THIRTEEN is considered unlucky so some players are reluctant to wear it. But, why is Number 8 devoid of a Brownlow? GEOFF POULTER poses the question:
THE MYSTERY of the guernsey number eight in AFL footy. Never won a Brownlow. Never even close. Not likely this year, either. Wonder why? It seems quite weird that the No 8 has not won one of the 104 Brownlow medals handed out from 1924 onwards.
The only other numbers that don’t figure among the winners in the 1-39 range are 18, 19, 26, 33, 34, 38 – and, naturally enough, the taboo No 13.
Either side of No 8 there are plenty. Eleven winners in No 7, six winners in No 9. Ten Brownlow winners in No 5 and eight wearing No 14. It is a bit like what Churchill said about Russia in the mid-1940s – a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
There is no real reason why there should be an aversion to the No 8. It is a lucky number in Chinese culture. Yet it seems AFL (and before that VFL) players since numbers were introduced in 1912 have tended to steer clear of the figure. It seems eight is NOT enough!
Mind you, there have been some fine players to wear number eight. Daniel Wells (243) has played the most games in the number and Michael Roach (607) kicked the most goals, with another Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt breathing down his neck.
Other stars include Brent Crosswell, Dick Clay, Darren Bewick, Phil Krakouer, Trevor Keogh, Ron Evans, and Simon Minton-Connell. But there is not anywhere near the depth provided by the other small numbers.
Gordon Coventry kicked 257 of his 1,299 goals in No 8 but wore several other numbers during his career. For its first 70 years or so Collingwood re-numbered its players every year, alphabetically, following the captain who always wore number one and the vice-captain on two.
Accordingly, the famous Collier and Coventry brothers of the 1920s and 1930s, and others near the beginning of the alphabet, wore No 8 for short periods.
Why am I focusing on this quirky fact? Well, it is because I saw a player wearing No 8 in last week’s opening round who looked like he might amount to something. His name is Blake Acres. He has been around for a while – 45 games – and has been regarded as “promising”. But at only 22, is still young enough to develop into something special at St Kilda.
My strike rate at potting players is ordinary but it’s OK in identifying who might make an impact. Take a peep at the second quarter of the 1988 under 19 Grand Final and notice a kid just 17, wearing No 15, going about his work and say you are not taken aback. You had to be.
I’m not saying Acres will be anywhere near as good as a Wayne Carey but he has what is often referred to as indefinable qualities. Jake Lever of Melbourne is another No 8 who looks accomplished, yet defenders don’t win the Brownlow in the modern era.
We will begin our “might have found one’’ stable with Acres and add to it when appropriate.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch …
For all those giving it to Steve Smith, make sure you never slip up. You know, let he without sin cast the first stone, judge not and be not judged etc.
I seem to remember Malcolm Turnbull secretly plotting to surprise and overthrow a Prime Minister (Tony Abbott). Was that regarded as honest, honourable and above-board behaviour?
There are a lot of holier-than-thou types out there with skeletons in their cupboards. I could tell you some things about the so-called squeaky cleans over the years that would make your hair curl.
This is not to excuse Smith’s judgment, but he is simply a product of this dog-eat-dog society. It’s endemic. The “whatever it takes” mentality permeates through many areas of life. You must be successful. Integrity and fair play are rare commodities.
In sport, Australia does not need to break any rules. We are blessed with the climate, life-style, facilities, space, funding, health, nourishment and opportunities the rest of the world simply can’t match. We should be able to succeed without outside assistance.
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!