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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The AFL held their Hall Of Fame ceremony was held just a few days before Round 10 to induct five new members and elevate one current member to legend status. The new inductees were Michael O'Loughlin, Peter Bell, Neil Roberts, administrator Bob Hammond and WA star Austin Robertson. Current member Tony Lockett was elevated to Legend (see separate story). All were present for the ceremonies and were interviewed.

MICHAEL O'LOUGHLIN

SYDNEY 1995-1999, 303 games, 521 goals

HONORS: Best and fairest 1998; 2nd best and fairest 2000; leading goal kicker 2000, 2001; premiership 2005; All-Australian 1997, 2000; Indigenous Team of the Century; State representative (SA 2 games); Fos Williams Medal 1998 (best on ground for SA in State of Origin games); International Rules (4 games)

Michael O'Loughlin is the only Swan who played in both the 1996 losing Grand Final and the 2005 premiership. O'Loughlin, who began his career in SA, told of how he was once berated by his Under-17's team coach who told him he would never play league football in South Australia. O'Loughlin grew up a mad Carlton supporter and Carlton, along with Brisbane and Sydney, were interested in him. He said he envisaged himself going to Carlton and living with his hero Steve Kernahan. He recalls being so homesick when he first arrived in Sydney that he even told his mother at one point he was coming home. He joked that she told him not to bother because someone else was using his room.

Knee tendinitis nearly brought his career to a premature end in the early 2000s' but going from half-forward / midfielder to permanent forward extended his career. The change required him to add some strength and weight as well a improving his marking (catching the ball) skills. He credits the "Bloods" culture, then coach Paul Roos, and the assistant coaches for their help in managing him through the transition. He said while he loved kicking goals, it was also about making the most of the ball when he gained possession as well as bringing his teammates into the game. He prided himself on being a "team player".

PETER BELL

FREMANTLE: 1995, 2001-08,163 games, 130 goals
NORTH MELBOURNE: 1996-2000, 123 games, 120 goals
HONORS: North Melbourne best & fairest 2000; Fremantle best & fairest 2001, 2003, 2004; 2nd Fremantle best & fairest 2002, 2005, 2006; 3rd North Melbourne best and fairest 1997; Fremantle captain 2002-06; North Melbourne premierships 1996, 1999; South Fremantle premiership 2009; North Melbourne preseason premiership 1998; All-Australian 1999, 2003; State representative (WA 3 games) International Rules (2 games); Graham Moss Medal 1998 (best on ground for WA in State of Origin)

Peter Bell, 39, was the first AFL player born in Korea and is the first Docker to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. At the induction ceremony, it was noted that he was probably the only inductee to ever have been delisted (released by the team). An orphan adopted by an Australian couple, he was raised in Western Australia and joined the Dockers at 19, but was delisted at the end of 1995 after just two games. He joined North Melbourne where he played in the 1996 and 1999 premiership sides. At the end of 2000, he returned to the Dockers as captain. He has fond memories of his second stint with the Dockers and likes to think that, seeing the success they are currently enjoying, he and his teammates might have had a small influence. He also acknowledged the words of current coach Ross Lyon, who says they have to write their own story. He was part of the Dockers' first finals campaign in 2003, short-lived as it was with a first-up loss to Essendon. He also served as president of the AFL Players Association until his retirement in 2008.

JASON AKERMANIS

BRISBANE: 1995-2006, 325 games, 307 goals
WESTERN BULLDOGS: 77 games, 114 goals
HONORS: Brownlow Medal 2001; Brisbane best & fairest 1999, 2005; Brisbane leading goal kicker 2004; Bulldogs leading goal kicker 2009; Brsbane premierships 2001, 2002, 2003; All-Australian 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004; State representative (Allies 3 games); International Rules (4 games); Jim Stynes Medal 1999 (best on ground in International Rules)

There is an old adage that if you want to talk the talk, you better walk the walk. That can sum up Jason Akermanis, outspoken off the field and brilliant on the field. His Brisbane days may have ended in less than happy circumstances, but he was one of the "Fab Four" midfield quartet (which also included Michael Voss, Simon Black and Nigel Lappin) when the Lions dominated the early 2000's. He credited then coach Leigh Matthews for making him a star by making him compete against Voss, Lappin and the Scott twins - current coaches Brad and Chris - during training sessions. Akermanis said being able to match it with his tough teammates made him a better player. Despite the falling out with Matthews, Akermanis said he viewed all of his coaches, including Matthews, as father figures.

He had a tough upbringing being raised by a single mother and says he was angry at the world because of the disadvantages. He was also sometimes targeted by bullies. At 15, he suffered a blood clot in his brain from a roller blade accident and was told never to play contact sports, but he got through it. Adversity hit again two years later when his mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. One thing his mother told him was "Be honest and it'll be OK. You won't have as many friends but how many do you need?" He says that is why he always answered media questions honestly. He admits that honesty probably caused a lot of people to hate him. Currently coaching in the Ovens and Murray League in northern Victoria, Akermanis is interested in an AFL career. He was asked if he would like to coach a Jason Akermanis, to which he replied that he would love to have 22 guys like himself.

Some of his better performances were also mentioned but he reckons the 2003 Grand Final (against Collingwood) in which he kicked five goals and a 2005 game in the wet against Geelong were his best. Against the Cats, he had 35 possessions, nine clearances, nine tackles and five goals - two of which were near identical back-to-back on the run shots from almost the same angle from the same boundary spot. (Commentators Dermott Brereton and Dennis Commetti were both agog after the second goal with Cometti remarking "Don't tell me he's done it again!" and Dermie cracking between giggles, "How good is this bloke!" The cameras also got a shot of a bemused Michael Voss on the bench with Dermott speculating that Voss was thinking something like "How are we going to live with this guy now?")

NEIL ROBERTS

1952-62, 169 games, 40 goals
HONORS: Brownlow Medal 1958; best & fairest 1955, 1958; 2nd best and fairest 1961; captain 1958-62; All-Australian 1958; St Kilda Team of the Century; St Kilda Hall of Fame; State representative (Victoria 11 games)

Neil Roberts could easily have played for the Melbourne Demons during their successful era of the 1950s and early 1960s. It was the era of recruiting zones with no draft. Roberts lived on the wrong side of street for the Demons and once asked his parents if he could move in with a neighbor across that street for six weeks to meet the residential qualification for Melbourne's zone. It did not happen and St Kilda got a star player.

In 1951, while playing for Melbourne High School, he kicked 100 goals and won an amateur best and fairest award. The following season, he joined the Saints and was tried at full forward. He missed everything and was moved to defense where he excelled. He said playing defense suited him as he was more an athlete than a player, that he could jump, run and work out a way to knock the ball forward. He described St Kilda as a social club where "... You went there to get the four points, fill yourself up with grog, perhaps win a girl, have a great weekend and go away happy." He never considered leaving, saying of the time, ".. men wore felt hats, cars had running boards, a spa was something you had in the gym, a pony-tail was on a horse and coke came in a bottle ...". Roberts, 81, later became a physical education teacher, journalist, commentator and enjoyed success on the sportsman's night circuit. He was tempted by the coaching position which was open at Carlton in 1976, but didn't go for it.

BOB HAMMOND

NORTH ADELAIDE: 1960-1973, 248 games, 68 goals
NORWOOD: 14 games
HONORS: NA captain 1973; Norwood captain 1974; NA premierships 1960, 1971, 1972; NA Team of the Century; State representative (SA 7 games); SANFL life member; AFL life member; SA Football Hall of Fame; Adelaide Hall of Fame; Adelaide chairman 1991-2000; AFL Commissioner 2001-11
Coaching record: Norwood 1974-79 (141 games, 89 wins, 52 losses, premiership 1975, 1978); Sydney 1984 (8 games, 3 wins, 5 losses); South Australia 1983 (2 games, 1 win, 1 loss)

Bob Hammond has pretty much done it all: a player, a coach and an administrator at club and league level. He also became a success in the supermarket business. All without finishing high school. Most great moments in South Australian football have Hammond there. One must remember that Victorians looked down on the South Australian competition as inferior. The rivalry and disdain was perhaps fueled further when South Australia, with Hammond at full back, defeated Victoria at the MCG in 1963. It was their first win in 37 years and the team was feted like heroes back in Adelaide. He was there again as full back when North Adelaide was crowned champions of Australia after defeating premiers Carlton at the Adelaide Oval. In 1975, he coached Norwood to their first premiership win in 25 years.

He is an icon not only of South Australian football with service to three different SA clubs, including as the inaugural chairman of the Adelaide Crows in 1990 and later as an AFL Commissioner. The formation of the Adelaide Crows came with controversy as SANFL club Port Adelaide had approached the AFL about joining but the move was blocked. The AFL decided they wanted a team from SA and the Crows were formed. Hammond was approached because it was believed he would have a "healing effect" and that he could make the required hard and quick decisions. He had less than five months to get the club and team set up before their debut game. He said it didn't feel that long due to going "...from crisis to crisis to crisis ...", not the least of which was not having any footballs for the first training session. According to Hammond, someone forgot to buy any, so some were borrowed. He saw the fledgling Crows upset dfavored Hawthorn in their first AFL game and realized the fruits of his labor in the form of the 1997-1998 premierships.

The AFL then decided they needed "fresh blood" on the commission and someone from outside Victoria with a club perspective. Enter Hammond once more. He even had a cameo appearance as coach of the Sydney Swans in 1984, his first VFL experience. His brief stint as Sydney coach saw the debut of Warwick Capper, who later became a media sensation. Hammond, 73, paraphrased John F. Kennedy's line in saying it wasn't what he had done for football but rather what football had done for him - opening doors for him that otherwise would have been forever closed, "Football has had a huge influence and fashioned my life because of the team spirit and effort involved and the highs and the lows, and that continued through life ... I had no formal education so I guess football has been my greatest tutor."

AUSTIN ROBERTSON

Subiaco: 1962-65, 1967-74, 251 games, 1211 goals
South Melbourne: 1966, 18 games, 60 goals
HONORS: Subiaco best & fairest 1965, 1968; WAFL leading goal kicker 1962, 1964, 1965, 1968-72; Subiaco leading goal kicker 1962-65, 1967-74; South Melbourne leading goal kicker 1966; Subiaco premiership 1973; Subiaco Legend; Subiaco Team of the Century; WA Football Hall of Fame; State representative (WA 10 games, 44 goals)

An icon of Western Australia and cricket, Austin Robertson starred for WAFL club Subiaco as a full forward and, even followed in his father's footsteps (Austin Sr), to South Melbourne for one season in 1966. Both were nicknamed "Ocher" and Young Robertson also inherited some of his father's athletic ability and speed. His father was champion sprinter. His father encouraged him to be a full forward and the advice paid handsome dividends with young Austin kicking 179 goals for Scotch College in two seasons. In his first four seasons at Subiaco, he topped the league goal kicking three times and finished second another time.

He was a master set-set shot for goal but had plenty of help along the way. He watched East Perth star Neil Hawke, a master at the drop punt, to learn long distance kicking. He also had the benefit of working with two other WA icons - Subiaco stalwart Westy Gilbert, whom Robertson said was a "terrible kick" but promoted a positive attitude, and Bernie Naylor, who was a master of the torpedo punt. According to Robertson, the practice sessions would often take place with Naylor still in his pajamas and slippers with one slipper sometimes traveling further than the ball. He says today he still "... sees the imaginary goalposts ... gates, lamp posts, trees ... ' with the ball going through.

Robertson joined South Melbourne on a three year deal in 1966 with Bob Skilton as coach, but returned to WA at the end of the year when Skilton stepped down as coach. When Norm Smith was appointed coach, he wanted Robertson to return but Subiaco would not grant a clearance. He found a new level of fitness in 1967 and kicked 157 goals. In one game, he bagged 15 goals, 11 points to beat the record of his old mentor Naylor by one point. He remembers very little from his last premiership in 1973 as he played all but the first quarter with a concussion. After his playing career, he became a manager in the cricket industry and some of the biggest stars were his clients - Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Shane Warne. He was also instrumental in setting up World Series Cricket after moving to Sydney.

*******

To hear the induction speeches and interviews go to sen.com.au, click on the "Audio" at the top of the page which will bring up the audio menu of programs, scroll down to the Hall of Fame Speeches and click on the one(s) desired. The interviews are excellent with the interviewers mentioning details which lead to some very amusing stories from the inductees.

Source: afl.com.au, sen.com.au, AFL Record Season Guide, author notes

Article last changed on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 7:30 PM EDT


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