Former born and bred Mount Gambier local Brad Close achieved his 50-game milestone on the weekend playing for AFL side the Geelong Cats.
Since bursting onto the AFL scene in 2020, Close has become one of the integral members of the Cats’ team which is currently on top of the ladder and chasing its first premiership in 11 years.
He has become a productive small forward kicking 37 goals from his 50 games wearing the #45 long-sleeved jumper, previously worn by premiership captain Cameron Ling.
Close brought up the milestone in the Cats’ win over St Kilda at GMHBA Stadium and said after a half century of games he felt like part of the star-studded team.
“I am happy being a regular in the side,” he said during a recent press conference.
“I’m more than happy playing a role and I know that each week if I can do the little things that I do to help the side, things like bringing the pressure and hopefully finish with a goal or two at the end of the game.
“It’s great fun being out there and I cannot complain at all.”
Having played all his junior and senior football with North Gambier in the Western Border Football League and winning two premierships, Close then moved to the SANFL with Glenelg Football Club.
At ‘The Bay’ he was part of the Tigers’ drought-breaking premiership, which was where he was picked up by Geelong in the draft as a rookie at pick number 14.
In what was a life changing moment for the former local, he made his debut in Geelong’s 32-point win over the Fremantle Dockers in round 8 of the 2020 AFL Premiership season.
Close burst onto the scene with the Cats kicking a goal with his first kick in the first minute of the game.
He went on to pick up 14 disposals, three marks and four tackles on a night he will never forget.
Close also picked up the Cats’ best young player award in his first season, where he picked up 70 disposals.
In the 2021 season Close further built his skill-set for Geelong, playing 22 of a possible 25 games and finishing seventh in the club’s best and fairest after kicking 15 goals and averaging 13 disposals.
Close is now into his third year as a small running forward in a strong and passionate group.
He relishes being part of a star-studded line-up with former Dartmoor local Jeremy Cameron and the “big cat” Tom Hawkins giving him every opportunity to find the goals.
Alongside these stars, Close has played 20 games so far in 2022 averaging 15.2 disposals, 7.2 kicks, eight handballs, 3.5 marks and 3.8 tackles per game, while he has already scored 20 goals – the most in a single season in his career so far.
In his 50th game, the former North Gambier Tiger was instrumental in the win against St Kilda by closing the Saints’ run with pressure and kicking one goal.
The small forward has always had football in his veins, with his father Andrew also playing 382 games with West Gambier and North Gambier becoming a Western Border legend.
Despite reaching the peak, Close said he had ‘a way to go ‘to catch up to the old man’s tally.
“He only played a couple of games of SANFL, but in terms of country footy I think he played 380 games, so I am well behind him,” he said.