“I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude." Zach Tuohy on breaking Jim Stynes's AFL appearance record

Zach Tuohy takes the field for his 256th game in the AFL, a record for an Irish player in the league, surpassing the mark set by the late Jim Stynes Picture: Geelong Cats Twitter
Zach Tuohy takes the field for his 256th game in the AFL, a record for an Irish player in the league, surpassing the mark set by the late Jim Stynes Picture: Geelong Cats Twitter

Zach Tuohy was photographed standing next to his wife and two children in the Geelong dressing rooms post-match today, clutching the late Jim Stynes’s iconic No.11 Melbourne Demons shirt in his left hand.

The Portlaoise man was officially crowned the most prolific Irish player in the history of AFL football when he broke the late Dublin legend’s 264-match record in Geelong’s regulation 125-63 home win over second-bottom North Melbourne at GMHBA stadium.

Tuohy almost sent the home crowd into raptures when he tried one of his trademark long-range torpedo strikes on goal from full-back but narrowly missed. Despite failing to kick a momentous goal, what mattered more to the 265-game veteran was the four-points that propelled Geelong back into the top eight finals sports with seven matches of the home and away season remaining ahead of September’s final series.

“I was caught off-guard not knowing how I would feel today,” Tuohy said.

“I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I shudder to think where I would have been if I was not here at Geelong.

“To have the Stynes family here for the game was incredible. I felt like the bad guy in a movie because Jim is everyone’s hero.

“His shirt will take pride of place in the Tuohy household.”

Tuohy chuckled that his missed goal attempt was a sign of weakness.

“I genuinely buckled under pressure!” he quipped.

Geelong coach Chris Scott paid a moving tribute to Tuohy’s stellar AFL career.

“It’s an honour for the Geelong Football Club and an honour for me to coach Zach,” Scott said.

“He’s been amazing for our club. It’s a great achievement for him and for his country.

“People will look back on it forever.”

Geelong are now 8-7 (and one draw) for the season and in eighth place are only 6 points (4 points for a win and two for a draw) behind fourth place Melbourne.

Despite their inconsistent form, Scott believes the reigning premiers are still capable of defending title in September.

“Our best is good enough,” Scott explained.

“We can be very dangerous in finals.”

Tuohy collected 18 disposals (14 kicks & 4 handballs) and 3 marks for the four-quarters. Kerry defender Mark O’Connor finished with 19 disposals (12 kicks & 7 handballs) and 6 marks. Meath’s Oisin Mullin, whose debut earlier this season Tuohy described as the best he has ever witnessed, returned to the Cats starting eighteen after recovering from injury to collected 11 disposals (4 kicks & 7 handballs) and 3 marks. For only the second time in history, there were four Irish players on show in the same AFL game. Tyrone-born Aidan Corr tallied 12 kicks (11 kicks & 1 handball) and 7 marks in the North Melbourne defence.

On Saturday, Conor McKenna maintained his consistent form for the Brisbane Lions who crushed wooden-spoon favourites the West Coast Eagles 116-35 at their Gabba fortress. The Lions consolidated third place on the season, and they remain with an outside chance of leapfrogging second place Port Adelaide and ladder leaders Collingwood, who are two wins clear. A top two finish would potentially secure two home finals in September.

McKenna finished with 15 disposals (12 kicks & 3 handballs) and 6 marks. Dublin’s James Madden made his first start of the season to collect 7 disposals (5 kicks & 2 handballs) in defence.

On Sunday, Derry speedster Callum Brown helped Greater Western Sydney Giants to keep their finals hopes alive with a crucial 85-72 win over Hawthorn at Giants Stadium. GWS remain in tenth position on the season ladder, just 2 points outside of the top eight finals spots.

Brown collected 10 disposals (6 kicks & 4 handballs) and 6 marks. He also booted two behinds. On the opposite side, Meath forward Conor Nash continued his career-best form with an impressive 27 disposals (7 kicks & 20 handballs) and 1 mark for the third-bottom Hawks.