Passion remains for Harvey
NORTH Heidelberg prized recruit Brent Harvey is looking forward to the challenge of returning to local football and delivering his side premiership success.
Harvey’s illustrious 21-year AFL career, which included a premiership and five best and fairest awards at North Melbourne, came to an end last September following the Kangaroos’ elimination final loss to Adelaide.
In the biggest local football coup this off-season, the 38-year-old signed on to play with North Heidelberg in October.
Speaking to NFL.org.au, the AFL games-record holder acknowledged there had been some noticeable differences in his transition from the elite level to grassroots football.
“I think from playing at the highest level and then coming back to local level is a bit of an eye opener,” Harvey said.
“The skill work is a little different and obviously the professionalism isn’t there as much, but the biggest thing for me throughout my whole career is that the enjoyment hasn’t changed.
“I’ve come back here and the enjoyment is still there.”
The Harvey name is revered at North Heidelberg, with Brent’s father Neil, brother Shane and cousin Blair all representing the club.
Brent has regularly been in the crowd as Shane entertained the Bulldogs’ faithful in a career that has seen him win a Division 1 best and fairest, a Division 2 premiership and multiple leading goal kicking awards.
The chance to play alongside Shane was the major factor in Brent signing on with North Heidelberg.
He will also be joined by Blair, with the Heidelberg legend returning to the Bulldogs, where he began his senior football career, as an assistant to coach Stephen Saddington.
“I’ve always said no matter what when I finish I’d have a kick with him (Shane) and it just so happened to be this year,” Harvey said.
“I’ve also got my cousin here and I’ve got a lot of mates here so it’s very exciting to be back here with them.
“Dad’s pretty happy. It probably saves him from going to watch two games of football a week, he just has to come watch one now.
“The whole family, not only Dad but Mum and the whole Harvey clan is pretty happy with how it’s turned out.”
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After winning the Division 2 minor premiership last year, North Heidelberg had to settle with a runner-up finish after being upset by Hurstbridge in the grand final.
Despite the disappointing result in the premiership-decider, Harvey believes the team’s attitude over the summer in response to the loss will give them the upper hand this season.
“They’ve got an appetite for hard work and that’s probably the thing that I thought wasn’t going to be there,” he said.
“I thought obviously being in a professional environment you have to do the hard yards while these boys don’t have to being local footballers.
“But every single night on the track they’ve been unbelievable and it’s been good that they have taken that on.”
Most pundits have North Heidelberg locked in as premiership favourite following a fruitful transfer period that has also landed South Australian key position player Adam Braendler, returning midfielder Blake Holmes and a number of promising youngsters from Division 1 clubs.
But despite the burden of carrying flag favourite tag, Harvey ruled out pressure being a factor in stopping the Bulldogs in their conquest for silverware.
“Externally we don’t really care what everyone thinks or whether they say we are going to win the grand final, it doesn’t really bother us,” Harvey said.
“We’ll put the pressure on ourselves to perform and get everything right and then once that happens the result will take care of itself.”
North Heidelberg will begin its conquest to return to Division 1 football when it takes on Diamond Creek at Bendigo Bank Community Bank Oval on Saturday April 8.
BRENT HARVEY’S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
• AFL games record: 432 games
• AFL Premiership: 1999
• North Melbourne F.C. Team of the Century
• Syd Barker Medal: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010
• All-Australian: 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008
• E. J. Whitten Medal: 1999
• Herald Sun Player of the Year: 2008
• Lou Richards Medal: 2007, 2008
• Jim Stynes Medal: 2003