In 9928 AFL games since AFL statisticians started counting possessions in 1965 only 10 times has a player had 50 or more.  The SUNS have played only 291 games, but in the club’s 30th game and just their second at the MCG the inaugural SUNS captain wrote himself into the uber-elite of the record books.

It was Round 10 2012. Gary Ablett had 31 kicks and 22 handballs for an astonishing 53 possessions in a 97-point loss.

It is the equal second-highest possession count in history, and the highest in a losing side. And it is the Round 10 headline story as the ‘Football Flashback’ series continues.

At the time the herculean effort from the then 28-year-old Ablett shared top spot on the all-time possession list with Greg Williams, who had 25 kicks and 28 handballs for 53 possessions against St.Kilda at the SCG in Round 19 1989.

They held the record until Round 1 2018, when Tom Mitchell, playing for Hawthorn against Collingwood at the MCG, had 20 kicks and 34 handballs for 54 possessions.

Remarkably, the 50 Club was founded when two different Collingwood players had a half-century three weeks apart at their old Victoria Park  in 1971. Barry Price had 52 against Fitzroy in Round 4 before John Greening had 50 against Geelong in Round 7.

Completing the 50-Club are:-

Scott Thompson (Adel) – 51 v Gold Coast – Carrara 2011
Lachie Neale (Bris) – 51 v Richmond – MCG 2019
Tom Mitchell (Haw) – 50 v Collingwood – MCG 2017
Tom Mitchell (Haw) – 50 v GWS – Sydney Showgrounds 2018
Tony Shaw (Coll) – 50 v Brisbane – Victoria Park 1991

Ablett owns the top seven individual possession counts for the SUNS overall and 15 of the top 20. On top of his 53 he has a 49, three 45’s, two 43’s, three 42’s, three 41’s and two 40’s.

To complete the top 20, Dion Prestia had a 42 in 2014, Brayden Fiorini and Brandon Ellis 41 in2021, and Aaron Hall two 40’s in 2016-17.

Ablett’s 31 kicks in his 53-possession feast is an equal SUNS record. It was matched by Jack Bowes in 2021. Fiorini had 29 in 2019 and Sam Flanders 29 against Sydney in Round 6 this year.

Ablett’s 22 handballs in his record-breaker is only ninth on the ‘most handballs’ list, which is headed by Ellis’ 29 in 2021. Touk Miller and Ablett have had 27, and there have been five at 23 – Miller, Michael Barlow and Ablett (3).

Round 10 has not been an overly memorable round for the SUNS, but other highlights include:-

Five Consecutive Wins

In Round 10 2014 the SUNS beat the Western Bulldogs at People First Stadium by 40 points to complete a club record five-game winning streak that still stands.

It followed wins over Melbourne at the MCG (8 points) in Round 5, GWS at PFS (40 points) in Round 6, North Melbourne (43 points) at Marvel Stadium in Round 7 and St Kilda (38 points) at Marvel in Round 9 after a Round 8 bye.

Gary Ablett’s form through this path was off the charts. He had 151 possessions, kicked 12 goals and polled 11 Brownlow Medal votes, going 3-3-2-3-0.

Dion Prestia had 145 possessions, two goals and polled twice in the medal for four votes, and Tom Lynch had 75 possessions, 17 goals and polled twice for four votes.

Brandon Matera also was pivotal up forward with 73 possessions and 14 goals, Charlie Dixon kicked seven in the last three games of the streak. Harley Bennell had 35 possessions and kicked seven in the same three games.

Michael Rischitelli, David Swallow, Jaeger O’Meara and Jarrod Harbrow were also consistent contributors as the SUNS went from 11th on the ladder with a 2-2 record at Round 4 to third at 7-2 at Round 10.

A Visit to the Red Centre

In Round 10 2017 the SUNS played their first game at Traeger Park in Alice Springs.

It was the fourth game overall in the ‘Red Centre’, where Melbourne has played one home game each year since 2014, except in 2021 due to Covid restrictions.

It was Will Brodie’s AFL debut. Pick #9 in the 2016 National Draft from the Murray Bushrangers, he had nine possessions as the SUNS led by 17 points at halftime before going down by 35 points.

Aaron Hall had 29 possessions and a goal for one Brownlow Medal vote, while Michael Barlow (24 possessions, 2 goals), Brandon Matera (20 possessions, 3 goals) and Tom Lynch (16 possessions, 2 goals) were other good players.

A Major Goal Milestone

Jarrod Witts has kicked 17 goals in 133 games for the SUNS, but his third quarter major against Geelong at People First Stadium in Round 10 2019 was special. It was the 2000th goal in SUNS history.

It came after Jarrod Harbrow kicked the club’s 500th goal in 2013, Tom Lynch booted the 1000th in 2015 and Nick Malceski the 1500th in 2017, and was followed in 2022 by the 2500th goal from Izak Rankine and the 3000th from Ben King against the Bulldogs in Ballarat in Round 3 this year.