four rounds of the season.

Goddard had a massive few weeks in the middle of the 2010 season being judged best afield by the umpires in back to back games against Richmond in Round 11 and Fremantle in Round 12, followed by his 150th match in Round 13 against Geelong.

From the half-back line Goddard repelled many of Richmond’s attacking forays and with his precise kicking was able to quickly turn defence into attack to be a key factor in St Kilda gaining control of the Round 11 encounter. Goddard had a career high 38 possessions, took seven marks and had four clearances in the 38 point victory. Against Fremantle in Round 12 Goddard had 33 possessions including a game-high 14 contested  and took 10 marks playing mainly in defense  but he also spent some time in the midfield.

At just 25 years and 36 days of age Goddard played his 150th AFL match against Geelong in Round 13 2010, after trailing by 16 points at half-time the Saints dominated, keeping Geelong goalless in the second half whilst kicking six goals themselves to convincingly win by 24 points.  Goddard was one of the Saints best with 17 kicks, 10 handballs and eight tackles, ranked second at St Kilda.

With regular midfielders Hayes and Jones missing the Round 21 match against Richmond Goddard spent more time in the midfield then in the previous few weeks and was very effective with seven clearances, 19 kicks, 10 handballs, five tackles, two goals and a goal assist. Goddard took 10 marks including one of the marks of the year midway through the second quarter, with a pack of five players including Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt in front of him, Goddard went soaring into the air and took a magnificent overhead mark as his knees landed on teammate Sam Fisher’s shoulders. Goddard’s momentum took him over the top of Fisher however he was able to hold onto one of the best marks of the season cleanly as he fell to ground.

Goddard polled 22 votes for the 2010 home and away season to finish second in the True Sainters Player of the Year Award, three votes behind vice captain Lenny Hayes.

In the Qualifying Final against Geelong utility Brendon Goddard was dominant from half way through the first quarter to the end of the second quarter, racking up 20 first half possessions including a brilliant 60 metre pinpoint pass to Riewoldt running into space towards goal, Riewoldt took the mark and played on to kick a goal from the goal square.   Cameron Ling was moved onto Goddard after half-time and reduced his influence in the second half, however this move did free Ling’s regular St Kilda opponent Nick Dal Santo up. Goddard finished the match with 15 kicks, 11 handballs, six marks, a goal from 50 metres out on the run and was great with his ball use to have a disposal efficiency of 85%. St Kilda defeated Geelong by four points to progress to their third straight Preliminary Final.

The Western Bulldogs led St Kilda by a goal at half-time of the Preliminary Final however accuracy around goal proved to be critical in the second half with the Saints kicking 10 goals four behinds after half-time to the Western Bulldogs four goals 10 behinds to win by 24 points.

During the Grand Final against Collingwood Goddard enhanced his claim to the title of most versatile player in the competition with a superb all round game, he covered enormous territory and had an innate sense of knowing exactly where to run on the ground to have the most impact. Goddard took two superb pack marks deep in St Kilda’s forward line that set up his two goals and he also offered great support to St Kilda’s backline deep in defense several times throughout the match. Goddard had 18 kicks, 13 handballs, took five marks including three contested and won a game high 14 contested possessions.

Saints Lenny Hayes and Brendon Goddard were clearly the best two players during the Grand Final and were instrumental in St Kilda getting back in the game after trailing by 24 points at half-time. Without the heroics of Hayes and Goddard along with resilience shown by the St Kilda defense led by Sam Fisher the St Kilda Football Club would not have been able to get back into the game and create what ended up being a nail-biting contest.

Shortly before time-on of the last quarter Hayes kicked the ball deep into St Kilda’s forward line, Goddard came in from the side, launched himself and produced phenomenal elevation to have his knees land on Harry O’Brien’s shoulders, Goddard grabbed the ball cleanly to take a spectacular mark, he then kicked the goal from 20 metres out to put St Kilda six points in front with just under seven minutes to play.

Collingwood scored the last goal of the Grand Final through Travis Cloke and the match ended in a draw, 68 points apiece with the Saints kicking 10 goals, eight behinds to Collingwood’s nine goals 14 behinds.

Many panels of experts found it very difficult to judge whether Hayes or Goddard were best afield in the Grand Final with several panels including the Sunday Age and the Herald Sun giving Hayes a very slight advantage. True Sainters members were no different with Hayes defeating Goddard by the narrowest of margins 50 to 49.

The only panel that made a clear-cut decision in relation to best on ground for the 2010 Grand Final was the five person panel casting their votes to determine the winner of the Norm Smith Medal who  awarded it Hayes 13, Goddard 7, Dale Thomas 6, Sam Fisher 2 and Nick Maxwell 2.

Just as he had been for most of the season Brendon Goddard was one of St Kilda’s most influential players during the Grand Final Replay and made an impact all over the ground. Goddard had 11 kicks, 18 handballs and won a game-high 14 contested possessions. Goddard was clearly St Kilda’s best player in the first half, having 19 possessions and kicking the Saints only goal. True Sainters members awarded Goddard five votes as best Saint in the Grand Final replay, Goddard polled 11 votes in the True Sainters 2010 Player of the Finals award to be the runner-up two votes behind Lenny Hayes.

In 2010 Goddard played 25 matches, averaging 107 minutes, 14.7 kicks, 14.0 handballs and 6.9 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 79.0%. From Round 6 against the Western Bulldogs to the Qualifying Final against Geelong Goddard showed remarkable consistency to have at least 26 possessions in 17 consecutive matches.  During 2010 Goddard was ranked third at St Kilda for kicks, rebound 50s, handballs received and loose ball-gets, first for contested possessions, handballs and contested marks, fourth for marks and hard-ball gets, and second for inside 50s. Two Saints, Goddard and Leigh Montagna were selected in the All-Australian team with Goddard being selected on a half-back flank and Montagna on a wing. The 2010 Trevor Barker award was won by Lenny Hayes with 528 votes from Montanga on 451 votes with Goddard and Sam Gilbert equal third on 435 votes.

In AFL Prospectus 2011 they wrote about Goddard’s 2010 season “He recorded the fifth-best disposal efficiency of the top 50 ball-winners and in the H & A games he played he was involved in 34% of St Kilda’s scores  – the second highest percentage of any player in the competition with more than three games.”6

Goddard polled 14 votes at the 2010 Brownlow Medal to be ranked third at St Kilda behind Hayes (19 votes) and Montagna (16 votes).  During 2010 Goddard averaged 130.2 Supercoach points per game, the highest in the AFL with Gary Ablett (129.7) and Dane Swan being ranked second and third respectively. Goddard had a season high of 187 points against Richmond in Round 11 and a season low of 93 points in Round 16 against Collingwood,underlining his great consistency in 2010 he was the only player ranked in the top 50 to score more than 80 points in every game they played.

From Round 8 2008 to the end of the 2010 season Goddard had at least 17 possessions in 67 consecutive games, however after his spectacular 2010 season opposition clubs were now putting more time into how to limit Brendon’s impact on games and in the opening third of the 2011 season he was getting tagged more regularly. Three times in the opening eight rounds Goddard had less than 17 possessions, including 15 opposed to Brett Deledio in the Round 2 draw against Richmond, and 16 opposed to Bryce Gibbs in the three point loss to Carlton in Round 7. In these matches playing on Goddard Deledio had 29 possessions, kicked a goal and was one of Richmond’s best whilst Gibbs had 26 possessions, kicked two goals and received the three Brownlow Medal votes.

After another quiet game against Hawthorn in Round 8 with only 14 possessions Goddard bounced back to form in Round 9 against Melbourne at Etihad Stadium, receiving the three Brownlow Medal votes for a performance in which he had 13 kicks, 24 handballs and took nine marks.

In Round 10 against Fremantle at Patersons Stadium, Goddard was having his most productive quarter of the year with 10 possessions and three clearances in the opening term however with 20 seconds remaining in the first quarter teammate Zac Dawson’s right hip made contact with the left side of Goddard’s face during a marking contest that left Goddard writhing in pain on the ground and  being taken from the field on a stretcher and then in an ambulance to Charles Gairdner Hospital. Although Goddard wasn’t knocked out St Kilda were concerned about a possible neck injury, however Brendon recovered well to be able to fly back to Melbourne with his St Kilda teammates late that night and he played in the Saints side against Collingwood the following week.

Goddard was a key performer in the 24 point Round 12 victory against the Western Bulldogs with 13 kicks, 13 handballs, nine tackles, five marks and 10 contested possessions to earn two Brownlow Medal votes. Throughout his career Goddard has regularly featured on the highlight reel due to his spectacular marking, however against the Western Bulldogs he made it for a goal at a critical stage of the match, after receiving a handball from David Armitage 70 metres out from goal Goddard took three bounces and kicked a goal from 25 metres out with Callan Ward in close pursuit to extend St Kilda’s lead to 16 points half-way through the final quarter.

Goddard is one of the most versatile players in the AFL and in Round 15 against North Melbourne this was on full display as he spent periods of the match in all three areas of the ground, defense, midfield and attack. With his penetrating kicking Goddard led St Kilda in inside 50s and rebound 50s with seven and six respectively. Brendon had 21 kicks, seven handballs and 11 marks whilst using his vision to great effect to have a game-high three goal assists. Twice during the match Goddard was forced to leave the field due to a problem with his knee, on one of these occasions his knee locked up and he appeared to be in serious trouble. After getting his knee looked at he was able to return to the field and got through the rest of the match unscathed.

Due to his composure and precision skills the Saints love seeing the ball in Goddard’s hands, against Adelaide in Round 18 he was able to find plenty of space and accumulate 28 uncontested possessions. In the 103 point victory Goddard had 18 kicks, 12 handballs and was ranked third at St Kilda with 11 marks, being one of six Saints to take at least 10 marks.  Brendon had a disposal efficiency of 90% and set-up many attacking forays from defence for the Saints with a game-high eight rebound 50s, four more than the next ranked Saints, Jason Gram and Leigh Montagna.

In a blistering first quarter against Gold Coast in Round 19 Goddard was prolific, having 14 possessions to play a pivotal role in St Kilda kicking the first three goals of the match.  Goddard finished the match with 37 possessions, just one shy of his career best, took 13 marks and propelled St Kilda inside 50 on 10 occasions.

After eight rounds of 2011 St Kilda’s record was one win, one draw and five losses. During this period Goddard averaged 20.3 possessions per game, from Round 9 onwards St Kilda’s form improved significantly to win eight of their next 10 games to finally be inside the eight after the victory against the Gold Coast. Goddard played his role in the Saints resurgence averaging 27.3 possessions a game in ten matches from Round 9 to Round 19. In one of these games, Round 10 against Fremantle Brendon took no further part in the match after quarter time, during his nine other games from Round 9 to Round 19 he has had at least 24 possessions.

In both matches against North Melbourne in 2011, Round 15 and Round 23 Goddard received two votes from True Sainters members.  In the second encounter Goddard had 11 contested possessions from his 18 kicks and 13 handballs, he also took seven marks, had six inside 50s, five tackles and four clearances, ranked equal second at St Kilda.

After their slow start to the season St Kilda fought back magnificently to finish the home and away season in sixth position to earn a home final against Sydney at Etihad Stadium. Sydney were too strong defeating St Kilda by 25 points.

In 2011 Goddard played 23 matches, averaging 103 minutes, 13.4 kicks, 10.1 handballs and 5.7 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 77.3%. Goddard was ranked third at St Kilda for kicks, marks and handballs, fourth for handballs received, fifth for tackles, second for inside 50s and  fourth for rebound 50s.   For the first time in his AFL career Goddard played every game for St Kilda in 2011.

Goddard was ranked third at St Kilda in 2011 with nine Brownlow medal votes, behind overall runner- up Nick Dal Santo with 28 votes and Leigh Montagna with 10 votes.  The St Kilda match committee proved to be harsher judges of Goddard’s 2011 season which saw him finish ninth in the Saints best and fairest with 376 votes but only 42 votes behind Milne in fifth position.

The official AFL records had Goddard listed in the Saints best players in 10 games during 2011, tellingly nine of these were victories underlining what a barometer of the Saints Goddard was in 2011. Goddard had under 20 possessions seven times in 2011, the previous season that he had seven sub 20 possession games in was 2006.

The profile for Goddard in AFL Prospectus 2012 said in 2011 “he was no longer an elite ball-winner and his overall scoreboard impact dropped. He ranked in the top 15 in just two of the top 20 KPI’s last year, down from 10 “top-15” rankings in 2010 and continued to win the majority of his disposals in the back half of the ground.”7

Throughout the 2011 season Goddard averaged 23.6 disposals a game, down 5.1 disposals from 2010 however his kicking efficiency improved slightly from 72.2% to 73.1%, and he had the third best retention rate of the top 20 ball-winners.  The area that Goddard fell away the most was making an impact on the scoreboard, in 2010 he kicked 24 goals and had 24 goal assists which fell to 13 goals and 15 goal assists in 2011. Whilst his disposal remained elite in 2011 he wasn’t as damaging around goals as he was further up the ground, after being an accurate shot at goal from 2008 to 2010 Goddard’s conversion rate was just above 50% in 2011, with 13 goals 11 behinds. During the first five seasons of his career Goddard kicked 29 goals, 25 behinds, a conversion rate of 53.7% which is 0.5% lower than 2011. From 2008 to 2010 Goddard was very reliable around goal kicking 50 goals 22 behinds, a conversion rate of 69.4%.

Goddard polled six votes from True Sainters members in the first three rounds of the 2012 season comprised of 2 votes against Port Adelaide in Round 1, 3 votes against Gold Coast in Round 2 and 1 vote against the Western Bulldogs in Round 3.

In Round 2 against the Gold Coast Goddard had 19 kicks, 14 handballs took nine marks kicked a goal and laid five tackles, he followed up the next week with 12 kicks, 11 handballs, 10 marks and two goals against the Western Bulldogs.

Against Richmond in Round 10 Goddard had 17 kicks, eight handballs, seven marks, kicked a goal and had one goal assist earning 3 votes from True Sainters members.

Brendon was suspended for two matches for striking North Melbourne’s Sam Wright in Round 14 bringing to an end a sequence of a career best  47 consecutive matches dating back to Round 16 2010 against Collingwood.

In Round 18 against the Western Bulldogs Brendon Goddard at 27 years and 70 days of age became the third youngest player to reach 200 matches for the St Kilda Football Club.

Youngest to play 200 VFL/AFL matches for St Kilda

  1. Nathan Burke                    26 years 194 days
  2. Robert Harvey                   27 years 1 day
  3. Brendon Goddard       27 years 70 days
  4. Nick Dal Santo                   27 years 82 days
  5. Gary Colling                        27 years 128 days
  6. Aussie Jones                      27 years 329 days
  7. Stewart Loewe                   28 years 3 days
  8. Nick Riewoldt                    28 years 175 days
  9. Jeff Sarau                            28 years 180 days
  10. Barry Breen                        28 years 199 days

In an interview for Saints.com.au looking back on his journey from his time as a junior footballer to now playing his 200th match for St Kilda Brendon said “It probably wasn’t realistic or a dream of mine to be honest because I didn’t think it was a realistic chance. I’m very honoured and privileged to be able to play 200 games for the St Kilda Football Club.” 8

In his 200th match Brendon Goddard played predominantly in the midfield and was a fixture of the centre square set-up going head to head with Bulldogs captain Matthew Boyd. Goddard was voted best St Kilda player by True Sainters members for the third time in 2012 and was superb with 16 kicks and 17 handballs, including 10 contested possessions. Brendon laid an equal career high nine tackles, had two goal assists, won five clearances and had 82% disposal efficiency.

After Brendon’s 200th match Saints midfielder David Armitage commented “His leadership is awesome around the club and the way he helps out the younger guys is really good. He’s helped me a lot, especially with learning how to train and getting it across how hard you have to train [as an AFL player].”9

Whilst Goddard’s on-field body language and intensity has been criticised during 2012 Brendon thinks there has been little change to previous seasons saying “I think I’ve always been like that. It’s probably highlighted because of the circumstances we’re in as a footy club. I don’t think my body language has changed too much; that’s just me being the competitive person I am in wanting to win. I think I’ve improved in a lot of ways in regards to my teammates and how I give feedback.”10

Up until the end of Round 22 in 2012 Goddard played 19 matches, averaging 88% game-time, an equal career high 15.0 kicks, 9.5 handballs and 5.7 marks per game with a disposal efficiency of 75.7%. Goddard is ranked second at St Kilda for kicks and uncontested possessions, fifth for handballs and contested possessions, fourth for disposals, third for marks and equal third for rebound 50s and goal assists.

Overall Goddard’s numbers have been similar during the past two seasons, in 2012 his possessions per game have increased by 0.9  to 24.5. Whilst Goddard has been criticised for not winning enough of his own ball in 2012 this increase has actually been brought about by winning an extra contested possession per game increasing from 7.4 in 2011 to 8.4 in 2012, his second best season in this category, behind the 10.2 contested possessions per game he won in 2010. Goalkicking has continued to be a concern with his conversion having dropped just below 50% with 11 goals, 12 behinds this season, whilst goal assists have improved by o.1 to 0.8 per game.

In late August 2012 Scott Watters confirmed that a contract offer had been made to Brendon Goddard saying “We’re comfortable with what we’ve put in front of Brendon and the way that’s been managed to this point.”  Watters went on to say” At no stage would captaincy be offered as cream on the cake for a contract. That would be disrespecting the privilege of being a captain. Captaincy’s earned. To me it shouldn’t be an incentive. I think Brendon has really strong leadership potential. I think he started to show that internally at the club this year so he would be in strong contention for that type of role going forward but it wouldn’t be a gift on top of a contract. Not while I’m here.”11

This afternoon against Carlton Brendon’s first decade in the AFL comes to a close. It has been an eventful journey which has taken him to 200 matches and beyond, he has been a pivotal player in one of the most successful era’s of the St Kilda Football Club, yet one which thus far has fallen agonisingly short of winning the clubs elusive second premiership.

If  Goddard chooses to sign with St Kilda the opportunty exists to reamin a one club player and join Robert Harvey, Nathan Burke, Stewart Loewe and Barry Breen as 300 game players for the Saints. More importantly if he chooses this path the quest for Brendon of playing a role in winning St Kilda’s second premiership would get to continue.

At 27 years of age Brendon Goddard has still got several years of AFL football ahead of him in which he will continue to make an impact with his sublime skills, decision making and spectacular marking. Before Goddard embarks on season number 11 he has got an important  decision to make, which AFL club to sign his next contract with. Whilst many chapters are yet to be written in the Brendon Goddard story few events will be as critical as the direction Goddard decides to turn at this fork in the road.

By Dean Andrews

  1. AFL, Calm Watters by Luke Holmesby, 30 August 2012, AFL.com.au
  2. AFL, AFL 2003 The official statistical history of the AFL, page 255.
  3. AFL, AFL Record Guide to Season 2007, page 263.
  4. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2008 – The essential number cruncher guide for season 2008, 3rd edition, page 269.
  5. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2010 – The essential number cruncher guide for season 2010, 5th edition, page 227.
  6. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2011 – The essential number cruncher guide for season 2011, 6th edition, page 4.
  7. Champion Data, AFL Prospectus 2012 – The essential number cruncher guide for season 2012, 7th edition, page 278.
  8. St Kilda Football Club, Dream becomes a reality by Megan Griffin, 25 July 2012, www.saints.com.au
  9. St Kilda Football Club, Goddard enjoys the moment by Callum Twomey, 30 July 2012, www.saints.com.au
  10. AFL, Goddard’s intentions clear by Luke Holmesby, 24 July 2012, AFL.com.au
  11. St Kilda Football Club, Watters confirms Goddard offer by Megan Griffin, 24 August 2012, www.saints.com.au
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One Comment on “Brendon Goddard’s eventful journey to 200 matches and beyond”

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