In the current climate of AFL football, it can be easy to forget just how much of an achievement playing 100 games of senior football is, let alone with the same club.
Kayne Turner is set to reach that milestone this weekend, with the North Melbourne utility man progressing all the way from a second-round pick in the rookie draft, to a near undroppable leader in David Noble’s side.
There are few people within the Roos’ system with a better idea of Turner’s evolution, both on and off the field, than skipper Jack Ziebell.
The pair has run onto the ground together countless times forming a strong bond both on and off the park.
Ziebell says Turner’s journey to his 100th game, while a little offbeat, is down to hard work and commitment from the number 28.
“He (Turner) didn’t take the most conventional pathway into the system. He was born on the last day of the year, so he was a really young 18-year-old for his draft year,” Ziebell said.
“We brought him down for, I think, a time trial and a training session. When we drafted him his phone started buzzing in class while he was at school, he didn’t even know the draft was on.
“We were watching some highlights of his first season today and he wouldn’t have weighed 60 kilograms sopping wet, but in his first game he absolutely nailed Phil Davis.
“He’s been hitting blokes hard like that ever since, he’s a great teammate to have on the field with you.”
Having played as a pressure forward for much of his career, David Noble has converted Turner into more of a defensive tagger, often tasking him with blanketing the opponent’s most dangerous small forward.
As the season has progressed, Turner’s list of scalps has grown, whether it be keeping Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti goalless in Round 18, or Charlie Cameron to just 5 disposals in Round 14, he’s quickly become an elite defender in his own right.
Statistics don’t tell the full story of a football game. Ziebell says while Turner might not have stuffed the stats sheet during his time as a forward, his importance to the team has never been disputed internally.
“It’s great to see him finally getting some external praise and reward for the role he plays at our club, because there have been plenty of time when the media or opposition fans haven’t rated him,” Ziebell said.
“How highly we rate Kayne and his role in the team has never changed, but he’s had to be so mentally strong to block out all the external noise that’s pretty often followed him in his career. He’s one of the strongest blokes I know.
“When he was playing as a pressure forward he might’ve only had eight touches and maybe a goal, but he’d have five tackles, three smothers, a heap of shepherds, and he’d be dragging defenders out of position.
“He’s always been so crucial to the way we want to play. To see him being praised outside of our four walls is so well deserved.”
Elected into the leadership group ahead of this season, the high regard in which Turner’s teammates hold him in off the field cannot be doubted.
While he’s a tough competitor once he crosses the white line, Ziebell says his teammate’s personality off the park couldn’t be more different than how he plays on it.
“You probably wouldn’t get a bloke who’s more of a polar opposite on the field than off it. He’s such a hard tackler who’ll do anything for the team, constantly annoying the opposition and just making a nuisance of himself,” Ziebell said.
“Off the field though, he’s one of the good guys at the footy club. Nobody would say a bad word about him, and he wouldn’t say a bad word about anyone.
“He’s mates with everyone on the list, he’s a super welcoming and open individual and he’s one of the most selfless players I’ve played with.
“For him to reach 100 games at North Melbourne is an absolute credit to him.”