AustralianFootball.com Celebrating the history of the great Australian game
21 August 1971 (age 51)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 16y 351d
Last game: 37y 30d
Height and weight
Height: 181 cm
Weight: 86 kg
St. Kilda; Australia
St. Kilda: 52, 35
Best & fairest
Brownlow Medal - 1997, 1998; St Kilda Best and Fairest - 1992, 1994, 1997 and 1998;
1997 AFL Players Association Most Valuable Player Award; Michael Tuck Medal for player judged best on ground in the 2004 pre-season cup final.
Anthony Harvey (Brother)
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
AFL: 9,976th player to appear, 6th most games played, 360th most goals kickedSt. Kilda: 1,348th player to appear, 1st most games played, 19th most goals kicked
Robert Harvey's career highlights reel might not feature the spectacular aerial feats of a Wayne Carey, the sublime skills of Peter Daicos and Gary Ablett or the prolific and deadly goalkicking efforts of a Tony Lockett, but it is hard to argue that his standing in the game is any less than those great names. It might be hard for all but the most die-hard of St Kilda fans to recall more than a handful of moments from Robert Jeffrey Harvey's career that stand out, but that merely serves to emphasis the hardworking consummate team man that he was.
By the time Harvey hung up his boots after the Saints' 2008 preliminary final loss to Hawthorn, he had amassed 383 V/AFL matches (at that stage the third highest total, behind only Hawthorn's Michael Tuck (426) and Richmond's Kevin Bartlett (403)¹, won two Brownlow Medals, four club best-and-fairests, been named an All-Australian eight times and selected as a ruck-rover in St Kilda's Team of the Century (1900-1999). An automatic selection whenever State of Origin football was played, Harvey also won three EJ Whitten Medals as best player for the 'Big V'.
Recruited locally from Seaford, Harvey turned out for his first AFL match against Footscray in round 19, 1988, a couple of weeks shy of his 18th birthday. The Saints were thrashed that day at the Western Oval, but a respectable first-up 12 possessions saw him retain his place for the final three games of that season. Injury interrupted his following season but his return game in round 17, in which he collected 33 touches, along with tallies of 36 and 30 possessions towards seasons end gave an indication of the prolific ball-winning abilities he would display over the next decade and beyond.
Harvey had an unmatched ability to run all day. Such was his fitness that opposition sides would have to rotate taggers on him during the game in an effort to keep him check. That remorselessness saw Harvey develop into an elite player, and he earned his first All Australian nod in 1992. He failed to make the side in 1993 but would not miss again for another seven years, selected every season from 1994 to 1999.
In two of those seasons, 1997 and 1998, he also won the Brownlow Medal, the first of those a somewhat controversial win after Chris Grant - who polled 27 votes to Harvey's 26 - was ruled ineligible as the result of a dubious one-match suspension. Few other than Harvey himself doubted that he he was a deserving Medallist, but any doubt was erased a year later when Harvey 'streeted the field' to win his second Medal. He polled 32 votes (at that stage the equal-highest in history), eight clear of the runner up, Collingwood's Nathan Buckley.
By then Harvey had established himself as an 'unobtrusive superstar' of the game. Injury restricted Harvey to just 35 matches in the 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons, but he had a full run in 2003, playing all 22 matches and averaging more than 26 touches a game. That consistency saw him selected in the All Australian side for a record eighth time (since equalled by Adelaide's Mark Ricciuto and Gary Ablett Jnr). One can't help but wonder if that total could have reached double figures without those injury interruptions.
Harvey's effectiveness did not diminish in his twilight years, and he was an integral part of St Kilda's resurgence as a finals contender, playing an outstanding game in the Saints' heartbreaking 2004 Preliminary Final loss to Port Adelaide and their qualifying final win over Adelaide the following year.
Harvey's 383rd and final match was St KIlda's loss to Hawthorn in the 2008 Preliminary Final. He certainly hadn't 'limped to the line', his last season consisting of 24 matches in which he still averaged more than 20 possessions a game.
Unsurprisingly, Robert Harvey was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame as soon as he was eligible, a testament to the hard work and commitment he showed across 21 V/AFL seasons, and to getting everything possible out of the abilities he possessed.
Author - Andrew Gigacz
1. Harvey has since slipped to fifth on the all-time AFL 'games played' table, his namesake Brent Harvey now at number one with 432 games and Essendon's Dustin Fletcher, whose career ended on exactly 400 in 2015.