How would I describe my mate Mitch?

He’s a teammate, inspiration and mentor. He definitely plays like he’s a personal body guard for the rest of us and is always happy to be the class clown when the situation demands a bit of a circuit breaker….he’s even my barber.

Where do you start?

I guess it has to be with the big milestone.

Not Friday’s 200th, which we’ll get to in a moment, but Rd 1, 2018.

It was my debut and Robbo’s 150th game.

I like thinking that running out together in a game that was obviously pretty special to me and also a great achievement for him, tied our careers together in some way.

The way he pumped me up when he was entitled to a bit of self-reflection was, I’ve since discovered, pretty standard for him.

If I could be viewed as a mate and teammate the way we all see Mitch Robbo I’d be a happy man.

The truth is we were already tight well before that debut game.

I can honestly say Robbo’s house was the first place I felt at home in Brisbane.

I was a kid, like every draftee, a long way from home desperate to fit in at the club and find my way as an AFL footballer. 

It’s like there’s two major themes in your first year at a footy club, one is learning to adjust to being away from home and the other is coming to grips with the attention you’ve never experienced before.

It’s a whirlwind coming straight out of school and into an AFL environment and you can get caught up in it.

Mitch was a huge help in keeping things normal for me.

Not only did he provide a home environment that helped me settle in so quickly, but he was also able to show me how to ride the bumps of life as an AFL footballer.

There was no way I was getting carried away with playing senior footy with Mitch around but neither was I going to fall apart when my form tapered.

He had this amazing ability to keep things relaxed without compromising one bit on the passion he has for the game and our club.

I never lived with Mitch and Emma but I certainly found a second home there.

I wasn’t into golf, which is clearly the number one hobby among the Lions, when I was drafted and I reckon you could probably say my off field interests in my first year didn’t extend that much beyond hanging out at Robbo’s and playing with the kids.

I still live just around the corner and pre-Covid restrictions had a habit of dropping in on the way past just to see Emma and the kids Chance and Charli.

I love kids. And it was absolutely no hardship for me when Mitch and Emma called on me for babysitting duties.

I feel privileged to have been able to watch them grow up, Chance is six now and Charli is four and I’ve loved watching how they have changed in that time.

Opening up your home and offering someone that type of access to your family is nor something everyone is comfortable doing.

But Mitch has done the same for a lot of players.

People see him as this big tough guy but he is one of the most genuine caring people I know. 

Emma has also been a huge help to me and continues to be to this day. She forged a friendship with my parents in my first year and they were definitely happy to know someone up here was looking out for me.

On the field I can’t imagine a better teammate.

He plays his 200th game this weekend and I reckon he’ll walk off battered and bruised like he has in the previous 199.

That’s what we love about him. Those bone-crunching tackles and desperate chase downs inspire all of us. Playing alongside him makes you stand tall. He’s so tough and so competitive. He walks of pretty banged up most weeks and sometimes you think he’s no chance of backing up but the following week there he is again, throwing his body on the line for the team.

How can you not love that?

He’s also hilarious.

We talk about bringing energy, it is an important part of our club, and he is number one.

He talks non-stop out there, you can hear him from the other end of the ground and believe me it is very important to us.

Mitch is a carefree guy but he’s very switched on and has his life sorted.

His interests are varied, he is a polished media performer, elite gamer and has various qualifications in business and real estate. He even cuts the boys’ hair.

I’ll be launching my own business later this year called True Zero, a sugar and calorie free range of beverages and I’ll be tapping into Mitch’s nous more than ever over the coming years.

You’d reckon nothing would make me happier than running out behind Mitch when he makes his 200th AFL appearance this week but you’d be wrong.

His next game takes his tally for Brisbane to 101, which is more than he played for Carlton and in my eyes means he’ll forever be a Lions man.

That’s how I’ll always think of him.