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A TALE OF TWO HEROES by Whispering Jack


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On Saturday night at the ANZAC Day Eve game between Melbourne and Richmond, we will give recognition to the achievements of two great Demons who made significant contributions to the Melbourne Football Club over substantially different time spans.

The first is the late Frank V “Checker” Hughes who was born on 26 February 1894 and began his career as a Richmond player in 1915. Shortly after, Hughes was called on to serve his country when he went to war during WW1. He returned from battle and had a celebrated career as both a player (2 flags) and then as a coach (1 premiership) with the Tigers before taking on the coaching role in 1933 at Melbourne, then a lowly club known as “the Fuchsias”.

One of his first acts in undertaking to convert the club into a power was to change the nickname to “the Demons”. At the same time he sacked 13 players as part of his design to instill in the club a new ethic of toughness and discipline through his coaching. The struggling side rose off the floor and a rejuvenated Melbourne swept all before it with three successive premierships between 1939 and 1941. After a break during WW2, he returned to the club to coach in 1945 and added a fourth flag in 1948.

“Checker” is a member of the Melbourne, Richmond and Australian Football Halls of Fame. He remained active with the club after his retirement and in 1965 was called upon to coach the team for one game after the dramatic sacking of Norm Smith. He passed on 23 January, 1978.

At the conclusion of Saturday night’s game between Melbourne and Richmond, the inaugural Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes medal will be presented to the best player on the ground a fitting tribute to a digger from wartime who also gave great service to both participants and who turned our club into Demons.

On the note of courage, strength and discipline at play or in war, if ever there was someone on the AFL scene who you had to spend time with in the trenches then I can’t think of anyone better than Nathan Jones.

Born on 20 January, 1988 he was drafted to the Demons with their first selection and the 12th overall in the 2005 national draft and made his debut against the Western Bulldogs in Round 17, 2006 at the MCG. He played the remaining eight games of his first season which included an Elimination Final win against St Kilda and a loss to Fremantle in the Semi Final before going back to Sandringham to play in the then Melbourne VFL affiliate’s premiership team. He earned AFL Rising Star nominations in each of his first two seasons and finished third for the award in 2007 and was runner up in the Demons’ best and fairest award. He cemented his place in the side, won three consecutive Keith 'Bluey' Truscott Medals (2012, 2013 and 2014) and became captain in 2014, a position he held until 2019.

The thing that really eluded Jones over his long period of time at the club was team success. He managed another finals campaign in 2018 that began so well with MCG victories over Geelong and Hawthorn but all that came crashing down in the Preliminary Final. Through thick and mainly thin, the tough nuggety midfielder remained loyal to the cause and the club has returned that loyalty.

The measure of the club’s debt to Nathan Jones is limitless. I would like to think that one of the factors that may have determined recent re-signings by Clayton Oliver and Christian Salem at such an early stage in the current season is the example of loyalty set by and between Jones and the Demons.

Congratulations to a true Demon hero on achieving a milestone of 300 games that only one man has achieved before in the long history of the Melbourne Football Club.


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