Happy 40th birthday to Daniel Harford.
Career : 2004
Debut : Round 1, 2004 vs Fremantle, aged 27 years, 8 days
Carlton Player No. 1071
Games : 9 (162 total)
Goals : 2 (69 total)
Last Game : Round 22, 2004 vs Collingwood, aged 27 years, 161 days
Guernsey No. 2
Height : 177cm ( 5 ft. 10 in.)
Weight: 82 kg (12 stone, 13 lbs.)
DOB: 19 March, 1977
Daniel Harford was a popular and classy centreman whose 9-year career with Hawthorn between 1995 and 2003 was something of a roller-coaster ride. He had represented Victoria in 1997, missed months of football in 1999 due to osteitis pubis, and eventually recovered to finish third in Hawthorn’s Best and Fairest award in 2000. Three years later however, Harford had been bumped down the pecking order at Hawthorn by the likes of rising young stars Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge. Concerned that a well-paid midfielder was spending more and more time in the Reserves, Hawthorn reluctantly put Harford up for trade – knowing that whoever took him would have to honour the terms of his existing contract.
Meanwhile, Carlton was doing all it could to recover from the disaster of 2002, when the club was heavily fined by the AFL and penalised by exclusion from the national draft for breaching the League’s salary cap rules. After some intense negotiation, Harford and his team-mate Brett Johnson (who was probably included as a sweetener, because of Harford’s contract) were secured by the Blues, in a surprisingly generous trade for Carlton’s draft selection number 51.
Consequently, no fewer than seven ‘retreads’ (former players from other AFL clubs) were in Carlton’s squad when the Blues travelled across the continent to meet the Fremantle Dockers at Subiaco Oval in round 1, 2004. Included in the team were Harford (on a forward flank) and Johnson (in the centre) wearing guernsey numbers 2 and 10 respectively. Not surprisingly, the Dockers handed out a 47-point hiding that afternoon, and served warning of another tough season ahead for Carlton.
Harford played eight more senior matches during that turbulent year, none of them in his favourite spot in the pivot – because Johnson seized his chance and proved a real surprise packet. Harford therefore had to be content with a role up forward for the Blues, using his experience and strong tackling to retain the ball in Carlton’s attacking half.
Harford’s best effort for his new club came amidst the wind and rain in round 19, against Essendon at the MCG. He revelled in the conditions, and his tenacity in gathering 17 possessions (and an important goal) were the keys to a surprise win over a team destined for a place in the finals. In the weeks when he wasn’t called up to play for the Blues, Harford was a welcome addition to Carlton’s VFL affiliate, the Northern Bullants. Playing in the centre for the Ants, he had a consistently good season, and was appreciated for the guidance and example he provided to the team’s younger brigade.
Harford’s one season for Carlton culminated in front of 60,000 people on a balmy Friday night at the MCG, when he began from the interchange bench against Collingwood in round 22, 2004. Both sides were out of the running for a finals berth that night, but turned on a typically-intense affair highlighted by the superb skills of Carlton’s Anthony Koutoufides. The Blues led by more than two goals with three minutes left on the clock, and only just survived a late rally by the Magpies to win by a solitary point.
After his retirement from AFL football, Harford took on a role in the football media as a commentator and television host, while continuing to play, and mentor Carlton’s youngsters on their way up through the Bullants. At VFL level he was cut above the rest, as shown when he won the Bullants Best and Fairest award in 2006, and finished third in the voting for the VFL’s highest individual honour, the Liston Trophy.
In 2009 he moved on to coach of Eastern Football League club Balwyn, continuing in that role in 2010.
Prior to be recruited by Hawthorn, Harford had played for the Northern Knights U/18’s, and before that St Mary’s.