200 of the best


by Mic Rees

Next Saturday, July 23, Port Melbourne (13-0) take on Sandringham (5-7) at the North Port Oval. The game provides the Zebras an opportunity to atone for their insipid display against the Northern Bullants a fortnight ago, a game in which they could manage only two goals for the afternoon. For the undefeated Borough this clash means so much more than four premiership points, as it signals the 200th senior game for on baller Ryan McMahon.

Surprisingly, when the 30 year old McMahon takes the field on Saturday he will become only the seventh man to represent the Port Melbourne Football Club at senior level on 200 occasions since it joined the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in 1886. Members of this illustrious, if somewhat select group with games played in parentheses includes; Fred Cook (258), Bob Bonnett (229), Arch Johnson (226), Bill Swan (219), Greg Dermott (211) & Billy Barfoot (204).


Those who remember ATV0 Melbourne’s coverage of VFA football from the mid 1960’s to the late 1980’s won’t need reminding of Cook’s amazing goal kicking feats, the brilliant dual Liston Trophy winner Swan & the tough-as-teak defender Dermott. Bonnett kicked 993 goals in his dozen seasons wearing the Red & Blue vertical stripes. Barfoot was first rover in the 1922 Port side that upset the favoured Footscray team in the Grand Final. Johnson’s marvellous eighteen year stint in the VFA included three seasons at West Melbourne.


All six “Club 200” players were members of Premiership winning sides at Port Melbourne, Johnson playing a major role in the clubs first two VFA titles in 1897 & 1901 – premierships were awarded to the team who finished the home and away season atop the ladder, with Barfoot’s part in the 1922 victory mentioned above. If a legend could be described as unlucky Bob Bonnett would meet the criteria, his glittering career at North Port coinciding with a frustrating run for the club that included eight Grand Final appearances in the 1950’s for just the one flag in 1953. Cook with 6 pennants, Swan & Dermott 4 apiece, were part of the all conquering “six days of history” era that commenced with the 1974 Premiership and continued through to the upset victory over Preston in the 1982 decider, the shock win completing a hat trick of Grand Final wins at the start of the 1980’s.


McMahon was recruited from the Oakleigh Chargers of the Under 18 competition in 2000. Port Melbourne’s alignment with the Chargers commenced at the start of the 1998 season, an arrangement that exists to this day and has seen more than 100 Chargers players graduating to be contracted by the Borough. When McMahon made his senior debut, three months shy of his 20th birthday in July 2000, he became the 1690th player to represent the club at senior level. Port would lower their colours to fierce rival Williamstown in the round 17 clash, 14.18-102 to 16.18-114. Rarely does anything good come from a loss to your most hated enemy, so mark down 15/7/2000 as one such exception.


During the course of his twelve season tenure at North Port McMahon has experienced highs that include appearances in the 2002 & 2008  Victorian Football League (VFL) Grand Finals, and lows such as 2006, when the Borough “won” it’s first wooden spoon for 70 years, his disappointment tempered in some way by taking out the club Best & Fairest award. Upon reaching the 175 game mark in 2010 McMahon was honoured with life membership of the VFL, complementing the club life membership he’d received earlier that year. When Captain John Baird ruptured an Achilles tendon during the 2009 Finals series, an injury that sidelined him for the entire 2010 season, it was the man affectionately known as “Shooter” who admirably stepped in to the breach.


Playing 200 games for one club in any competition is a marvellous effort. To do so in the modern VFL, a competition that has been in a state of flux since the commencement of the new millennium with teams changing alignments, opting for partial alignments, un-aligning and running stand alone teams, makes the 78kilogram/178 centimetre dynamos’ accomplishment even more remarkable. Whilst McMahon’s journey over the past decade highlights opportunities that remain for young men not drafted to AFL lists when their time in the Under 18 Competition has expired, it’s not without a link to the old VFA. Many football followers would remember McMahons father, David, a classy half forward who kicked 236 goals in 218 games with the Fitzroy Football Club between 1973 and 1984. McMahon senior was recruited from VFA powerhouse Preston following the 1972 season.


Hopefully the Port Melbourne faithful will gather in large numbers to pay homage to the diminutive #14 on Saturday. Whilst some players struggle to “get over the line” to reach personal milestones McMahon’s situation couldn’t be further from that scenario. Those who have witnessed the Borough’s scintillating start to the season couldn’t help but be impressed with the form McMahon has displayed in his 13 appearances, his work as a small forward includes an invaluable 18 goals.


It could’ve all ended in the September sludge last year when a determined Borough effort came up a goal short against Box Hill in the First Semi Final, not surprisingly McMahon was named amongst the best that day. With the arrival of young child and a pending change in employment there was no guarantee McMahon would front up for another crack at that elusive pennant. He has, and his team is a warm, if not overwhelming favourite to end nigh on three decades of flag futility.


As a member, supporter and fan his unrelenting efforts over the past decade have been a pleasure to watch. Speaking from the heart I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a premiership than Ryan McMahon. Its possible Jake Dermott, son of the aforementioned 211 game ironman Greg Dermott, could join McMahon in Saturday’s team. Dermott junior debuted earlier this season for Port Melbourne and it would add a nice touch to the afternoon’s proceedings. I’m not familiar with any law prohibiting romanticism in today’s football. Please let me know if any exist.


Congrats Shooter.


  1. Barfoot hey, he would have been a relation of the late Graham, ‘Slugger’ Barfoot, the clubs legendary bit’s and pieces person for many years.

  2. Alovesupreme says

    Given the rapid turnover of players at VFL (or VFA that was) level, Ryan McMahon’s achievement is a magnificent one.

    I was somewhat surprised to see Fred Cook at the head of the list by a good margin, not because I wasn’t aware of his longevity, but because he began his Borough career late. He must have been 23 going on 24 when he started at Port, and only a year later when he had his heart attack. To have run up more than 250 games, even with Port playing finals most years, is an amazing effort.
    I saw a bit of Fred playing for Yarraville whom I followed at the time, but didn’t recall until I checked that he won the Liston in his only full season at Willy Road.

  3. Glen – Yes I believe they are son/grandson (?), I’ll endeavour to find out. Graham is a life member of the club, don’t believe Billy Barfoot or fellow 200 gamer Arch Johnson were ever made LM’s

    Alovesupreme – 1970 would have been a tough year to follow the mighty Eagles. Only win for the season came against Geelong West at the Western Oval.

    Fred Cook won the Liston at the age of 22 (turning 23 that November) quite comfortably by 14 votes from his former Footscray teammate Kevin Jackman. Apart from the season he suffered the heart attack (1972) I can’t remember him missing too many matches – Port played in 22 finals from 73 to 83, so that helped. Bill Swan played another 75/80 or so games with Williamstown, Cook’s last game for PM was in 1984 at the age of 36, he spent the 1985 season at Moorabbin.


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