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Weekend of Bernie: Ousted Crows champ returns for bittersweet milestone

Football

From rough-around-the-edges country lad to seasoned AFL professional, Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin can't help but admire Bernie Vince's journey.

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Goodwin was a dual-premiership veteran with the Crows when Vince made his AFL debut, aged 20, in Adelaide’s round one win over Collingwood in 2006.

The pair were teammates for five years until Goodwin retired at the end of the 2010 season.

Vince switched to the Demons during the 2013 trade period after 129 games with Adelaide and, in a twist of fate, will play his 200th AFL match against his old side at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.

The lovable larrikin, who had a few scrapes with officialdom earlier in his career, has become a key contributor for the Demons.

“He came into AFL footy a little bit older and a little bit rough around the edges, but he’s developed and really became an elite player,” Goodwin said.

“To play 200 games, it’s a credit to what he’s been able to achieve.

“I know the players are really keen to play well for Bernie this weekend.”

Vince, from Stansbury on the Yorke Peninsula, has the rare distinction of being a best-and-fairest winner at two AFL clubs.

With the Crows desperate to better their draft hand following the Kurt Tippett sanctions, Vince reluctantly agreed to the trade that saw him join Melbourne in return for pick No.23.

Another former Crows captain – and now board member – Mark Ricciuto, this week reflected that Goodwin had managed to get the best out of Vince since his departure.

Writing for AFLPlayers.com.au, Ricciuto noted: “Those two have always been close because they’re very similar characters.”

“‘Goody’ understands where Bernie has come from and what he’s made of, which is why he’s played such good footy at Melbourne.”

Ricciuto also reflected on the bad blood that the trade inspired.

“A lot of people were very annoyed when the Crows traded him to the Demons, and I guess the reasoning behind that because the Crows didn’t have any early picks for a couple of years,” he wrote.

“Bernie had a bit of value and was probably someone who could force an opposition team to give a little bit up to get him, but they looked at it as purely a football trade to move him on and get in a second-round pick.

“However, they didn’t consider the cultural ramifications and the fact that he was one of the most-loved players at the club.”

He said “Bernie and his family were shattered when he was forced to leave”.

“But he was quite professional once he was told that he had to move on, and Melbourne put a solid long-term deal in front of him.

“If you asked people at the Melbourne Football Club, I’m sure they’d say that he’s been a vital cog in their whole rebuild, from when they were struggling to now as they push for the eight.”

The Crows snared Matt Crouch – whose brother Brad was already at the club – with their prized pick 23.

“[Crouch] is playing some great football at the moment, and will be a good player for eight to 10 years,” Ricciuto noted.

“Both teams can say they got something out of it.”

Goodwin is confident the Adelaide faithful will appreciate the opportunity to witness a former favourite son achieve a significant milestone.

“I think everyone loves Bernie and he’ll be received really well,” he said.

“He gave the Adelaide Football Club a great period of performance. He’s much-loved in the city of Adelaide … he’ll be well-received by the supporters there.

“It’s funny how it works out. I know his family is really looking forward to it. He’s got quite a contingent going … I think he’s asked for 40 tickets.

“It should be a pretty big Bernie Vince support crew with us.”

-AAP

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