IMAGINE a team with the likes of Carey, Hird, Dunstall, Voss and Buckley. Then add players such as Lynch, Crawford, Kelly, Long, Richardson. What a line-up! GEOFF POULTER takes us to dreamtime:
Perhaps the AFL didn’t quite realise the magnitude of the monster it almost created in the mid-1990s when trying to devise a fourth State-of-origin side to compete against Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. It seemed a simple formula – just throw the rest together, they won’t amount to much. The “rest” consisted of a pool of players from the other three states and two territories.
They were to be called the Allies. The reason this all suddenly becomes topical is because war terminology, including ALLIES, is front and centre from the Winston Churchill movie which has hit town and drawn wide acclaim. The Allies were us, the goodies, against the Axis countries, the baddies. A bit like when Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse felt players, in an April 25 blockbuster loss, had let down the Anzacs. To which a quirky Essendon fan responded: “Does that mean we were the Turks?”
Anyway, the footy Allies were created and only a reluctance of teams and players to commit to the concept prevented it from becoming a juggernaut. Of the five superstars listed above – plus the other five not far behind – rarely were even three or four available, at any one time, for selection. Injuries and other issues caused their withdrawal.
Another strength of the Allies was its depth. There was a wide pool from which to choose. To the above 10 add Williams, Pritchard, Pyke, White, Wright, Brownless, McLean, Longmire, Cresswell, Cockatoo-Collins, Ashcroft, Hudson, Burns, McAdam, the Gales, Crosisca, Allison, the Febeys, Chisholm, O’Connor.
Last but certainly not least Ryan O’Connor. He was the Allies’ best in a Perth win against Western Australia with very few of the stars mentioned above lining up. Willing workhorse Rhino won the Alex Jesaulenko Medal in that win.
The Allies could have fielded a line-up powerful enough to take the Vics, Croweaters and Sandgropers (did!) with their best possible 22. The only suspect area was ruck with Benny Gale and Greg Stafford against beanpoles Paul Salmon, Justin Madden and Shaun Rehn.
Try this fully-available Allies outfit for size. B: D Pyke, A Lynch, D White. H-B: M McLean, J Hird, G Wright. C: M Long, M Voss, D Pritchard. H-F: M Richardson, W Carey, S Crawford. F: W Brownless, J Dunstall, P Williams. R: B Gale/G Stafford, N Buckley, P Kelly. Interchange: (From any number of the squad listed above). Five Brownlow Medallists plus Carey, Dunstall, Lynch, Long and Richo!
But just as the Allies were destined to be short-term, so too was the overall state-of-origin concept. It became inconvenient. Club footy was far too important. If you raise $40 million to run a club for one season, you don’t want your star player going down in a glorified exhibition game.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop your correspondent from dreaming. Perhaps Churchill would have inspired these Allies, too.
Author: Geoff Poulter
GEOFF POULTER, 69, has spent 51 years in sports media. He was the last Melbourne Herald chief football writer. CV: Sports oracle, author, historian, impersonator, raconteur, poet, quiz whiz, philosopher, song-writer, intellectual scholar – and still employable!