The Courier-Mail

GAME POORER WHEN THE DUSTIN SETTLES

- BRUCE MATTHEWS

DUSTIN Fletcher mused how he trained twice a week, played Saturday and had recovery the following day when he started his football journey more than 20 years ago.

Now he gets one day off, could be playing from Friday night to Sunday night in any state, against opponents half his age.

“I liken it to local footy. You knew you were playing Saturday at 2.20 each week, the Reserves side played before, so you went and watched a half of that before you played,’’ he said.

“It was two or three days a week training and it was a bit easier back then than being a 17-year-kid today. Today you’ve got to be able to take on that profession­alism to be a good player.’’

The veteran defender’s recall on the eve of his 400th AFL game prompted a quip from Essendon coach James Hird, standing beside him before a light training session at the club’s Tullamarin­e headquarte­rs yesterday.

“It was interestin­g that he said we only trained three nights a week back in 1993. The rest of us trained five or six nights, so Fletch obviously had a different program as he was at school most of the time,’’ Hird grinned.

Far from Fletcher’s milestone being a distractio­n, Hird showed a short video clip of highlights before the players headed out for the 20-minute runaround as the final preparatio­n for tonight Dreamtime game against Richmond at the MCG.

“I think it’s great to celebrate the champions and get some motivation from that,” Hird said.

“Fletch has been such an important person to so much of this playing group, from Jobe (Watson) all the way through, he has had a huge influence on them and they want to commemorat­e and celebrate his career.

“We had a meeting before and I talked to Cale Hooker about what he has learnt from Fletch and his response was ‘everything’. Michael Hibberd and Michael Hurley the same. They’ve learnt how to play by watching and talking to Fletch. He has been a great tutor for this football club as well.”

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