Port Adelaide FC
Born: 19 June 1986
Junior Club: Algester, Alexandra Hillls, Springwood
Senior Club: Morningside
Schools: Robertson State School, Gumdale State School, Anglican Church Grammar School
Regional Selection: South-East Bushrangers
Queensland Selection: U16 (2002), U18 (2003-04)
Draft Details: Queensland Zone selection 2005 Rookie Draft (Brisbane); Rookie Elevation 2006 National Draft (Brisbane), Selection #6 2010 Pre-Season Draft (Port Adelaide).
AFL Debut: Brisbane Lions v Geelong, Skilled Stadium, Round 1, 2006 (1 April)
Jumper Number: 38
AT A GLANCE: A blistering midfielder who arrived on the AFL scene with the Brisbane Lions to a welcome that few have enjoyed … an overwhelming commendation from coach Leigh Matthews. Harding, at the beginning of his second season on the Lions rookie list, was best afield with 28 possessions as they stormed home to beat Essendon by a point in a 2006 NAB Cup thriller at Carrara. “That’s the best first game of AFL football anyone has ever played, I reckon,” said coach Matthews after a 45m running behind from Jared Brennan four seconds from full-time got Brisbane over the line in the first AFL comeback game on the Gold Coast.
Several weeks later the born-and-bred Queenslander was elevated from the rookie list to debut in Round 1 against Geelong at Skilled Stadium. It was a natural progression for local product who had been a regular State age representative and a graduate of the rugby-dominated Anglican Church Grammar School. Son of former Mt.Gravatt QAFL premiership co-coach and 2010 Aspley senior coach Russell Harding, he won All-Australian selection at U15 level in 2000, represented Queensland U16s in 2002, U18s in 2003-04, and U21s in 2004 before earning a spot on the 2005 Lions rookie list after being overlooked in the 2004 National Draft despite a standout testing performance at the State Screening session, where he recorded a then record for the agility test.
He went on to play 48 senior games in four years with the club – 14-11-8-15 in seasons 2006-07-08-09 – and in between AFL appearances did enough to win a spot in the 2007 Queensland Team of the Year, and finish 6th in the QAFL Grogan Medal in ’07 and equal 7th in 2008. But he didn’t quite nail down a regular spot and was de-listed in the big list cleanout at the end of Michael Voss’ first season in charge in 2009. Others hadn’t forgotten his blistering pace and his ability to burst clear after winning possession in the centre square. He was offered a second chance when snapped up by Port Adelaide with selection No.6 in the 2010 Pre-Season Draft.