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On Tuesday June 14th, the AFL Hall of Fame welcomed its six newest inductees. The 2016 class included a wonderful mix of stars of the modern era plus those from South Australian and Western Australian football, as well as the emotional induction of the late and great Maurice Rioli, revered by supporters of both his “home” club South Fremantle and his adopted VFL club in Richmond.

Here is the rundown on the six inductees:

Maurice Rioli

  • 168 games, 133 goals, South Fremantle 1975-81, 1988-90
  • 118 games, 80 goals, Richmond 1982-87
  • 13 games for Western Australia, 7 for Northern Territory
  • South Fremantle premiership 1980, Simpson Medalist 1980-81-83
  • Norm Smith medalist 1982; Richmond Best & Fairest 1982-83;
  • All-Australian 1983, '86, '88
  • Indigenous Team of the Century (centre)

The Uncle of current Hawthorn superstar Cyril and young Richmond gun Daniel, Maurice was a speedy, tough, stocky midfielder with sublime skills and a knack for goal kicking. He was a superstar with his Western Australian club South Fremantle before crossing to the big time, joining Richmond in 1982. Revered as a “big-game” player, Rioli was judged best afield in the 1980 and 1981 WAFL grand finals.

One of the first Indigenous Australian football superstars, Rioli, along with North Melbourne brothers Phil and Jim Krakouer, set the competition alight with their incredible skills and athletic ability. Maurice was the first player to ever win a Norm Smith Medal (best on ground in the Grand Final) in a losing side when, in his first season in Victoria, his Richmond Tigers went down to Carlton in the 1982 Grand Final.

He won Richmond’s “Best and Fairest” award in his first two seasons in Victoria, spending a total of six years in the VFL before finishing his stellar career back in WA with his original team South Fremantle.
A three-time All-Australian selection, Rioli sadly passed away on Christmas Day 2010, at the age of 53. For those of us lucky enough to have witnessed his skills first hand, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest all-round players in Australian rules football history.

Ben Hart

  • 311 games, 45 goals, Adelaide 1992-2006
  • Eight games for South Australia
  • Four games for Australia.
  • Adelaide premierships 1997-98; best and fairest 1999, 2002; All-Australian 1992-93, 1999, 2002

Hart remains the youngest player to debut for the Adelaide Crows at the tender age of 17 years and 257 days, and was one of their most effective players in the formative years of the AFL expansion club. He wasted no time in gaining recognition, winning All-Australian selection in his first year with the Crows as well as being recognized as the league’s best first-year player.

Tallying 311 games, he was the first Adelaide Crows player to reach the 300-game milestone while becoming an integral part of the Crows two premierships in 1997-98.

An incredible defender with strength that belied his slight frame, the cool Hart was known as an elite decision-maker who rarely missed a target. Like Rioli mentioned above, Hart was a big-game performer, with many of his best performances coming in the finals series during the Crows run towards their two premierships.

A four-time All Australian and dual Best and Fairest winner, Hart was forced into retirement before his time due to lingering achilles and hamstring injuries.

Nigel Lappin

  • 279 games, 174 goals, Brisbane Lions 1994-2008
  • Three games for Victoria
  • Brisbane Lions premierships 2001-03; All-Australian 2001-04

A key member of what was arguably the greatest AFL team of all-time, Lappin enjoyed immense success winning three consecutive premierships from 2001-03, while gaining All-Australian selection in each of those seasons. Lappin played 15 seasons for Brisbane as a running defender whose versatility allowed him to go forward with damaging effect, the wiry speedster amassing 174 goals in his 279 league games.

Despite a stellar career with three premierships and four All-Australian selections to his name, Lappin is probably best known for taking the field in the 2003 Grand Final despite having cracked ribs from a collision in his previous match. After an excellent performance in yet another Brisbane premiership win, Lappin went straight from the MCG to hospital to have a punctured lung attended to.

Described by his coach Leigh Matthews as a “perfect” player, the versatile Lappin is more than a worthy inductee into the AFL Hall of Fame.

Ray Sorrell

  • 155 games, 55 goals, East Fremantle 1956-63, 1966-67; 23 games, 8 goals, South Fremantle 1964-65
  • 18 games for Western Australia
  • All-Australian 1958, 1961; Sandover Medalist 1961, 1963; Simpson Medallist 1962-63

Sorrell was a left-footed center with a long drop kick – a kick that has since disappeared from our game as it has become a faster, more skilled contest. He was a dual winner of the Sandover Medal (WA football’s Best and Fairest), the Simpson Medal (best player in the WA Grand Final) and twice gained All-Australian selection, both times with his original team, East Fremantle.

In 1964 Sorrell controversially moved to South Fremantle as captain-coach, before completing his fine career back at East. That he had such a long and successful career was remarkable given he was told he would never play again after a motorcycle accident suffered after his first season. He is the grandfather of current players Jonathon Marsh (Collingwood) and Harry Marsh (Sydney Swans).

Paul Bagshaw

  • 360 games, 258 goals, Sturt 1964-80
  • 14 games for South Australia

A legend of the South Australian Football League, Bagshaw - known as "Mr Magic" by SA football supporters - played 360 games for the Double Blues over 17 seasons, when Sturt won five consecutive SANFL premierships between 1966-70, and seven in an 11-year period. A fantastic mark and deadly accurate goal kicker, Bagshaw played a club record 360 games for Sturt and won a remarkable seven premierships, including two as captain of the Double Blues.

Verdun Howell

  • 159 games, 59 goals, St Kilda 1958-68
  • Nine games for Victoria
  • St Kilda premiership 1966; Brownlow medalist 1959

Howell was possibly the first attacking defender seen in the VFL, happy to move up the ground and create attack rather than being the “traditional” stay at home defender. First signed by the St. Kilda at 17, Howell didn't make the move from Tasmania to Victoria until he was 21.

Hallmarks of his game were strong marking and long kicking, skills that led to him being selected for the Victorian state team on nine occasions, along with helping his Saints to the 1966 premiership – their first and only taste of ultimate success. In 1989, after a rule change, he was retrospectively awarded the 1959 Brownlow Medal, having originally tied with South Melbourne champion Bob Skilton but relegated to second on a countback.

AFANA salutes all six Hall of Fame inductees who embody the spirit of our game at the highest level.

Article last changed on Monday, July 11, 2016 - 1:27 PM EDT


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