Drew Petrie believes he would have under-achieved if he had fallen short of 300 AFL games.
Petrie feels he would have left something in the tank in his career had he not played this many matches given the opportunities he has been given in his 16 years with North Melbourne.
Petrie said it was a special feeling reaching the milestone.
“It’s great to reach it.
“Anything less would have been disappointing,” he told The Courier.
Petrie said while saying this, playing 300 was not something he had set out to do.
He reaches the special milestone with the Kangaroos against St Kilda on Sunday.
Petrie joins an elite band in the game – becoming just the 74th player in AFL/VFL history to achieve the feat.
Just four other North Melbourne players have chalked up 300 matches with the club – Brent Harvey (415), Glenn Archer (311), Wayne Schimmelbusch (306) and Adam Simpson (306).
And Petrie also earns a special place in Ballarat sport history by becoming the first player to have grown up and played all his junior football in the city to bring up 300 AFL/VFL games.
He worked his way through the ranks at the Ballarat Swans in the Ballarat Football League before graduating to the North Ballarat Rebels in the TAC Cup under-18 competition.
For all Petrie has achieved his AFL career, few if any would have predicted he would reach such heights when he was a youngster.
It was probably the last thing on young Petrie’s mind.
VIEW THE EVOLUTION OF PETRIE IN PHOTOS
Even if he had, it would not have been as a North Melbourne player.
He had the black and red of Essendon running through his veins, with his uncle Ron Andrews having played 151 games with the Bombers from 1973-1983.
Petrie said he had did not play a lot representative football in his younger days.
“I was never a walk-up for inter-league.
“I enjoyed my footy, but it wasn’t my top priority.
“I preferred to work a Tuesday night shift at McDonald’s instead of inter-league training anyway.”
When Petrie did finally get on the radar through club and school football with the Swans St Patrick’s College, joining North Ballarat Rebels became a natural progression for the lanky young ruckman.
Petrie said even then it was not until 2000 when he was selected in the Vic Country under-18 team that playing in the AFL became a real possibility.
“The belief began to grow. I thought I’d be a chance.”
He can recall playing against Western Australia at Princes Park, South Australia at the MCG and Vic Metro at the MCG in the national carnival.
Petrie said he was nervous about his prospects and although his self-belief continued to grow he remained unsure whether he was good enough to take the next step.
Petrie said Geelong showed the most interest in the lead up to the national draft.
“If I was going anywhere that’s where I thought I’d be going.”
He said he had only a brief, informal talk with North Melbourne’s Neville Stibbard.
Petrie said he was not expecting to be picked up early in the draft so when his name was called out by the Kangaroos with the second round selection of 23 there was no one more surprised than him.
So it was out with the black and red and in with the royal blue and white for the then 18-year-old and of course the whole Petrie family.
Petrie wasted no time making an impression on two-time North Melbourne premiership coach Denis Pagan.
He went from sitting in the crowd at the MCG and cheering Essendon to victory over Melbourne in the 2000 grand final to making his AFL debut for North Melbourne against the Bombers in round one in 2001.
Petrie said he felt surprisingly comfortable in his first game in a line-up which featured many players who had only two seasons earlier played in a premiership.
He said two pre-season Ansett Cup matches had given him a chance to settle.
Petrie said he had many mentors in those early days – Wayne Carey, Matthew Burton, Corey McKernan and Adam Simpson.
He said there was none better than Simpson.
“He was awesome.”
Petrie spent the first 16 months of his time at North Melbourne living with a host family.
He then lived with the now 415-game veteran Brent Harvey, laying the foundation for a close friendship which remains today as they help lead the Kangaroos toward what they hope will be a first flag in 17 years.
His progression to 300 games in blue and white stripes has come naturally to Petrie.
There was only the one time that his AFL looked like being anything else but entirely at Arden Street.
That came at the end of his second season, when Essendon put a two-year deal on the table.
Petrie said with the Kangaroos offering the same it was never really a chance.
“I was happy at North, comfortable, so why would I change.”
Petrie said he had always wanted to be a one-club player and now at 33 years of age that was what he would be.
Petrie said his years under Pagan, who remained with the Kangaroos until 2002, had provided a great grounding.
“They were tough. We did it hard.”
Petrie has been an All-Australian and Kangaroos vice-captain, but a premiership or even a grand final appearance has eluded him.
He has played in several preliminary finals, including the past two years.
Petrie believes North Melbourne has never been better placed in his career to win a premiership than right now.
Despite the club superstars he was beside in his first few years with the Kangaroos, he has no doubt that their 2016 team is the best he has played in and consequently the best equipped to achieve the ultimate.
Petrie said this group had been three years in the making under coach Brad Scott and in that time developed a finals winning culture.
“Winning finals beats everything by the length of the Flemington straight…by a mile.”
Petrie has seen the North Melbourne Football Club go ahead in leaps and bound on and off and field in his time.
“It’s certainly much different. Much has changed.”
He can remember not getting paid for the first three months with the club.
It has not only been the financial stability which has changed.
The redevelopment of the Kangaroos’ home base Arden Street has been huge and is far cry from their former antiquated facilities which Petrie found himself in on moving from Ballarat.
“We’ve got a real presence in the competition.
“We’re entrenched at Arden Street, and making others stand up and take notice.”
While North Melbourne’s long-term future is secured, what does the future hold for the 33-year-old Petrie.
Right now, defeating St Kilda at Etihad Stadium on Sunday and stretching their unbeaten run to seven matches is the number one priority.
Beyond that, well naturally enough he wants nothing less than a premiership, which would a fitting way to cap of his career.
He certainly is not thinking about doing anything else than playing on.
“My body’s good. I’ve got no (injury) issues.
“Age is no barrier.
“Playing good football, that’s my focus,” Petrie said.
So who how many games past 300 will be go on to play.
Born: October 15, 1982
Junior club: Ballarat Swans
TAC Cup team: North Ballarat Rebels
Drafted: pick 23 in 2000
AFL debut: round 1 2001 v Essendon
Jumper number: 20
AFL games: 299
Season by season game
2001: 9 games
2002: 10 games
2003: 22 games
2004: 22 games
2005: 22 games
2006: 21 games
2007: 25 games
2008: 23 games
2009: 22 games
2010: 2 games
2011: 21 games
2012: 23 games
2013: 22 games
2014: 25 games
2015: 24 games
2016: 6 games
100 games: v Adelaide 2006
200 games: v Essendon 2012
250 games: v Fremantle 2014
Represented Australia against Ireland 2008
North Melbourne vice-captain 2009-2015
Club leading goalkicker: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015