During an interview on AFL 360 on Monday night, Scott Pendlebury was asked about his achievements throughout his 13-year career. With a typical AFL captain’s response, Pendlebury shifted the focus of the discussion to Friday’s final against Geelong. However, Nathan Buckley, who was sitting opposite him gave the credit to his skipper.
“Excellence” was how Buckley described Pendlebury’s CV.
The image of the Buckley and Pendlebury in front of the blue 360 screen symbolized two champions but different leaders of Collingwood; Buckley the ‘chest beating’, skillful and ruthless type who always played the enemy– to Pendlebury’s, smooth, subtle but lethal style. However, arguably two of the best to ever pull the black and white jumper.
To the dismay of the average parochial Collingwood supporter, Pendlebury’s name is rarely mentioned alongside other superstars such as Nat Fyfe, Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield. Perhaps because Pendlebury is still without a Brownlow, or he isn’t the burst out of the pack, run 50 metres and kick a goal type. And we still haven’t seen him go forward and kick a bag.
But perhaps we are focusing on the wrong traits. To be simply great as an elite AFL midfielder do we need to go forward and kick bags of goals and gain the most metres? Are we wrongly putting these players into the same space and homogenising them?
Pendlebury has put himself into that exclusive club of champions in other ways. Aside from his six All-Australians, three Anzac Day Medals, 2010 Premiership, 299 games, five Best and Fairests (Copeland Trophy), Norm Smith Medal, AFLCA Player of the Year 2013, two-time International Rules Series Player and captaining Collingwood, his composure in big games puts him right up there.
The evidence is clear with the aforementioned Grand Final and Anzac Day awards. The sheer proof that Pendlebury is born for the big occasion is held in high regard. He exudes the traits of a great captain as he leads by example on the biggest of stages.
Pendlebury entered the competition via the 2005 National Draft and has had a career average of 26.6 disposals, putting himself in the elite category of midfielders. And also averages the most disposals out of any player in that draft class, which included Shaun Higgins, Grant Birchall and Marc Murphy.
He is also one of the best decision-makers in the game – ball in hand, he is as reliable as anyone. The way he slaloms around a contest is profoundly different and is something we have not seen before, people usually say “he always has time”, and that is what makes him unique.
There has not been a player who he was strongly compared to when he was drafted in 2005, as AFL recruiters were yet to see a previous player with the traits Pendlebury had which includes his sublime left foot with a 190cm frame and composure with the ball.
If anything, Pendlebury has started his own comparison, his own prototype. We’ve seen the likes of Bombers skipper, Dyson Heppell, Bulldogs superstar, Marcus Bontempelli and young Brisbane gun, Hugh McCluggage all display similarities to that of Pendlebury.
To say that he doesn’t catch the eye is wrong, the way he moves through a contest is what football purists revel in. And who could forget those dreadlocks of 2011.
Pendlebury is also as diligent of a footballer that there is in the game. He spends an hour of each morning, as the sun rises rolling out his back and he attends pilates class once a week to strengthen his core muscles on top of all the training an AFL athlete endures.
As professional as Pendlebury is, he has found a way over his prolific career to be human. He doesn’t mind the occasional glass of red to relax him before bed, he is an avid NBA follower, watching games whenever he can and he also enjoys mid-season trips to Noosa and Bali.
The heartbreaking side to Pendlebury’s story is he that he could’ve been a premiership captain. But there is still hope for the next two-three years. The dramatic 2018 Grand Final loss to West Coast still sits in the guts of Collingwood supporters, and any footy follower understands that he and his team were agonizingly close to winning that game, but not close enough.
Pendlebury looks to become Collingwood’s games record holder, as he is set to pass Tony Shaw on 313 games mid-way next season.
When he leaves our great game, Scott Pendlebury will have a football CV that will stack up against not only the greats of Collingwood, but the great modern players of our time. It should secure him a spot in the Hall of Fame and hopefully a life membership at Collingwood.
He may even get a second premiership medallion that he has battled for over the past nine years, who knows what the rest of 2019 has in stall?
Well done Pendles.