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High-Flying Harry Reflects on Milestone

Harry Himmelberg: 50 Games Harry Himmelberg is set to play his 50th AFL game this weekend against the Demons. Relive some of his best moments so far.
My eye closed right over and when I went to the bench, I couldn’t really see out of it. I sort of just though; you can’t let that change the way you play or let that rule you out of the game or impact the rest of your game because it’s a final and it’s a massive game.
Harry Himmelberg

Harry Himmelberg’s 50 game milestone has come along so quickly, the forward hasn’t had much time to give it any thought.

The Wagga product will notch up his 50th game when the GIANTS take on Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. 

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“I haven’t really thought about it too much, I’m more focussed on winning the game to be honest, but it’s a massive privilege to be able to play 50 games for the club,” he said.

“I probably didn’t even think I’d play an AFL game when I was 18.

“I was lucky enough to get drafted and string together some games, I’m glad I was given the opportunity and hopefully I play a fair few more.” 

Given the talent that Himmelberg has displayed across the past three and a half seasons at the GIANTS, it might come as a surprise to some that he had doubts about his ability to make it in the AFL.

The now 23-year-old, was overlooked in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft. 

“It was a learning curve when I didn’t get drafted, I sat back and went ‘well what do I want to do with my life’ so it made me work a lot harder that next year,” he said. 

“I wasn’t expecting to get drafted at all, but there was always that drive I suppose to prove people wrong and get drafted the year after.

“I was really fortunate to get the opportunity to go to Canberra and still be in the GIANTS Academy as a 19-year-old.”

That 12 months plying his trade with the Eastlake Demons in the NEAFL was exactly what he needed. 

“That year was a good learning year as I got to play a lot of NEAFL footy which was a step up from the Riverina Football League which I was playing the year before,” Himmelberg said.

“You’re not only playing against senior bodies but guys who are pretty quick, guys who are using the ball well and tackling hard so, it was a great opportunity.”

At the end of 2015 Himmelberg would prove his doubters wrong. 

The year of hard work and learning would see him drafted by the GIANTS with their third selection (pick 16 overall) of the 2015 NAB AFL Draft. 

Arriving at the GIANTS as a forward he was quickly told he’d be playing as a defender. 

Being moved away from the position he’d played for most of his life would be the making of Himmelberg as a footballer.

“I was a forward in under 18’s and then when I got to the club Leon pretty much said to me ‘you don’t know how to spell defence’, which was fair at the time,” he said. 

“In under 18’s you don’t have enough time in the system to try and worry about all the different facets of your game and defence wasn’t something I was up to speed with at all.

“So, when Leon said I’d play as a defender I sort of thought, it’s a little bit different but I’m going to try and grab it with two hands and play AFL as a defender which I was lucky enough to do.

“I think that helped me transition back to playing as a forward because I understood how forwards play and what I didn’t like as a defender I could try and implement as a forward. 

“That was probably the best thing that I’ve had for my development to be honest.”

Himmelberg would make his debut in round 17, 2016 against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba. 

He would play four games as a defender in 2016 before having his breakout season in 2017.

Used as both a defender and a forward, and playing the occasional minutes in the ruck, Himmelberg would show the talent he possessed during the GIANTS 2017 finals campaign.

The game that cemented his credentials as an AFL player would be the 2017 Preliminary Final; just his 16thgame.

He would kick four goals in front of 94,258 people at the MCG as the GIANTS lost to eventual premiers Richmond.

The feat was made all the more notable as he played through most of the game being able to see through only one eye following a collision with Richmond’s Dylan Grimes. 

“In the first five minutes I went back with the flight and I wasn’t really aware that there was a guy there and I got cleaned up.

“My eye closed right over and when I went to the bench, I couldn’t really see out of it. 

“I sort of just though; you can’t let that change the way you play or let that rule you out of the game or impact the rest of your game because it’s a final and it’s a massive game.

“I enjoyed it, but it also hurt so much after the game, especially seeing the guys who had been here from day dot and how emotional they were. It’s an experience that I hope we don’t have to have this year.”

Himmelberg’s bravery in going back with the flight or launching into packs has continued in his 33 games since.

Earlier this year Himmelberg was nominated for the Mark of the Year, for a courageous grab taken in the final term of the GIANTS’ tense round four win over Geelong.

His willingness to put aside his own personal safety to take the mark drew comparisons to Brisbane champion Jonathan Brown and St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt.

“I watched those two guys before in the past and I watched Nick Riewoldt a lot on TV when I was younger, but I don’t think it’s in the same class as those two guys," he said.

“That said, to be compared to those guys is like a childhood dream come true. 

“In those situations, I don’t really think at all to be honest. I see the ball and when it’s your turn to go I just think you just know that you have to go. 

“It’s something that I got taught at a young age by all of my coaches in Wagga, was to have eyes for the footy and that’s it. 

“I think that’s the right way to go about it and what happens, happens. A good thing you get taught as a youngster is the harder you go the less likely you are of getting hurt. 

“Sometimes that theory pays off.”

Himmelberg is hoping his 50th game is just one of many milestones, he’s continuing to hone his craft and is learning more with each game, but there is one lesson that’s truly stuck with him already. 

“It’s spelled D-E-F-E-N-C-E,” he says with a laugh. “I learned that after my first year.”