There are sliding doors moments all the time in football recruiting – some more important than others. But one critical moment that beat a deadline by a matter of seconds will prompt a major milestone at the Gabba on Thursday night.

Brandon Starcevich will play his 100th game for the Lions against Collingwood all because in the last few minutes of the 2017 trade period list management and recruiting pair Dom Ambrogio and Steve Conole followed their instincts.

In an example of the complicated process that is the AFL trade system, the Lions were sitting on an offer from the Western Bulldogs to trade pick #25 and pick #40 in the 2017 National Draft for former #2 draft pick Josh Schache, who had played 27 games and kicked 25 goals for the club in 2016-17.

It had already been a busy time for the 2017 wooden-spooners, who had snared Charlie Cameron from Adelaide in exchange for pick #12, which was a carryover from the 2016 trade that sent Pearce Hanley to the Gold Coast.

They’d picked up Hawthorn veteran Luke Hodge in an exchange for a late pick the Hawks would not even use, and were given an end-of-first-round pick by the AFL in compensation for the loss of ex-captain Tom Rockliff to Port Adelaide as a restricted free agent.

So they had pick #1 and pick #18 at the front of a draft in which Ambrogio and Conole were convinced the talent likely to be available in the back end of the first round was too good to ignore.

So, as the clock ticked down, they made two critical decisions. First, they did the Schache deal, and then hurriedly on-traded pick #20, their original second-round pick, and pick #25 to Richmond for pick #15 and pick #52.

So they went to the draft, held in Sydney on 24 November 2017, armed with three first-round picks – #1, #15 and #18 – and snared Cam Rayner, Zac Bailey and Starcevich.

History says it was an unusual draft, with three of the top 20 choices already out of the AFL system, two of them after moving clubs, and six others now at different clubs.

At face value Starcevich is the beneficiary of the Lions’ late trade as the third of their early picks, but in reality the Lions have been the beneficiaries of the gut instincts of the recruiting pair.

Conole had always been a big fan of Starcevich of the multi-talented Starcevich, who is the nephew of Lions AFLW coach and ex-Collingwood and Brisbane player Craig Starcevich.

“He was a bit of a late bloomer. He wasn’t in the original WA side (in his draft year) and it wasn’t until a Possibles v Probables game that he stamped his mark. And then in the last game at the championships they played him in the midfield and he gave them a real lift,” Conole recalled.

But the Lions always rated the multi-talented sportsman, who in his last year at Trinity College in Perth he was captain of the First XI cricket team, vice-captain of the First XVIII and Deputy Head Prefect.

It’s a school that has produced a raft of prominent citizens, including ex-WA Premier Ray O’Connor, WA Supreme Court judge Jeremy Allanson, Test cricketers Simon Katich, Craig Serjeant and Beau Casson, AFL players Andrew Embley, Michael Brennan, Mitch Duncan and Nic Martin, Tour de France cyclist Hank Vogels, and athlete John Steffensen.

“We watched him a lot in the lead-up to the draft, in school footy and club footy (East Perth), and it just confirmed what we’d always thought – he was going to be a very good player.”

So much so that the Lions, who took Queenslander Jack Payne at #54 in the same draft, took Starcevich in preference to Oscar Allen, who was in the same conversation. He is in his first season as West Coast co-captain.

After an injury-plagued start in which he played only five AFL games in his first two years at the Lions, Starcevich will be the 17th player from the 2017 Draft to post 100 games.

Oddly, it is a games list headed by Melbourne’s pick #31 Bailey Fritsch (128), Collingwood rookie pick #22 Brody Mihocek (128) and Geelong turned West Coast pick #24 Tim Kelly (125).

Then follows Naughton (124), Brayshaw (124), Bailey (120), Cerra (118), Rayner (115), Sydney pick #33 Tom McCartin (112), Richmond rookie pick #18 Liam Baker (112), Gold Coast pick #42 Charlie Ballard (112), Stephenson (111), Geelong pick #57 Gryan Miers (107), Richards (105), Hawthorn pick #45 James Worpel (103) and Higgins (103).

There was nobody more pleased when Starcevich consolidated his place in the Brisbane side than ‘Uncle Craig’, because until then he was forever being asked about the potential of his “son”.

Off the field Starcevich takes after his father Troy, who is pretty quiet and reserved. Not like mother Cheree, who was described anonymously as “a bit of a chatterbox”.


Ask people around the club about him and you get a lot of blank looks. He keeps mainly to himself and doesn’t have too many stories that find their way into 100th-game profile pieces.

Having taken over this year from Daniel Rich as Lions’ representative on the AFL Players’ Association, he lives by himself, preferring to share his time with golden retriever ‘Billy’ despite being joined in Brisbane recently by twin sister Jamee, who is a teacher at Brisbane South State Secondary College and the chatty one of the pair.

But on the field Starcevich is nothing like quiet, and something of a coach – like ‘Uncle Craig’. If you’re close to the ground his booming voice is one you will hear as much as any, more than most, as he fulfills an important leadership role in the back half.

He is also the club’s games record-holder in jumper #37 across the entire Lions ‘family’. It was worn most often for Fitzroy by Keith Bromage, who played 41 games from 1958-61 after 28 games at Collingwood (1953-56), and has been worn for Brisbane by 1988 club champion Mark Withers (36 games), Rudi Frigo (8), Nick Carter (5), Darren Bradshaw (1), Daniel Pratt (3), Matt Austin (8), Bryce Retzlaff (11) and Jacob Allison (5).