Statistically speaking, there are three ways to look at the career of Sam Reid. But whichever way you look at it you draw the same conclusion. He’s a numeric marvel.

Set to play his 100th AFL game for the GIANTS against North Melbourne in Hobart on Sunday, Reid will claim a place in football history with a journey from game #1 to #100 that has lasted 12 years 287 days.

It is the seventh-longest in AFL history and the longest since 1928.

The longest? It was a staggering 16 years 36 days for Jim Jackson, who played 116 games from 1909-1926. He played one game with StKilda in 1909, 93 games with Collingwood from 1910-15 and in 1920 after military service from 1917-19, and 22 games as the inaugural Hawthorn VFL captain in 1925-26 after four years with Hawthorn in the VFA. He debuted at 19 and played his last game at 36.

Details of the top seven are:

LONGEST TIME FROM GAME #1 TO GAME #100

Rank

Yrs

Days

Player

100th

Career

DID NOT PLAY

1

16

36

Jim Jackson

1925

116g - StK Coll Haw 1909-26

1916-19

2

15

282

Dave McNamara

1921

122g - StK 1905-1923

1910-13, 1916-17, 1920

3

15

9

Charlie Ricketts

1921

103g - SM Rich StK 1906-21

1915-20

4

14

53

Chris Kiernan

1911

102g Fitz 1897-1911

1902, 1904-10

5

13

122

Harry Brereton

1922

102g Melb SM 1909-1922

1913-14, 1916-18, 1921

6

12

314

Bill Cubbins

1928

182g StK Foots 1915-1934

1916-18, 1927, 1933

7

12

287

Sam Reid

2021

99g WB-GWS

2014-15

 

To put a more recent context on the Reid story the history books tell us there are 89 players in the AFL this year aged 30 or more. And the average career games tally of the 30-somethings is 211.

There are 15 players among 125 who joined the AFL for the first time via the draft year of 2007 still playing this year. The average career games tally of the ‘survivors’ is 204.

And there are 239 players in the AFL this year who have played 100 games or more. The  average age of this group on the day of their 100th game is 25 years 33 days.

Reid, born in Bundaberg, raised on the Sunshine Coast and originally drafted by the Western Bulldogs before joining the GIANTS in 2011, is a member of all three groups. Or at least he will be on Sunday.

But he is a statistical outrider not once or twice but three times.

Reid will be 31 years and 211 days old when he posts his 100th game. Or six years 178 days above the average of the current batch of 100-gamers.

His current games tally of 99 is less than half the average of the ‘survivors’ and even further behind the average of the ’30-somethings’.

It’s all part of an extraordinary career that began with the Caloundra Panthers on the Sunshine Coast and later the Zillmere Eagles in the AFLQ competition after he moved to Brisbane to further his football ambitions.

He was drafted by the Bulldogs with selection #35 in a 2007 National Draft in which Matthew Kreuzer went to Carlton at #1, Trent Cotchin to Richmond at #2 and Chris Masten to West Coast at #3.

Reid’s trek to 100 AFL games is worth recounting if only because it is so staggeringly different to that of most players fortunate enough to reach this milestone in modern football.

The 2008 AFL Guide said the Dogs had been impressed with Reid’s ability to run and carry the ball and his hardness at the contest. It noted his ability to read the play well and noted he had been one of the better players on the AIS/AFL Academy tour to South Africa in 2007.

But those expecting good things immediately hadn’t counted on the burden he had to carry after inheriting the #26 jumper at the Dogs. It was as if it was a bad luck charm.

Why? Because its immediate past owner was Tim Walsh, who was drafted by the Dogs with selection #4 in 2002 – one spot ahead of Sydney’s pick #5 Jarrad McVeigh. And while McVeigh went on to play 325 games Walsh, five years at Whitten Oval, played just one.

Reid debuted in the last round of 2008 against Adelaide at Football Park. Teammates in a nine-point Dogs loss included Jarrod Harbrow, now at the Gold Coast, and Shaun Higgins, now at Geelong.

It was anything but a dead rubber. The Dogs had third spot locked up but could still finish second, while sixth-placed Adelaide need a win to possibly grab a top four berth and the double-chance.

David Mackay, now a 238-game Crows veteran, and current AFL coaches Simon Goodwin and Ben Rutten were members of an Adelaide side in which Tyson Edwards, whose son Luke debuted for West Coast last weekend, earned three Brownlow Medal votes in his 288th game.

Reid played 10 games in an injury-plagued four years at Whitten Oval before joining good mate Callan Ward in defecting to the GIANTS in September 2011 ahead of their 2012 entry to the AFL.

The ever-suspicious Melbourne football media cruelly suggested Reid was the proverbial ‘steak knives’ in the deal to help Ward settle into western Sydney, but almost 10 years on he has been a wonderful servant under albeit unusual circumstances amid some teasing football trivia.

An emergency for the club’s first game, he played Rounds 5-6-8-9-10 in 2012 before a season-ending shoulder injury and Rounds 3-4-5-6-7-11-12-13-14 in 2013 before a season-ending ankle injury.

He was delisted at the end of the season as the GIANTS were forced to cut heavily into an over-sized foundation playing list, but such was impression on the young club he was offered a development coaching role in which he would captain the club’s reserves in the NEAFL.

He did so for two years, and although it wasn’t a driving motivation, he played so well that he was re-drafted as a 2016 rookie.

By Round 12 he was back in the senior side for his 15th GIANTS game – and his first win in orange and charcoal.

In GIANTS history, only Adam Tomlinson (22 games), Nick Haynes (16) and Lachie Whitfield (16) have played more games for the club before their first win.

And it was a special win - the club’s 100th match and second win against their cross town rivals the Swans.

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It was also the game that GIANTS member Paul Waterhouse won himself $100,000 in the Toyo Tires Kick for Cash at ¾ time.

After six games in 2016 and 13 games in 2017 Reid was delisted again. But this time it was part of a list rationalisation not entirely foreign to the AFL and came with a commitment to take him back.

They did, but they made him wait. They took Dylan Buckley with pick #15 in the rookie draft and left Reid until pick #29. He’d slipped 21 spots in the rookie pecking order in two years, but he would prove to be one of the best value 28-year-old third-time draftees in League history.

He played 21 of a possible 24 games in 2018, including two finals, and all 26 games, including four finals and the grand final in 2019. All as a rookie.

In Round 7 2018 he played his 50th game. It was nine years 247 days after his debut and he tweeted:

“Gees its only taken being drafted 3 times, sacked twice and 9 years but I’m pretty bloody grateful to be where I am and notching up the slowest 50 games in draft history.”

After an early calf problem in the Covid season of 2020 he played Rounds 16-17-18 before finding in an all too familiar predicament. He was de-listed again.

This time it was an obligatory de-listing after he had spent the maximum three years on the rookie.

And at least the GIANTS took him back with their first pick in the rookie draft at #9.

On effectively his fourth career, Reid began season 2021 needing seven games to reach 100.

It’s been a bumpy ride. He played Rounds 1-2, missed Rounds 3-4 with suspension, played Round 5, missed Round 6 with injury, played Round 7, missed Rounds 8-9 with injury and played Rounds 10-11.

It says much about how highly the now 31-year-old veteran is valued that every time he’s been out of the side this season, he’s gone straight back in as soon as he’s been available.

“He’s a beauty,” said GIANTS General Manager of Football Jason McCartney.

“He’s tough and resilient, he’s got great speed and endurance, and he’s got that real utility quality whereby he can play just about anywhere.

“This year we’ve used him as a small-medium lock down defender and he’s been terrific. Hes’ one of those guys that Leon (Cameron) can give a job to and know it’ll be done. Whatever we need we can rely on him.

“He’s been a real asset to our club as a player and a coach and a senior figure. He’ll always have his say in meetings and he understands the game really well. When he’s finished playing he’ll work in footy somewhere for sure.”

Reid is a ‘heart and soul’ player. Not flashy and never one to dominate the stats sheet, but part of the fabric at the GIANTS. Popular not just in the locker room but throughout the club.

And he’s done it all while carrying a life challenge that would have stopped many. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the end of 2009 he has lived since then with a rigid daily routine just to stay healthy.

Every day he wakes up about 2.30am to test his blood and make sure everything is in order. He has four insulin injections daily – three fast-release injections with meals and a slow-release injection about nine o’clock each night.

Indirectly, diabetes may have saved his life, or at least a more critical medical emergency.

As Reid explained in a piece he wrote for ‘Athlete’s Voice’ in 2018, he knew little about diabetes before his diagnosis, and after surgery for osteitis pubis and a groin reconstruction at the end of the 2009 season he had a real scare.

“I was losing a fair bit of weight afterwards and my energy levels weren’t that great. I  thought that was part and parcel of having surgery. You lose a bit of muscle mass and all that.

“About six weeks later, I had a check-up with the doctors at the club. When I went in, they nearly fell off their chair because they couldn’t believe how skinny I looked. So they sent me for blood tests on the Friday.

“I was at home on the Saturday night after that, and my eyes were really blurry. I’d been going out and having a few drinks and that sort of thing because it was the end of the season and after all, I was only 20, but this had nothing to do with that. I rang the doc and he asked if I had a block of chocolate or something. I ate it. That’s when I sort of realised that there might be something up.

“We got the results of the blood tests on Monday. I went in there and it turned out my blood sugar for the last couple of months had been like 45 or something. I should have been in a coma, technically. If I wasn’t playing football and as fit as I was, I would have been.”

Never one to take himself too seriously, Reid has a permanent reminder of his special type of diabetes, which effects about 130,000 Australians – a dartboard tattoo on the right side of his stomach.

“When I first got it (diabetes), they told me I had to inject my insulin around the stomach region. Not to make complete light of the situation with me being diagnosed, but I just wanted to have a little bit of fun with it and let people know that I hadn’t changed too much,” he explained.

 “So I ended up getting a dartboard there at one of my injection sites. I might have had a couple of beers when I thought of it. But it always gets a bit of a laugh, especially with the kids.

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“There are no numbers, but the dartboard has the traditional dartboard colours of red, green and black. I change the location of the needle around a bit. Some days I’ll shoot for triple 20, other days I throw a bullseye. I put it in my quads or glutes as well, it moves around a fair bit.

“I ended up getting a tattoo on my wrist as well. You’re meant to wear a wristband as well but the tattoo does the job. I hope I’m never lying in a gutter and someone goes, ‘Oh, he’s got a girlfriend called Diabetes!’

His “girlfriend” is not Diabetes but Elissa, his long-time partner turned wife Elissa.

An osteopath, she has been a huge ally in Reid’s ongoing injury battles. So much so Reid’s Instagram story included a post of him receiving treatment from her the day after the GIANTS’ preliminary final win over Collingwood to qualify for the 2019 grand final.

It carried the caption “@elissareid__ has kept me on the park all year." And was quickly followed by a photo of Sam and Elissa with son Elijah, born in the early hours of the Monday of grand final week.

And while the timeline of his remarkable football journey has been a source of much mirth among teammates Reid can happily point out that his second 50 games have taken less than a third of the time of his first 50. Only three years 40 days.

Oddly, Reid is one of three ‘survivors’ from the 2007 draft at the Giants, alongside Ward and former Geelong rookie turned Sydney premiership ruckman turned GIANTS enforcer Shane Mumford.

The 15 players drafted in 2007 still playing in 2021 are:-

National Draft
#2 – Trent Cotchin (Rich) – 259 games
#8 – Lachie Henderson (Bris/Carl/Geel) – 196 games
#9 – Ben McEvoy (StK/Haw) – 233 games
#10 – Patrick Dangerfield (Adel/Geel) – 271 games
#15 – Robbie Tarrant (NM) – 164 games
#19 – Callan Ward (WB/GWS) – 235 games)
#32 – Levi Greenwood (NM/Coll) – 160 games
#35 – Sam Reid (WB/GWS) – 99 games
#40 – Chris Mayne (Frem/Coll) – 239 games
#43 – Easton Wood (WB) – 180 games
#54 – Cale Hooker (Ess) – 213 games
#75 – Taylor Walker (Adel) – 214 games

Pre-Season Draft
#3 – Stefan Martin (Melb/Bris/WB) – 197 games

Rookie Draft
#40 – Ed Curnow (Carl) – 194 games
#57 – Shane Mumford (Geel/Syd/GWS) – 208 games

One player who will be pleased to see Reid get to 100 games is Swans ruckman Callum Sinclair, who presently stands as the oldest 100th-gamer in the league at 29 years 271 days. Also beyond 29 when they reached triple figures were Bulldogs ruckman Stefan Martin (29 years 166 days) and Sydney ruckman Tom Hickey (29 years 16 days).

Not so pleased will be four members of the 2021 AFL ’30-something’ club who are yet to reach 100 games – 31-year-old GIANTS utility Lachie Keeffe (79 games) and three 30-year-old ruckmen – Collingwood’s Mason Cox (73 games), StKilda’s Shaun McKernan (91) and Hawthorn’s Jon Ceglar (93).

This year Reid ha also has moved to third spot on the all-time games list for players wearing jumper #50, which he adopted for his second stint at the club after wearing #26 and #11 at the Bulldogs, and #23 in his first two years with the GIANTS. He’s worn it 75 times.

But it’s going to take a huge effort for him to  catch the two ahead of him. Ben Brown has played 133 games in #50 for North Melbourne and Melbourne, and Ryan Turnbull played 129 games for West Coast in #50 from 1991-2001.

Likely? No. Impossible? It seems not. Not for a player who has reached 100 games after he managed just 30 games in nine years after being drafted. All while fighting a serious medical condition. It’s been a remarkable ride.