Dockers utility Adam McPhee thrilled to reach 200 AFL games
It has been quite a rocky road with more than its fair share of challenges, but Fremantle utility Adam McPhee believes it has made his impending milestone even more satisfying.
The experienced 28-year-old will play his 200th AFL match this Saturday night against Hawthorn at Patersons Stadium, in what will be another must-win game for the Dockers if they are to keep their fellow finals aspirants at bay.
McPhee began his career with Fremantle in 2001 before moving to Essendon two years later.
He set up camp at Windy Hill for seven seasons and in that time won not only the club’s best-and-fairest award in 2004, but in the same year also snared All-Australian honours and a spot in the Australian international rules team.
After 142 games and 83 goals for the Bombers, McPhee decided to head back to WA and rejoin the Dockers.
He played 23 games last season and despite getting on Fremantle fans’ nerves with his clumsy skill errors and poor kicking at goal – he kicked 9.17 in 2010 – McPhee proved to be a vital player for the club.
After starting the season in the forward line, McPhee was given the unenviable task of shutting down the game’s most damaging midfielders.
He applied himself to his new run-with role with gusto, and finished the year with a career high 107 tackles.
McPhee’s influence has been limited this season due to a knee injury that kept him out of seven games, and while his goalkicking hasn’t improved, he is still in the team’s best 22.
That said, McPhee does not know what his defined role will be in the coming years as the team continues to blood its impressive crop of developing players.
“I’m not really sure to be honest,” when asked about his role going forward.
“I don’t think that’s a decision for me. As you get a little bit older into your career, and we have a lot of young guys coming through, it’s about where I can best have an impact for the team and pass my knowledge to the young guys and really allow (Nat) Fyfe and these players to be able to take the game on.”
McPhee returned to the team for the Round 17 clash with Sydney and although he has not had a major impact, he hasn’t lost his ferocity – evidenced by his 11 tackles over the past two weeks.
“I’d say that I’ve been able to play my role,” he said of the past two weeks.
“My expectations weren’t that high and I guess that’s the best way to go into these games.
“If I can play the role I’ve been asked to do and be able to help and assist our real playmakers get the ball, that’s how I assess my last couple of weeks.
“I don’t expect to set the world on fire, but I’d certainly like to in the next couple of weeks get a bit more momentum personally.”
Looking back to the time he left Essendon, McPhee did not think he would reach the 200-game milestone.
But it was testament to his mental strength that he was able to get through the difficult moments.
“I wouldn’t have thought at that particular time when I was in a decisive mood whether I should go home or not that I would actually reach 200 games,” he recalled.
“It was a long time ago now but the amount of steps I’ve taken to achieve 200 games, I’m very proud of.
“There’s a lot of ups and downs in football but the best challenge I’ve had is being able to get through them mentally.
“It’s great when you’re playing your best football, but when you’re not playing your best football, that’s when it presents the times of hardship and really tests your mental capacity.
“But I think guys that have played 200-plus games have certainly been able to look back on their career and say they’ve been able to get through a lot of challenging moments.
“That’s probably the most pride I would take out of my career – being able to fight through those challenges as a player.”
At the end of Sunday’s pulsating Western Derby, McPhee rushed over to Hayden Ballantyne, who had a chance to win the game for the Dockers with the final kick of the game.
He revealed he tried to calm the forward’s nerves, even though he was wary about his own unflattering goalkicking record.
“My goalkicking as you know has been fantastic this year, so I actually went over to give him some words of wisdom,” he laughed.
“I was just trying to use my knowledge to really soak in that moment and relax and block out all of the distractions.
“I just said to him to go back, don’t consider what’s at stake and just kick through the ball as best you can.
“He did give it a really good ride. It was a great kick under that amount of pressure, but it was unfortunate for everyone and Ballas to not be able to kick that winning goal.”
Ballantyne has been able to handle the disappointment “quite well”, and there are no reasons for him to “dwell” on it.
“Everyone loves to be in that moment and win the game for your team,” McPhee said. “But he’s had enough support from his teammates to suggest it wasn’t the only moment that didn’t get us over the line.”
Fremantle key defender Luke McPharlin will miss the clash with Hawthorn after accepting a one-match ban for striking West Coast forward Josh Kennedy, but McPhee backed youngster Alex Silvagni to get the job done on Coleman Medal favourite Lance Franklin.