As the Saints prepared to take on Melbourne in Round 20, 1976, the Football Record alerted its readers to the fact that Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale was within striking distance of claiming St Kilda’s Games record from Premiership teammate Ross Smith. When he took the field at Moorabbin that weekend it was his 234 appearance in Red, Black, and White. Just one short of Smith’s total and only two games away from taking sole ownership of the record.
The clash with the Demons would be a forgettable one for the Saints, with their 37 point defeat putting a dent in their hopes of qualifying for the finals. George Young was a bright spot with eight goals while there was a nervous wait for Robbie Muir, who was reported for unduly rough play and kicking. It was better news for the Saints and Muir at the tribunal with the 23 year old cleared to play against North Melbourne the following week.
Cowboy would break the record in Round 22 against the Tigers, unfortunately there would be no fairytale result on the day though with the Saints falling to their fourth successive defeat. He would retire 12 months later having extended his record breaking games tally to 256 games. He would not hold the record for long. In 1979, his good friend and premiership teammate Barry Breen broke the record on the way to becoming the first Saint to play 300 games.