You don’t reach 400 V/AFL games played without an intense love for footy.
Michael Tuck was the second player to do just that. Tuck, along with the three other members of the 400 game club, gathered today to celebrate Hawthorn’s Shaun Burgoyne reaching the milestone.
Tuck laughs that Burgoyne “won’t beat [his] record” as the Hawthorn all-time games record holder. He’s just 183 games away, after all.
Despite the joking and banter, it’s clear that Tuck holds a deep respect for the man they call ‘Silk’.
He especially holds Burgoyne in high regard given his circumstances surrounding his move to Port Adelaide. Many thought at the time that Burgoyne would barely get through another season, let alone 12.
“It was a big question mark, and he had a fair way to go to play 400,” Tuck told The Inner Sanctum.
“I don’t think he would have even thought about it at the time. He’s a fair footballer.
“[Burgoyne reaching the milestone] makes it realistic. There was only Kevin [Bartlett], now there’s five of us coming up, so it makes it something to strive for others.”
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Tuck himself was renowned for his longevity as a player, rarely missing a chance to play.
On his way to his league-high record of seven V/AFL premierships, Tuck only played less than 20 games in a season once after 1973.
He captained the Hawks to a win in his 400th game against North Melbourne, but he says it wasn’t a game to remember on field.
“I think they were doing the stand up actually, it was a bit of a jungle here to get in,” Tuck laughed.
“I didn’t end up doing a lot, I was probably more nervous than anything. I remember the nervousness.”
Every player who’s reached the 400 game milestone has won at least one premiership, and Tuck leads the way by far.
He remembers each fondly, but one stands out above the rest.
“The 86 one [stands out], because I was captain and they lifted me up on their shoulders in the middle of the MCG,” Tuck recalled.
“It was just fantastic really, 100 thousand people and we won. Everyone was really happy. We didn’t win the next year! You look around the crowd… really good memories.”
What makes a 400 gamer?
The question is asked again and again: what makes a 400 game player?
Tuck says there’s a myriad of qualities. It’s a bit of luck with your body, the desire to keep going, and the ability to keep that hunger for success.
Even for a great of the game with all the flags in the world, it was that drive that kept him playing to game 426.
“It’s a bit of hunger and the enjoyment. I just loved playing football, basically,” Tuck said.
“It’s a bit of everything really. I was sort of in the right place at the right time to carry on. The coaching staff liked me, so I kept getting a game.
“Playing for a very good side sort of helped, we were in the finals [a lot]. I also had to perform or I wasn’t going to get a game! It worked both ways.
“I got a bit lucky that I was bit taller than the average bloke in those days, and didn’t put any weight on.
“Dustin [Fletcher] had a lot of injuries, he could have nearly played 500. It’s longevity and loving football.
“Your body can adjust to certain things and can adjust to the football. You’ve got [to have] the brains to adjust to the football too.”
With Burgoyne coming into one of the biggest milestones of his career, Tuck implores him to simply enjoy the moment.
It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, he says, and one that won’t ever happen again. Part of that is paving the way, and making history in a way that only four others have done before.
“The younger ones might not realise that we have done what we have,” Tuck said.
“We might not look like we could do it, but we did do it. You sort of enjoy it, but it’s Shaun’s night so I hope he has a good game.
“It’s good to be remembered.”
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