AustralianFootball.com Celebrating the history of the great Australian game
5 July 1979 (age 43)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 17y 288d
Last game: 32y 60d
Height and weight
Height: 199 cm
Weight: 103 kg
West Coast; St. Kilda
West Coast: 19, 1
St. Kilda: 15
West Coast (2008)
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
AFL: 10,781st player to appear, 829th most games played, 968th most goals kickedWest Coast: 106th player to appear, 55th most games played, 35th most goals kickedSt. Kilda: 1,520th player to appear, 303rd most games played, 271st most goals kicked
In a career occasionally marred by controversy, Michael Gardiner was a tall and solid ruckman who gave West Coast and St Kilda in 181 games between 1997 and 2011.
Recruited from Claremont, Gardiner was taken at number 1 in the 1996 National Draft and debuted against Hawthorn in round four, 1997 when still only 17 years of age. Though he was dropped after that match, he returned in round 15 and kicked three goals, sharing ruck and key forward duties with Ilija Grigic, and established himself as a regular presence in the Eagles line-up.
Several weeks later, having celebrated his 18th birthday, Gardiner was a given a "welcome" to the AFL in the match against the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval where, prior to the opening siren, several Bulldogs players "targeted" him by running in and bumping him all at the same time. Gardiner's teammates rallied around him but he appeared unsettled and had little influence on the game, which the Dogs went on to win.
Notwithstanding that "baptism of fire", Gardiner did enough to earn a Rising Star nomination in his first year, and went onto become a vital cog in the West Coast line-up until a knee injury sustained in early 2004 saw him miss most of that season. He returned in 2005 and played in the Eagles nail-biting loss to the Swans in that season's Grand Final. Off-field misbehaviour in the next season led to club suspension, and Gardiner played just three games in that year, missing the Eagles' revenge one-point victory over the Swans in the 2006 Grand Final, after which he was traded to St Kilda.
The trade did not appear to be a successful one initially, as Gardiner sustained a foot injury which saw him fail to make a senior appearance in the season proper at his new club in 2007. However, Gardiner began to turn things around in 2008, when he was part of the Saints' pre-season premiership win and, although restricted to just nine main season games via further injuries, proved he could still be a dominant force in the ruck when fit.
That fitness was attained in 2009 and Gardiner had a fine season for St Kilda, highlighted by a four-goal, 20-hitout performance in the round 14 top-of-the-table clash against Geelong. He was a member of the losing Grand Final side of that year (also against Geelong) and had another fine season in 2010, which came close to the perfect finish, as St Kilda again played off for the flag in that season. Sadly for Gardiner, the Saints drew the Grand Final after having led late in the match, and he injured his hamstring, missing the replay the following week which was won comfortably by Collingwood. Further injuries saw Gardiner play just one match in 2011, a last-round victory over Carlton which saw the Saints qualify for the finals. Gardiner did not play in St Kilda's Elimination Final loss the following week, and promptly retired, closing the curtain on what was, in the main, a fine 15-season career with two clubs.
Author - Andrew Gigacz