21/04/2024

Brent Staker in action for the Eagles. Picture: Brent Staker.

Unfortunately, Brent Staker is known for that incident with Barry Hall. However, he formed a formidable career on his own. In this three-part series, he talks about the highs and lows of his AFL playing days.

Everyone knows him for ‘that’ incident; Brent Staker, the West Coast player that was hit in the head by Barry Hall.

An injury should not be a defining moment of someone’s career. Especially to a player who felt the highs and lows in many other aspects on the field.

Staker became a name to be remembered for many other reasons. The Inner Sanctum begin sharing his story when the Eagles instilled trust in him to become the regular opponent of Sydney Swans legend, Adam Goodes.  

Staker was 21 when his side played the first of the two consecutive Grand Finals against the Swans in 2005. Starting in the forward line, Staker was then moved to play on Goodes.

It was not the most memorable experience for Staker on the day, whose name has been thrown up ever since for the 50-metre penalty he gave up that potentially lost the Eagles the ’05 flag.

“I gave a 50-metre penalty away to Adam Goodes, I just tried to really make an effort to stop the mark and bump Adam Goodes and you can’t do that in the in the rules,” Staker told The Inner Sanctum.

“I don’t take any blame for it, there’s obviously many other players out there on the field that made some good moments and some errors as well.”

Now 36, Staker looks back on the career of his teenage self and recognises both the opportunity to play Goodes, and the mistakes made as learning experiences.

“I was happy I got to play on Adam Goodes in the Grand Final, put it that way, and learn so much so I think I was a better player out of that,” Staker said.

“I think I was pretty upset but I got on with it pretty quick.”

Staker names Goodes as one of the hardest players he had to come against during his career.

Becoming a regular occurrence, the match-up was an underrated rivalry, one that the two sides and perhaps only the club’s fans recognised.

“I was matched up on Adam Goodes every time we basically played the Sydney Swans so that became a bit of a rivalry,” Staker said.

“Although it wasn’t a high, high profile rivalry, it became a game I always looked forward to.”

And as a youngster in his twenties, the opportunity to knock shoulders with Goodes was always a highlight of his season.

“I rarely did beat him, but I had a couple of games where I bashed it with him and I could see that he was frustrated so for me being a youngster, it was good to take it up with him.”

The following year, Staker missed out on being selected for the 2006 Grand Final side that took revenge on Sydney for the loss the year before.

Despite this ending up being Staker’s last opportunity to become a premiership player, he looks back on the 2006 finals series as a time for his best friend at the time – and still to this day – Ashley Hansen to experience a Grand Final.

In round 22, the Eagles played Richmond at the MCG, where Staker’s legs were taken out from under him during a mark attempt which left him concussed.

In a move that would not be seen done by the AFL today, Staker was named in the side Qualifying Finals side, where the Eagles took on Sydney, ‘the famous game where Michael O’Loughlin kicks that goal and it goes up to the crowd’.

Staker admits it’s a game that he didn’t play well in.

“Potentially, you could argue that I wasn’t able to play because the concussion rule; what it is now wasn’t what it was back then,” Staker said.

“But I played the game, and I played okay. I had a couple of moments that I could have, done a few things a bit better.

“But at the end of that game, I wasn’t satisfied.”

It was then Hansen who came in for Staker for the finals series, where the Eagles played the Western Bulldogs, Adelaide and then Sydney once more in the Grand Final.

“I was omitted and then my best mate Ash came in and played because he was out with a hamstring [injury] for round 21 and 22. He came in and played the last three games.

“I was pretty upset that I was not part of the winning team, but I was just happy that it was my best mate that sort of took my position then went on to have some success.”

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