Best On Ground: The age old question - to play on or stand aside?

When does the stay or go axis hit the age axis? It just might vary for everyone. Photo: files
When does the stay or go axis hit the age axis? It just might vary for everyone. Photo: files

Every year, as the season edges towards a conclusion, discussion turns to whether or not a team should extend a veteran's career.

The five oldest footballers in 2020 are Hawthorn's Shaun Burgoyne (37), Carlton's Kade Simpson (36), Geelong's Gary Ablett (36), Fremantle's David Mundy (35) and GWS Giants' Heath Shaw (34).

All, it can be argued, are still in their respective club's best 22.

But teams will make decisions based on list management.

Can they afford to have an elder statesman go around for another season?

Or is it time for them to step aside for a younger player?

Of those five, only one - Ablett - has indicated he is likely to retire at season's end.

Burgoyne, a four-time premiership player, needs 14 games to reach the elusive 400-game mark.

It's a feat only achieved by four people - North Melbourne's Brent Harvey (432), Hawthorn's Michael Tuck (426), Richmond's Kevin Bartlett (403) and Essendon's Dustin Fletcher (400).

Burgoyne, now playing as a forward, is averaging a goal a game in his 19th season.

The Hawks, one of the competition's most successful clubs of the past 15 years, are undergoing an overhaul.

Burgoyne, with his leadership, should be given an option of playing on in 2020 - if that's what he desires.

He is still contributing and 400 games is a milestone he should be afforded a chance to reach.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson addressed Burgoyne's situation this week.

"We'll sit down and work that out. Part of it is seeing what Shaun wants to do, how his body is and how he finishes the season," he said.

"Part of it is to do with our list and what our future is too. We'll sit down and work that out together. But now's not the time to be discussing it from our point of view, nor Shaun's."

The unassuming Simpson is still entrenched in the Blues' back line but the club also boasts Eddie Betts and Marc Murphy, who are both 33.

Can all three maintain their spots and lift the up-and-coming Blues in 2021?

Mundy remains an integral part of the Dockers' line-up. Only now, instead of being asked to do the heavy lifting, he is the cream on top, helping mould youngsters such as Andy Brayshaw and Caleb Serong.

The 327-gamer's form of late - he's averaging 21 touches a game - warrants an extension.

He still glides across the ground like he did when he was drafted.

Shaw too remains a key part of the Giants' make-up, rebounding off half-back.

So which of these players will grace the field again next year?

Only time will tell. One thing is certain - all have left their mark on the competition.

This week's edition of Best On Ground was written by Warrnambool Standard journalist Justine McCullagh-Beasy



  • Hawthorn v Essendon, Adelaide Oval, 4.40pm
  • Richmond v West Coast, Metricon Stadium, 7.10pm


  • Western Bulldogs v Geelong, Metricon Stadium, 7.50pm


  • Port Adelaide v Sydney, Adelaide Oval, 1.45pm
  • Fremantle v GWS Giants, Optus Stadium, 4.35pm
  • Melbourne v St Kilda, TIO Park, 7.40pm


  • Carlton v Collingwood, Gabba, 3.35pm
  • Gold Coast v North Melbourne, Metricon Stadium, 6.10pm

Byes: Adelaide, Brisbane

  • All times as AEST
This story The age old question - play on or stand aside? first appeared on The Standard.