Dustin Fletcher (born 7 May 1975) is a former professional Australian rules footballer who played for the Essendon Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). He is widely acknowledged as one of the finest defenders in VFL/AFL history.
Fletcher was recruited by the Essendon Football Club in the 1992 National Draft. He played his first senior game against Carlton in his senior year of high school at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School.
Noted for his longevity in the game, Fletcher played a total of 400 senior VFL/AFL games, which stands as the fourth-most by any player as of the end of the 2016 season. Fletcher played his 400th game in Round 9, 2015, becoming the third player in VFL/AFL history to reach the milestone, after Michael Tuck and Kevin Bartlett; it would end up being his final game, as he was unable to recover from a groin injury sustained during the match. He holds the outright Essendon games record, having overtaken the previous record of 378 games held by Simon Madden in Round 1, 2014. He is the second oldest player to play a VFL/AFL game, aged 40 years and 23 days at the time of his final game, behind only Vic Cumberland (who played the 1920 season aged 43). With his father, Ken, the Fletchers hold the record for the most VFL/AFL career games played by a father and son, with 664 games between them.
On 12 January 2016, during the summer after his retirement, Fletcher was named as one of 34 past and present Essendon players found guilty over their use of illegal supplements during the 2012 AFL season. As a result, Fletcher was suspended from playing at all levels for 24 months, which with backdating and provisional suspension served resulted in suspension until November 2016.
Fletcher's execution of the torpedo punt was often used as a set-play clearing strategy by coach Kevin Sheedy. In a game in 2007, he kicked a torpedo punt goal from more than 70 metres. According to The Sunday Age, it was the fifth-longest kick in the history of the VFL/AFL.
International rules series
Fletcher served as the Australia international rules football team's goalkeeper for five series: the 2005 series, the 2006 series, the 2010 series, the 2014 series, and the 2015 series. Along with Barry Hall, Fletcher was one of Australia's co-captains for the 2006 series. He is regarded as Australia's greatest keeper throughout the series. He retired from top-level football with a final International rules match, at the 2015 series in Ireland.
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Honours and achievements
- Anderson, Jon (27 May 2010). "Pick 1: Fletcher or Scarlett?". Herald Sun.
- "Dustin Fletcher: Facts and figures of 400 games". Herald Sun. 29 May 2015.
- Baum, Greg (21 March 2014). "Essendon ignores drama to notch memorable win". The Age. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
- Anderson, Jon (6 May 2015). "Essendon's Dustin Fletcher is the second-oldest player to play the game as Michael Tuck lauds his longevity". The Age. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
- Travis King (12 January 2016). "Guilty: court bans the Essendon 34 for 2016". Australian Football League. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
- Chris Cavanagh (6 November 2016). "Essendon champion Dustin Fletcher commits to play local footy with Essendon Doutta Stars". Moonee Valley Leader. Essendon, VIC. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- Clough, Michael (24 April 2007). "AFL Round 4 Review". Ohmy News. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- Dustin Fletcher set for Irish farewell tour after fitness test