Lincoln McCarthy will play the most significant 121st game for the Brisbane Lions in history on Thursday night in Canberra.

Why? Because the game against the GWS Giants at Manuka Oval will be the 150th of his career. And in the AFL 150 games is a big deal. So much so that it means automatic Life Membership at the Lions.

And while there will be no side benefits for McCarthy – yet – it will still be a big deal for the former Geelong forward, who will run out for his 150th with long-time close mate Lachie Neale.

It will be a fairytale moment for the pair, who met as 10-year-olds playing basketball in south-east South Australia. McCarthy was from Bordertown and Neale from Naracoorte an hour down the road. Soon they were playing school sports together – basketball, cricket and football.

They moved to Adelaide together to finish school and pursue their football dream, joining SANFL club Glenelg, and at 17 were candidates for the AFL National Draft, which was the primary establishment draft for the GWS Giants, who would join the AFL in 2012.

Neale was not only overlooked by the Giants but by both SA clubs before going to Fremantle at pick #58.

McCarthy waited anxiously through the next seven picks, who would deliver a total of 109 AFL games. Nick O’Brien went to Essendon at #59 to play 14 games before St.Kilda took Jay Lever at #60 and Sydney took Alex Brown at #61 without getting any return. They did not play.

Dylan Buckley went father/son to Carlton at #62 to play 39 games at the Blues and two games at GWS, and at #63 West Coast promoted rookie Ashton Hams for no extra return.

Cam Ellis-Yolman was pick #64 to Adelaide and played 39 games for the Crows and nine for Brisbane, and Corey Gault played six games after going to Collingwood at pick #65.

At #66, after McCarthy was similarly overlooked by Adelaide and Port Adelaide, Geelong picked him to send the long-term good mates on a shared journey, albeit in different directions.

The 2012 AFL Guide said of McCarthy: “(He) could be another late draft gem for the Cats. Has genuine pace, is a quality finisher, and is good overhead for his size. Represented SA at cricket at U17 level and was an excellent basketballer”.

Despite the curious fixation with his other sporting skills, they got it right. He had all those attributes in spades. But what wasn’t mentioned and what was impossible to foresee was the extraordinary run of bad luck that would come with him.

He played 29 games in seven injury-plagued years at Geelong before deciding enough was enough in late 2018 and seeking a trade to Brisbane. He needed a fresh start. And, just for good measure, he planted a spark with his long-time mate which ultimately them move north together.

By this time, while McCarthy had needed 10 separate stints in the Geelong side to reach 29 games, with consecutive blocks of 1-2-2-3-3-8-5-3-1-1 games (if such few games can be called blocks), Neale had played 135 games with Fremantle.

How things can change. With the Lions McCarthy has played 120 of a possible 124 games, missing two through separate one-week suspensions and two through separate one-week injuries. Neale has played 116.


So on Thursday night, as McCarthy plays his 150th career game, Neale will play his 252nd game.

It is a statistic that underlines beautifully the resilience and persistence of the Lions #11, who is now second for games in the jumper worn most often for the club by Alastair Lynch, having gone past Pearce Hanley’s 117 this year.

McCarthy will be the 35th player from the 2011 draft to play 150 games. And possibly the last, with only two players from his draft year who are short of this mark still playing.


Joel Hamling, taken 34 spots ahead of McCarthy at pick #32, played 23 games with the Bulldogs in 2015-16 and 65 games with Fremantle from 2017-23 before moving this year to Sydney, where he is yet to add to career total of 91 games.

And Tom Campbell, rookie pick #27 in 2015, has been stranded since late 2022 on 56 games, having played 42 games with the Dogs from 2012-17, 10 games with North from 2020-21, and two games with St.Kilda in 2022.

Significantly, not one but two of the statistical standouts from the 2011 draft will play alongside McCarthy in his milestone game on Thursday night.

Dayne Zorko, a Gold Coast junior overlooked by every AFL club in the 2007-08-09-10 drafts and picked up by the Lions as a traded concession choice from the Suns after they shunned the Broadbeach star, leads the Class of 2011 with 256 games.

Geelong’s Mark Blicavs, a former middle-distance runner and steeplechaser taken with rookie pick #54, is second at 252 from Neale (251) and pick #15 Brandon Ellis, Richmond turned Gold Coast wingman (250).

Perhaps the most telling statistic which underlines the depth of McCarthy’s persistence belongs to Ellis. He was the first player from the 2015 draft to 150 games in Round 20 2018 on his 25th birthday.

At the same time McCarthy had played his 29 games at Geelong and was contemplating his move to Brisbane. When he plays his 150th game on Thursday night he will be more than five and a half years older than Ellis at 30 years 186 days.

Chad Wingard, pick #6 to Port Adelaide and now at Hawthorn, and Elliot Yeo, pick #30 at Brisbane and now at West Coast, were also 25 when they played their 150th.

Only three players from the Class of 2011 have been older than McCarthy at 150 – Suns captain Jarrod Witts, drafted by Collingwood via the old NSW scholarship scheme with the pick immediately after McCarthy, was 30 years 235 days old. Adam Kennedy, claimed by GWS as a previously nominated choice, was 22 days older. And Aaron Hall, taken by Gold Coast in the Pre-Season Draft being moving to North Melbourne, was the oldest at 31 years 215 days.

Yet for all that, only eight players from the 2011 draft have kicked more goals than McCarthy’s 166 – Jeremy Cameron (598), Toby Greene (340), Wingard (300), Jamie Elliot (277), Zorko (230) the retired Josh Bruce (234) and Tory Dickson (181) and Will Hoskin-Elliot (172).

And only three players have played more finals than McCarthy’s 15 - Blicavs (24), Neale (19) and Geelong pick #86 Jed Bews (18).


Interestingly, after McCarthy and Neale were reunited at Brisbane Sarah Olle of Fox Sports revisited their early friendship and recounted their first impressions of each other.

Neale said of McCarthy: “Left and right foot, overhead ability and his lateral movement are crazy. He could kick 50 metres on both feet when we were 14.”

McCarthy said of Neale: “My first impressions of Lachie in the Under 14s was that he was skilful and hard working. He seemed to be everywhere.”

After Neale won the Brownlow Medal and the AFL Players’ Association MVP award in 2020 McCarthy penned a piece for the AFLPA on his long-time mate. He described his preparation as “obsessive” as he works to maximise his skills and finds way to beat his opponent each week. He said he deserved all the accolades that had come his way simply because he worked so hard.

Ask Neale now about McCarthy and you’ll get a similarly glowing tribute in return. And rightfully so.