Gungahlin Eagles odd couple Ben McGee and Andrew Barrell bring up milestone together

Gungahlin Eagles odd couple Ben McGee and Andrew Barrell bring up milestone together

Gungahlin Eagles duo Ben McGee and Andrew Barrell are the John I Dent odd couple who will share a Canberra rugby milestone as they chase a common goal.

The last two remaining links to the Eagles' most dominant era are intent of using their dual 150th first grade match as another stepping stone to winning the first premiership of their careers.

Gungahlin Eagles duo Andrew Barrell and Ben McGee will celebrate their 150th John I Dent Cup games on Saturday.

Gungahlin Eagles duo Andrew Barrell and Ben McGee will celebrate their 150th John I Dent Cup games on Saturday.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

It's the mission uniting them after a decade of teaming up and reshaping the Eagles to be a force once again.

McGee and Barrell are polar opposites in almost everything they do. McGee is the niggling, hard-nosed Eagles forward whose uncompromising play has left him with broken bones and career-threatening injuries.


Barrell is the level-headed winger who has never missed a game through injury.

"We are opposites ... I guess I had to have more of a calming influence on him when I was captain last year, but you need both [personalities] in the team," Barrell said.

"You can't have a team of nigglers or a whole team of placid blokes. It's amazing the way that this has happened that we're playing our 150th together.

"We've been playing together for so long ... it's something special and it will be nice to share it with him."

Barrell and McGee will reach the 150 game mark when the Eagles play the Uni-Norths Owls at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval on Saturday.

The Eagles are equal fourth on the ladder and level with defending champions Royals. Their four wins in the opening seven games have convinced the players they can be title contenders this season.

Coach Dan Atkins has led a revival at the club, rebuilding the player ranks and instilling a new belief that they can challenge the top teams.

The Eagles haven't won a grand final since 2003 and they haven't played in a grand final since losing in 2006 and 2007.

McGee, 30, played in the 2006 decider and Barrell burst on to the scene in 2007.

"They were successful years for the club and we want to emulate those days and actually take out some silverware," McGee said.

"We've done the hard work to rebuild and it has been a rough couple of years. But there has always been the light at the end of the tunnel that has kept players like myself and Baz around because we don't want to leave the club in a worse state than when we started.

"We want to leave when the club is at the top and give the young blokes coming through something to play for."

McGee's busted body has slowed him down, but it has done little to affect his determination and premiership aspirations.

"I've had an ankle reconstruction, a shattered eye socket, ligament damage in knees and shoulders, broken hands, torn my pinky-finger webbing and I was out for 14 weeks with a hip and groin injury.

"That was probably the hardest to come back from mentally. But it would be hard for me to stop playing and walk away, I'll keep going for as long as my body holds up."

Barrell, 29, almost walked away from rugby this year to focus on family life after the birth of his first child, son Finn.

"I came back this year because you can see the work we've put in over the last four years to potentially be a grand final team," Barrell said.

"[Being a dad] has changed things. I remember when I was 24 years old and football was everything. Now I'm playing for the love of it."


Saturday: Gungahlin Eagles v Uni-Norths Owls at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval, 3.05pm, Easts v Wests at Griffith Oval, 3.05pm, Tuggeranong Vikings v Royals at Viking Park, 3.25pm. Queanbeyan Whites - bye.

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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