AFL Hall Of Fame

Lisa Albergo's picture

 by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

On Feb 20, the AFL held the annual Hall of Fame ceremonies with six new inductees and a current member elevated to Legend Status. The six new members are umpire Brett Allen, current Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin, Sydney premiership player Barry Hall, Collingwood legend Ron Todd, South Australian icon John Halbert and North Melbourne star Anthony Stevens. Malcolm Blight, who was one of the inaugural inductees in 1996, was elevated to Legend Status.

Blight, 67, was a star of both the SANFL and VFL across an 18-season career between 1968-85 representing Woodville in the SANFL and North Melbourne, before forging a successful coaching career. Blight becomes the 27th Legend and the awards he won in both the SANFL and then-VFL is a record unmatched by any player in league history - Magarey (SANFL Brownlow) and a Brownlow, as well as the Ken Farmer and John Coleman medals for leading goalkicker in the SANFL and VFL respectively.

Legend: Malcolm Blight
162 games for Woodville, 1968-73 and 1983-85, kicking 363 goals
178 games for North Melbourne, 1974-82, kicking 444 goals
Seven games for South Australia, kicking 19 goals
Seven games for Victoria, kicking 11 goals
North Melbourne premierships 1975, 1977
Woodville Best and Fairest 1972, 1985
North Melbourne Best and Fairest 1978
Woodville Leading Goalkicker 1983, 1985.
North Melbourne Leading Goalkicker 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982
Magarey Medalist 1972
Brownlow Medalist 1978
John Coleman Medalist 1982
Ken Farmer Medalist 1985
All Australian 1972 (carnival), 1982, 1985 (carnival)
VFL Team of the Year 1982
Woodville captain 1983-85
North Melbourne Team of the Century, Half Forward
North Melbourne coach 1981, 16 games
Woodville coach 1983-87, 114 games
Geelong coach 1989-94, 145 games
Adelaide coach 1997-99, 74 games
St Kilda coach 2001, 15 games
Adelaide Crows premierships 1997, 1998

When interviewed, Blight said he still loved the game and watched as many as he could on any given weekend, "I just reckon there's a Sherrin in the heart. Somehow or another, someone put that in me as a kid and it's just grown in my family and all the people around me. Fifty seasons is a long time and I still love the game now."

Crows Chairman Rob Chapman said Blight was quite rightly remembered as one of the game’s greatest-ever players who also became a distinguished coach, “Malcolm achieved so much here in South Australia and Victoria but will always be remembered as the man who steered the club to its first premiership and then backed it up a year later ... it is quite fitting to see him receive such recognition ...".

Brett Allen
Umpired 347 AFL matches from 1992-2007
AFL Grand Finals: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
Umpired 37 AFL Finals Series Matches (equal 3rd all time)
All Australian Umpire 1999, 2000, 2002 & 2006
Umpired Two State of Origin matches
Umpired Four International Rules series

When Allen began his umpiring career, only two field umpires officiated games. In 1994, the league introduced a third umpire. Allen recollected doing some games solo in his early career and remembered one game at Princes Park (now Ikon, Carlton's home ground) in blazing heat, "I had a pretty good run until three-quarter time and then I missed eight or nine frees in the final quarter purely because I was tired. It couldn't continue on like that.

He also remarked on the changes he has seen over the years with the one-on-one contests giving way to flooding and all the players in one part of the ground, "When I first came in, there were the big key forwards like Gary Ablett, Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall and a few others, leading into Wayne Carey, and there was a lot of kicking it to the key forward one-on-one." He said the transformation of the game required a new mindset for umpires, "I can vividly remember what a challenge that was, even to find the ball in a pack of 15 or 16 players. Certainly, a different approach and a different mindset ... was ... needed."

Allen believes his approach to umpiring reflected the philosophy of the time, and he also believed in not over-officiating to let the game flow, "... I was very much a believer in paying the obvious free kicks and letting the other ones go. That was considered good umpiring at the time and I never got carried away and caught up in the emotion of it all,

He rates the 2005 and 2006 Sydney-West Coast Grand Finals as the best premiership deciders he officiated, but his most memorable game of all was the 1999 preliminary final when Carlton stunned the heavily-favored Essendon, "An amazing game ... I'd been called the previous Thursday to be told I would be umpiring the Grand Final as long as I kept everything under control and had a good preliminary final ... it was such a close game. Dean Wallis had the chance to kick the ball deep into the Essendon forward line and I was down there thinking 'I've had a good game, but this is a high-pressure situation and if I stuff this up, I might miss the Grand Final. Then Fraser Brown ran him down and I was probably as happy as all the Carlton fans when the ball went down the other end." He also rated Port Adelaide's first premiership in 2004 as a highlight saying not having an "undue influence" in all those games was great,

Allen said being named the All-Australian umpire on four occasions was terrific, as was taking part in two International Rules Series. But his induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame tops all of that, "It was a fantastic surprise and to see the people in that group that you're now a part of, is a bit surreal. In all honesty, I feel like I'm not entitled to be there. It's wonderful they think I'm a worthy inclusion."

Simon Goodwin
275 games for Adelaide Crows 1997-2010, kicking 162 goals
18 games for South Adelaide 1995-98, kicking one goal
One game for South Australia, kicking zero goals
Three games for Australia
Adelaide Crows premiership 1997, 1998
Adelaide Crows best and fairest 2000, 2005, 2006
All Australian 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2009
Michael Tuck Medalist 2006
Adelaide Crows captain 2008-10
Melbourne coach 2017 - current
Adelaide Crows Life Member
Adelaide Crows Hall of Fame - one of eight inaugural inductees in 2015

In an interview with the AFL Record ahead of the ceremonies, Goodwin said he was small for his growing up and was always being placed in what he called "the never going to make it basket".That and a nagging self-doubt were the spurs which drove him to succeed and prove the doubters wrong, ",,, perhaps I lacked self-confidence, but with that came perseverance to prove people wrong and that's what drove me early in my career ... I wasn't sure I was deserving ... and I always had a point to prove. And it continued ... for most of my career ... You want to be a better player and then a better player again. When I got into my first All-Australian side, it was a case of 'Simon who' and that was another point to prove. I was a shock selection and people said I didn't deserve to be in that category, so there was this sense of wanting to prove myself, all through my career." Goodwin's career certainly belied his self-doubt with a dream start in two premierships in his first 31 senior games for the Crows.

Goodwin was also a talented cricket player captaining the South Australian Under-19 team in 1995-96 after being overlooked in the 1995 draft. However, the Crows showed interest in him for the preseason draft and he was told by the team's football manager and family friend John Reid to give it try "... because your cricket career is pretty much done, son."

Less than a year later, new coach Malcolm Blight arrived, dumped a number of club stalwarts and gave the younger players chande and Goodwin got his opportunity. Goodwin said Reid, Blight and former coach Neil Craig all had strong influences on his career, "The opportunity to play came from John and Blighty built that belief ... and educated me on the fundamentals of the game ... Craigy' was a great people person and mentor who taught me about relationships, life skills and during some challenging times in my career he was there for me."

His induction came as a surprise, "I feel awkward in some ways ... It's not something I saw myself achieving. I'm obviously hugely honored ...but in some ways it's a bit embarrassing. It's something I'll be extremely proud of."

Goodwin became an assistant coach with Essendon in 2010 and became "caretaker coach" at the end of 2013 when James Hird was suspended over the supplements saga. He crossed to Melbourne in 2014 and was the designated "heir apparent" to Paul Roos when Roos decided he would step down at the end of 2016.

John Halbert
244 games for Sturt 1955-68, kicking 253 goals
16 games for South Australia
Sturt premiership 1966
Magarey Medalist 1961
Sturt Best and Fairest 1958, 1960, 1961, 1964
All Australian 1961 (carnival)
Sturt captain 1962-68
Sturt Team of the Century, Center Half Forward
Glenelg coach 1979-82
Sturt coach 1983-84

Halbert said the 1966 premiership was a highlight of his career since Sturt had not had much success up until then. His SA team defeated arch-rival Victoria in a state game in 1963. After his playing days, he forged a successful career as coach and administrator. He served as Adelaide chairman of selectors (1996-2008) , a member of the SANFL Football Commission (1996-2008), chairman of selectors with the Adelaide Crows from 1992 to 1994 and a member of the AFL Laws Committee from 2000 to 2008. He cites his love of the game for keeping him involved for over 50 years, "I brought certain skills and knowledge of football and certain academic qualifications that I could use ... I love footy so it was never a chore for me, I just adored it." He was awarded an MBE in 1969 for services to sport and work among young people, and an Order of Australia (AM) Medal in 2009.

Barry Hall
88 games for St Kilda, 1996-2001, kicking 144 goals
162 games for Sydney Swans, 2002-09, kicking 467 goals
39 games for Western Bulldogs, 2010-11, kicking 135 goals
Four games for Australia
Sydney Swans premiership 2005
Sydney Swans best and fairest 2004
St Kilda leading goalkicker 1999, 2001
Sydney Swans leading goalkicker 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2008
Western Bulldogs leading goalkicker 2010, 2011
Sydney Swans captain 2005-2007
All Australian 2004, 2005, 2006 (vice-captain), 2010

Hall of Fame Legend Tony Lockett helped convince Hall to leave the Saints for Sydney. Like Lockett, Hall said he felt he had after six seasons and head north to Sydney."... too much baggage at St Kilda ..." and needed to start fresh elsewhere. He paid homage to Lockett, saying even though Sydney needed a key forward no one could fill Lockett's shoes but he also admitted it was the best move he ever made. His only regret is his 2008 roundhouse hit on Eagle Brent Staker and says it is something both players will have to live with due to both being reminded of it at times. He also admits he probably should have been suspended for the 2005 Grand Final after being reported for striking Saint Matt Maguire. The argument at the Tribunal was that the hit was "off the play" and not "in play". Hall also joked that he got off because he had a good lawyer.

Sydney Swans Chairman Andrew Pridham issued a statement congratulating Hall on his selection and said Hall is one of the club’s greats, “Barry will be remembered as one of the Sydney Swans’ most impactful players, As our premiership captain in 2005, his on-field leadership cannot be overstated ... A life member of the Swans and now an AFL Hall of Fame member, we should all be very proud of Barry and his achievements.” Current coach John Longmire, Sydney's coach during part of Hall's time with the Swans (Paul Roos was coach for the 2005 premiership) said he was one of the best he’s seen in the AFL, "Barry was one of the great forwards to play the game. He had an ability to not only kick goals ... but to provide a real target in the forward half ... He was absolutely hellbent on doing the best he could to be the best possible player and the best team player. He was a great team player ... and he left a big mark on this place.”

2005 Semi-Final hero Nick Davis (four goals in the final term including the sealer with just seconds left) also praised Hall, “Barry was a great teammate. He was selfless for the team ... but he helped Mick (O’Loughlin), Adam Schneider and myself out a lot more ... He was the ultimate competitor on and off the field.”

Anthony Stevens
292 games for North Melbourne 1989-2004, kicking 127 goals
Four games for Victoria, kicking zero goals
Two games for Australia
North Melbourne premiership 1996, 1999
North Melbourne Best and Fairest 1997, 1999
All Australian 1998.
North Melbourne captain 2002-03
North Melbourne Team of the Century, Ruck Rover

"Footy was what I lived for," Stevens said, “I didn't think I had the greatest skills getting around, but I had a dream to play AFL footy and I would do anything to achieve that. "I just wanted to play one game, then to get 50 and then to get 100, the goal then was to play in premierships.We played in three grand finals and we won two. That was the ultimate dream.”

Ron Todd
76 games for Collingwood 1935-39, kicking 327 goals
141 games for Williamstown 1940-49, kicking 672 goals
Collingwood premiership 1936
Williamstown premiership 1945, 1949
Collingwood leading goalkicker 1938, 1939
Williamstown leading goalkicker 1945, 1946, 1947, 1949
VFL leading goalkicker 1938, 1939
VFA leading goalkicker 1945, 1946
Williamstown captain /coach 1948-49
Williamstown Team of the Century, Center Half Forward

Born in Collingwood, Todd followed in the footsteps of his hero, legendary full forward Dick Lee, a family friend he called "Uncle Dick". He almost didn't make it to the VFL, concentrating on baseball after being dropped by his school team. A growth spurt saw Todd turn into a tall, lean, fast (he also became a professional sprinter), acrobatic high-flyer and a long, though occasionally erratic, kick.

Ron Todd debuted for Collingwood at the age of 18 in 1935, but really got his chance to shine in the 1936 Grand Final when he took over for full forward for the suspended Gordon Coventry. He had 20 kicks, 10 marks (catch of the ball) and 16 scoring shot. Despite being off target with four goals and nine points, the Magpies won the premiership.

in another match, Todd scored an inaccurate 7.12, after which he modified his kicking technique. Coventry's return the following season relegated Todd to center half forward. He kicked 62 goals for the season but was again inaccurate in front of goal with just 4.1 in the Grand Final loss to Geelong.

Coventry retired at the end of 1937 and Todd became a goal machine, kicking league-high tallies of 120 goals in 1938 and 121 the next year, averaging six a game. Todd was a September specialist. In 1938 he booted 18 goals in three finals, and in 1939 amassed a record 23 in three finals (only beaten by Gary Ablett's four-final total of 27 in 1989). These tallies included unmatched 11-goal hauls in successive preliminary finals. He also kicked 28 goals in five state games for Victoria. Todd;s final game at the age of 22 was the losing Grand Final in 1939 in which he kicked six goals. At the time, player payment rules severely restricted how much players could earn. Despite his love for Collingwood and wanting to stay, Williamstown offered him a deal (... too good to let go." Howevder, hte move cosst him a five year suspension as he went without a clearance from the Magpies. He wanted to return to Colingwood at the end of his suspension in 1945, bur the club refused, essentially having "expelled" him. He went on to win the 1945 premiership with Williamstown and kicked a league record 188 goals for the year, including a haul fof 20 goals in one game. Todd also captained Williamstown to the 1949 premiership and had a chance to kick his 1000th goal (VFL and VFA combined) in the dying seconds but unselfishly passed to a teammate for the winning goal.

In 1996, deep-seated hostility towards Todd denied him his place in Collingwood's Team of the Century, but there will be few objectors to this honor. One of those is former Magpie star and fellow Hall of Fame member Murray Weideman who described Todd as a "hero of Collingwood".

Source: afl.com.au, AFL Record Season Guide, Encyclopedia of League Footballers, Ryan Smith (Adelaide Media Release), Jordan Laing (Sydney Media Release)

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