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