The Goliath of goals at St Kilda

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WHEN it came to picking the Number One Brownlow Medallist of the past 50 years, KEN PIESSE couldn’t get past the Man Mountain of Moorabbin:

HE WAS JUST a big country kid who liked to kick a bag, down his six pots with his close mates immediately afterwards and be back home in Ballarat by midnight.

But the anonymity he so craved was always impossible, despite ultimately living with his greyhounds on a farm in Devon Meadows and practising his eight irons at the driving range at the end of South Road, before making it to Moorabbin by five.

Man Mountain Tony Lockett was a headliner from the time he debuted as a 17-year-old Saint, alongside Mark “Jacko” Jackson, early in 1983.

Everyone wanted a piece of him, from the fans to full-backs. He had a short fuse and took an immediate dislike to most. Even Footscray’s redoubtable Rick Kennedy learned not to grab his jumper in the marking contests. Retribution was certain.

So special was his 1987 season when he won the Brownlow (alongside Hawk John Platten), that he became the game’s most celebrated personality. St Kilda again finished among the also-rans but in 21-year-old Lockett they had an awesome talent, who that year at least, went unreported in one of the great solo seasons of football.

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Kicking 117 goals at almost six a match, he was a runaway winner of the John Coleman Medal. Thirty-seven per cent of St Kilda’s goals were Lockett’s, including a club record 12.3 against Melbourne. Nine more came against Essendon, prompting Kevin Sheedy to join the worshippers. “He’s the best full forward since Doug Wade,” said Sheeds.

In time Lockett was to motor past everyone and today reigns supreme as the greatest goalkicker of all.

For me, his Brownlow was the greatest of the past 50 years given that forwards, especially full-forwards, have invariably been shunned.

When Bob Pratt kicked 150 goals in a season he finished eighth in the Brownlow. He didn’t even win South Melbourne’s best and fairest.  In 1971, when Peter Hudson equalled Pratt’s record, he finished in a tie for second in the Brownlow. Leigh Matthews won the club’s best and fairest.

In Lockett’s stellar year, the first under new coach Darrel “Doc” Baldock, he polled in nine of his 22 games. Four times he was judged best afield, three times in the last six weeks.

This was the year in which Carlton’s Paul “Molly” Meldrum — who had walked into the club and asked for a game — polled five best afields in the first eight weeks, only to be run down by the fast-finishing Lockett and Hawk Johnny Platten.

Given that St Kilda finished a distant 10th in 1987, Lockett’s efforts were extraordinary. St Kilda won only nine times. Other than Lockett, and his Ballarat mates Danny Frawley, Greg Burns and “Joffa” Cunningham, St Kilda hardly had a winner all year.

Platten’s efforts were almost as meritorious, But, could he have been as effective at say one of the down-and-outers like Fitzroy?  Absolutely not.

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The iconic names like Stynes, Williams and Harvey are prime among my other Brownlow favourites. Stynes’ story is remarkable and Williams’ determination incredible, given he was initially rejected by Carlton. Twice!

Rob Harvey’s story is also worth recounting. At his local gym in Mt Eliza, he’d constantly increase the levels on the treadmill until it got to the maximum of 22. He burned out two machines in the process. St Kilda would tell him to stay away from training but he was always to be found at his local gym, doing extra work.

If he was fortunate to win the Brownlow in ’97 (after Chris Grant was unfairly rubbed out), he won by eight votes in ’98. His year was simply stunning.

Kelvin Templeton’s 1980 season was also remarkable as he played centre-half- forward for the majority of the year. Even Wayne Carey couldn’t win a Brownlow from chf. Why? That’s another story…

Ken Piesse Top 50

1Tony Lockett (St Kilda, Sydney) 1987
2Jim Stynes (Melbourne) 1991
3Greg Williams (Geelong/Sydney/Carlton) 1986, 1994
4Robert Harvey (St Kilda) 1997, 1998
5Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide/Geelong) 2016
6Kelvin Templeton (Footscray/Melbourne) 1980
7Chris Judd (West Coast, Carlton) 2004, 2010
8Gary Ablett junior (Geelong/Gold Coast) 2009, 2013
9Paul Kelly (Sydney) 1995
10Adam Goodes (Sydney) 2003, 2006
11Graham Teasdale (Richmond/South Melbourne/Collingwood) 1977
12Michael Voss (Brisbane) 1996
13Ian Stewart (St Kilda/Richmond) 1965, 1966, 1971 (Richmond)
14Bob Skilton (South Melbourne) 1959, 1963, 1968
15Nat Fyfe (Fremantle) 2015
16Shane Crawford (Hawthorn) 1999
17Bernie Quinlan (Footscray/Fitzroy) 1981
18James Hird (Essendon) 1996
19Jimmy Bartel (Geelong) 2007
20Dane Swan (Collingwood) 2011
21Kevin Murray (Fitzroy) 1969
22Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn/West Coast) 2012
23Paul Couch (Geelong) 1989
24Nathan Buckley (Brisbane Bears/Collingwood) 2003 
25Peter Bedford (South Melbourne/ Carlton) 1970
26Malcolm Blight (North Melbourne) 1978
27Trent Cotchin (Richmond) 2012
28Keith Greig (North Melbourne) 1973, 1974
29John Platten (Hawthorn) 1987
30Simon Black (Brisbane) 2002
31Gerard Healy (Melbourne/Sydney) 1988
32Barry Round (Footscray/South Melbourne) 1981
33Len Thompson (Collingwood/South Melbourne/Fitzroy) 1972
34Brian Wilson (Footscray/North Melbourne/Melbourne/St Kilda) 1982
35Scott Wynd (Footscray) 1992
36Mark Riciutto (Adelaide) 2003
37Gavin Wanganeen (Essendon/Port Adelaide) 1993
38Graham Moss (Essendon) 1976
39Peter Moore (Collingwood/Melbourne) 1979, 1984
40 Ross Smith (St Kilda) 1967
41Tony Liberatore (Footscray) 1990
42Ross Glendinning (North Melbourne/West Coast) 1983 
43Mat Priddis (West Coast) 2014
44Robert DiPierdomenico (Hawthorn) 1986
45Jason Akermanis (Brisbane/ Western Bulldogs) 2001
46Gary Dempsey (Footscray/North Melbourne) 1975
47Shane Woewodin (Melbourne/Collingwood) 2000
48Brad Hardie (Footscray/Brisbane Bears/Collingwood) 1985
49Adam Cooney (Western Bulldogs/Essendon) 2008
50Ben Cousins (West Coast/Richmond) 2005

*Where players have played at more than one club the black type indicates where they won their medals.

TOMORROW: It’s ROD NICHOLSON’S turn to reveal his Top 50.

CATCHUP: Greg Hobbs Top 50

Despite being warned one day by the extremely strict Herald Chief Football Writer Alf Brown not to barrack in the press box, Ken Piesse managed to cover VFL and AFL football for 40 years for the Age, the Sporting Globe, the Sunday Observer, the Sunday Press and the Sunday Herald Sun.

His biggest story, printed on Page 1 in Sunday papers Australia-wide in September, 2006, was an exclusive on Sydney’s Darren Jolly vowing to miss the following weekend’s Grand Final because of the impending birth of his first daughter. Fortunately, Scarlett Jolly arrived a couple of days before the big day and Jolly was able to take his place on the field. The Swans, however, went down to West Coast by a point.

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Author: Ken Piesse

KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. Signed copies of his latest cricket book Heroes of the Hour, cricket’s quintessential moments from Bradman and Lillee to Warne and Steve Smith, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au

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