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Top 100 Demons of past 50 years


Deespicable
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Over the next five weeks, Demonland regular Deespicable will count down his version of our top 100 players since 1972. 

THERE'S always a fine line at the end of any list with a few tricky decisions on those who do and don’t make the cut.

Firstly I had a general rule that you had to have played 50 games for us, although I did break it for three players, two of whom are in the 81-100 category – Mark ‘Whacko’ Jackson and Sean Charles. One of our most expensive recruits Kelvin Templeton played 34 games and kicked 99 goals for us and his eight-goal game in our win down at Kardinia Park on Anzac Day in 1983 has to rate among our best ever individual performances – but sorry Kel, not enough red and blue blood spilt for mine.

Secondly I had to rule out a large number of highly serviceable stars who played their best footy in the 60s. Frank Davis was still captain in 1972, but by then was more a dour half-back flanker and the former No.6 never really rocked my boat as a kid. Ditto Barry Bourke.

Thirdly, how do you draw a line between levels of serviceable players, which let’s face it, most of those in the 81-100 category are. I mean Simon Godfrey (105 games) had less kicking talent than most Demonlanders, yet he tagged with intent (just ask Shane Crawford). Paul Hopgood (113 games) and Darren Kowal (105) had genuine hops, but both never really cemented a spot in eras that weren’t exactly flushed with success, while Marcus Seecamp (89) always looked the part in defence, but never dominated. 

But I suspect my biggest omission is Peter Walsh (104 games), a gutsy redheaded defender who tied for 15th in the 2001 Brownlow with 11 votes. He came on the scene via the rookie list along with Daniel Ward and always put in and I reckon quite a few would want him, just as Port did in 2005 when he was traded and went on to play played finals for them. So re-instate him in my 81-100 list as you see fit, it’s just that all of these guys have solid cases too.

81 Graham Osborne 66-77 146 games One of my earliest memories was watching Ozzy fly off the backline, take a bounce and then lose the ball all in the blink of an eye. He was mega quick which gave him a huge advantage in those days, but unfortunately he couldn’t quite put it all together, although he did have a pretty good year in defence under Skilts in 1976 – even polling 18 votes in the Brownlow that year under the two-umpire voting system. Sadly he was injured early in 1977, so maybe he was the factor in why we didn’t kick on as expected that year.

82 Nathan Brown 98-07 146 games OK, he was a Collingwood six-footer (180cm), who often struggled to roost it more than 40m and he wasn’t exceptionally quick. But our Nathan Brown (as distinct from the Dogs forward) was a real livewire rebounder who’d run all day and put his body on the line off half-back. He had a few ripping battles with Stephen Milne and during his prime was one of the Reverend’s automatic selections.   

83 Jake Melksham 16- 83 games Unlucky not to play for us in 2016, Melky had a tricky baptism when Goody initially tried to turn him into a defender. Eventually he found his way to our forward line where his booming delivery was hugely important in our 2018 campaign and his left-footer on the run from 50m in our finals win over the Hawks was huge. Tom Sparrow’s rise probably ultimately cost him his spot in our premiership team, but there was a time in 2018 when he was talked about as an AA such was his importance.

84 Peter Keenan 70-75, 81-82 131 games I’ll never forget trying to imitate Crackers hunched over stance like a warring buffalo at ammo level and finding myself victim to every kid’s attempted screamers. But as a ruckman he was a workhorse, who could take a pretty strong mark – he took 14 grabs one day against South Melbourne in 1975 and it was that prowess that saw him snaffled by Barrass at North in 1976 to solve his ruck woes. He played in their flag against the Pies in 1977 and was nice enough to return to us in 1981 with Barassi. He was often suspended but racked up 30 more games for us, albeit for just five more wins.

85 Mark Jackson 81-82 41 games 152 goals Amazingly whacko Jacko contributed 152 goals in only two seasons. Recruited from Richmond’s U19 – they already had Michael Roach and Brian Taylor on their books, few players have been more watchable or selfish as the Energizer. He was actually a pretty accurate kick and could even snap a goal across his body. But he preferred to just snap – whether it be at umpires, at opponents or even the club skipper. Those from 82 reckon he just had to go the day he belted Robbie Flower at training, apparently peed off that Tulip kept beating him to the ball. He was less successful at St Kilda but Geelong persisted with him for a while and the Neville Bruns/Leigh Matthews incident came about largely because of his stirring antics. But while he was never quick or clean with his marking, his combination with Gerard Healy in 1982 was amazingly prolific for us.

86 Steven Icke 82-87 78 games Sticky was recruited from North with Allen Jarrott, part of Ron Barassi’s plan to steal the smarts from his old side – he did also steal Mad Dog Brent Crosswell around then, although that seemed more about getting in someone who could beat him at chess. But Icke was very serviceable as a CHB who could go forward on occasions when things weren’t working. He didn’t take hangers, but he was a nice mark all the same. 

87 Henry Coles 75-80 77 games, 106 goals For three years in the late seventies, Henry was our No.1 rover and a pretty handy one, being particularly dangerous when he rested in the pocket as rovers did before the interchange came in. He snagged 33 goals in 1978, including a memorable six in our win over the Cats and won a Vic guernsey that year. He gave up his No.13 when another Pie Wayne Gordon arrived at our club, a bad omen for him as he did his knee in Round 4 in 1979 in the No.3 top and never really recovered. A run in with Big Carl in 79 didn’t help either.

88 Brock McLean 04-09 94 games Taken at No.5 in the 2003 draft, Brocky was the son of Blues hitman Ricky and was as tough as they come. His flowing mullet (no Bailey Smith perm) made an immediate impression and he played in our losing elimination final side to Essendon in ‘04. By 2006 he was virtually best on ground for us when we downed the Saints in the first week of the finals and was again among our best the following week in our loss to Freo. In 2007 he injured his foot in Rd 1 and by the time he returned we were 0-8 and it was a whole new club. He lifted us to a huge QB victory that year but he, and we, were never the same, even stooping to tanking late in 2009. Disgruntled by that philosophy, he agreed to be traded to the Blues for pick 11. 

89 Ricky Jackson 86-91 80 games, 131 goals Sported the No.45 like Matty Whelan and came to us in 1986 after a failed stint at Richmond who felt that at just 170cm he was too small to make it. But ‘tricky’ Ricky had explosive pace and loved taking on defenders and for six year did his Kozzie Pickett forward-pocket role with aplomb. He even won our goalkicking with 43 majors in 1988. He kicked five goals against Carlton in the preliminary final that year and made the Big V side in 1990. I still don’t know why we traded him to Footscray in 1991, but he badly broke his leg pre-season at the kennel and never played for them. 

90 Darren Bennett 89-93 74 games 215 goals Discarded by West Coast who had Peter Sumich, the thumping right-footer arrived at the Dees a couple of years before Allen Jakovich. Given our battle to find gun forwards in the 70s, it’s hard to believe we had a plethora to choose from in John Northey’s era. He had a few knee issues, but boy could he kick a long goal and his foot extension matched that of Tayla Harris - which is why he went on to make more money in America as a professional punter than ‘Dollars' Lyon made from us. He kicked 87 goals in 1990 (only Fred Fanning and Norm Smith have kicked more) and nailed four in our breakthrough elimination final win against the Hawks that year. But it was his five goals after halftime in our amazing comeback win at Windy Hill in 1990 that was the stuff of legends. 

91 Russel Richards 83-87 81 games How good was it watching the Rhino in full flight charging off half-back like Adonis. He almost won the 1985 Grand Final sprint. Sadly he was a bit like Sam Frost – unable to turn his excitement into a game-breaking play but for a while we all thought he was on his way to greatness. A couple of minor injuries and the growing star status of Sean Wight and Rod Grinter meant that he struggled to get games in 1987 and by the end of 88 he was sent off to Prahran.

92 Alex Neal-Bullen 15- 105 games After five years of being the Demonlanders whipping boy, ANB endured an even darker 2020 and was seemingly out the door. Goody, who had spotted his work rate early in 2016 and pushed Roosy to play him as a small forward, seemed to have sided with the critics and written him off. After eight weeks watching from the sidelines in COVID 1.0, he returned for the clash with Adelaide and the club failed to even lodge a complaint when he copped four weeks for a dangerous tackle on a young Crow - the same that Shaun Burgoyne and others did virtually weekly. At season's end he was offered up as trade bait. Thankfully there were no takers. Bet he’d have quite a few now after a year when he played every game and constantly provided link work, tackle pressure and the occasional goal in a premiership side. Here’s the thing - Nibbler has always been is our hardest worker at training - bar none. And that’s why it’s so nice that he got some reward for all those efforts. 

93 Dom Tyson 14-18 94 games Dommy’s best years were pre-Clayton when he was our big-bodied midfielder alongside Jonesy, Viney and Bernie. In his first year under Roosy in 2014 he even snagged 16 goals and he was second in our B&F. He was clever at times by hand and would lean back and hammer a left foot to our non-existent forwards back then. But by 2018, Goody was worried about his lack of pace (he’d always had knee troubles) and sent him to the wing - the same one the club had offered Jack Grimes and Jack Trengove on their way out. He was useful in the 2018 finals but it wasn’t a surprise when he was offered up to North to lure Braydon Preuss. Some will say that we should never have given up pick No.2 in the 2013 draft for him, but without splitting that pick, we wouldn’t have attained Christian Salem. 

94 Alistair Nicholson 97-06 110 games Big Nick was recruited as a ruckman from Claremont but was never quite tall enough to make it as Jimmy’s replacement and once we had Jeff White we didn’t need him in that role anyway. So Neale Daniher sent him down back and he played on all the resting ruckman including Steven Alessio in the 2000 Grand Final. I was always a bit dirty that he didn’t belt a few blokes that day, especially after Brad Green and Troy Simmonds had been felled, as he was built like a proverbial brick sh..house, but he’s probably too nice a bloke at the end of the day. He’s been pretty successful off field representing our cricketers in legal battles, before more recently looking after the coaches group.  

95 Jack Trengove 10-17 86 games The victim of one of our most whacky decisions when Mark Neeld decided he didn’t like his senior squad on arrival at the club and upgraded the 20-year-old from country South Australia to the leadership in tandem with Jack Grimes. The pressure on the then 37-gamer must have been intense, especially given it was before we had a good support coaching network. Jack had a nice baulk and became so team-oriented under the weight of being skipper that it seemed to stifle the initial flair he’d shown in his first two seasons. He had good endurance (like his sister Jess) but was never blessed with pace so when he kept getting stress-related foot issues, any chance of him utilising his smarts on the wing were minimal. 

96 Guy Rigoni 98-05 107 games A late-comer to the top level after having no luck at Hawthorn, Riggers was a hard-at-it Myrtleford mid who could thump a long bomb in the Neiter direction and was a regular in both 98 and 2000 when he played in the granny against Essendon. He had a night out against the Roos in 2000 in a one-point loss at the Docklands amassing 37 disposals, but back issues limited his career after that. 

97 Sean Charles 92-97 46 games, 60 goals A favourite of mine and just about everybody’s in 1994. He was recruited from Tatura in 1992 and kicked five goals on debut as a 17-year-old but from then he was hit by a mix of injuries and complexities from his indigenous background. He had electric speed and Melbourne was so sure of his abilities that Balmey arranged for him to be helicoptered in to training Brian Peake style mid-season. He was a key part of the exciting forward mix alongside Schwarter and Lyon in 1994 and his five-goal game in our finals upset of Carlton that year was a career-high. Broke his arm badly pre-season next year and spent more time in the medical room than on the field. But along with Liam Jurrah, one of our most talented players ever - you just wonder what he could have been if Neville Jetta was around to guide him then. 

98 Colin Garland 07-17 141 games I always felt that Col was a little unsure of his abilities and doubtless that came from beginning his career in an era when our assistant coaches and support network were not a patch on today. A Hobart boy, he was quick, had a pretty good leap and could kick a long goal, as he did in the Queen’s Birthday draw against the Pies in 2010. As a defender he never really became the star interceptor that he should have been. But until Frosty came on the scene, I always felt he was in our best 22. 

99 Tony Elshaug 79-83 66 games 92 goals It’s amazing how many of our players back in the 70s and 80s won flags at other clubs and Tony was another being a clever forward pocket/rover in Essendon’s 1985 premiership side. At the Demons the Bentleigh boy progressed from our fourths and got a couple of senior games late in 1979. But his 1980 year was arguably the best of his career and he very nearly won our goalkicking with his 29 tally second only to Brent Crosswell’s 31. He was also pretty handy in the Grand Final sprint but I reckon after three years of Barassi and a win/loss record that Cale Morton would relate to, he realised a switch to Sheedy’s Bombers was the best way to actually use his pace on the footy field.

100 Anthony McDonald 97-02 104 games A bit like Guy Rigoni in that he didn’t actually play his first game until he was 24, having unsuccessfully tried out at Carlton and Hawthorn. He was a superstar at Old Xavs though, so we gave him a go and the left footer became a pretty handy midfielder who was among our most reliable players during the 98 and 2000 seasons. Along with older brother, Hawthorn No.1 pick Alex and our future captain Junior, the McDonalds became only the third set of three brothers to play 100 games behind the Morwoods and Danihers. No relation to Edenhope’s Tom and Oscar, these ones hailed from a nice farm just outside of Ballarat.

Next week: 61-80

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Nice job there, deespicable.  It's obvious that you've put a lot of time and effort into this.

As you're no doubt aware, you'll never please everybody with these sort of lists but I can't say I have any quibbles with your first 20 players, other than to note that Brock McLean is the nephew, not the son of Ricky.

Looking forward to future instalments.

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Interesting that you don't rate Frank Davis - Premiership player, captain and one of the most reliable defenders the Demons ever fielded. To not rate Barry Burke is even weirder. Once again, premiership player, Victorian player - on a wing - a man who gave his heart and soul, who finished his career as a very distinguished Backman. Ya can't win em all, I suppose.

Also, I never rated Graeme Osborne: yep he was quick, he could get the ball, but inevitably - like Do Tyson -  he'd pass it directly to an opposition player: a Turnover King, if you like. 

It is an interesting exercise though, the kind of thing a seventy year old with insomnia because he's had an AFD does...For example, I read max's book last night. 

Edited by dieter
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I dont know if it is correct or not (probably not) but I was told that our brains trust asked Kelvin Templeton to hop on one leg to prove he had got over his dodgy knee. And he hopped on the other foot.

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1 hour ago, chook fowler said:

Barry Bourke would be in the top 50. Has to rank higher than Dom Tyson and most of the others in the list. 

If you're taking it from 1972 then probably not, he was in his last couple of seasons.

If you are talking his whole career, then most definitely he would rank higher than probably any on that list.

Same with Frank Davis...

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6 hours ago, dieter said:

Interesting that you don't rate Frank Davis - Premiership player, captain and one of the most reliable defenders the Demons ever fielded. To not rate Barry Burke is even weirder. Once again, premiership player, Victorian player - on a wing - a man who gave his heart and soul, who finished his career as a very distinguished Backman. Ya can't win em all, I suppose.

Also, I never rated Graeme Osborne: yep he was quick, he could get the ball, but inevitably - like Do Tyson -  he'd pass it directly to an opposition player: a Turnover King, if you like. 

It is an interesting exercise though, the kind of thing a seventy year old with insomnia because he's had an AFD does...For example, I read max's book last night. 

The ratings were specifically from 1972 (as explained in the intro) when BB and FD were well past their primes.  

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Excellent thread deespicable. The one thing that got me from your 81-100 was Stephen Icke. I thaught he was a great player and prbably in my top 50. But it is all opinions and an great read.

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Nice work @Deespicable.

Love some of your selections.  Sean Charles was definitely a favorite of mine and like Jurrah, it's just such a shame we never got to see them over a more sustained period.  If rating on tallent alone, I'm sure Charles would have pushed far higher than he is in your list, but I'm assuming you've taken the players overall impact and contribution to the team within the era that they played, and that's fine.

Also like the inclusion of Col Garland.  He was much berated here by some, but I always thought he did a pretty solid job in an era where where our backline was constantly under pressure and copping a hammering.  Was also possibly under sized for the role he was often asked to play, but would often stand up and perform above his weight IMHO.  The other notable performance he put in as a forward was kicking multiple goals (was it 4 or 5?) in one if our few wins for the season against Essendon (whom I often thought were our bunnies in that era).  Quite impressed overall by the detail you've put in and you have either a great memory, have done a fair bit of research or a bit of both.

Keep them comming and I'm looking forward as it gets towards the pointy end.

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4 hours ago, Rodney (Balls) Grinter said:

Also like the inclusion of Col Garland.  He was much berated here by some, but I always thought he did a pretty solid job in an era where where our backline was constantly under pressure and copping a hammering.  Was also possibly under sized for the role he was often asked to play, but would often stand up and perform above his weight IMHO.  The other notable performance he put in as a forward was kicking multiple goals (was it 4 or 5?) in one if our few wins for the season against Essendon (whom I often thought were our bunnies in that era).  Quite impressed overall by the detail you've put in and you have either a great memory, have done a fair bit of research or a bit of both.

My AV is both a reference to TISM and Colin Garland (in that the latter's nickname was Humphrey when he first arrived at the club). So I definitely have a soft spot for him. This means that what I write next is a crack at him.

I think @Deespicablehit the nail on the head when he mentioned about Col not having the support around him to make a decent fist of his career. I view him in some ways as a victim similar to the two Jacks of how we developed our players (albeit they both had their careers cut short by it while Col nearly played 150 games). 

I felt that Col would drop his head a bit when momentum started to turn. I distinctly remember a QB game in 2015 against Collingwood when the Pies started getting on top and him sitting in the goal square with his head in his hands. Heritier Lumumba had to literally drag him up to get him ready for the next bounce. It showed me how far away we were in terms of the mindset of a successful club. 

I don't necessarily blame Col for that. He might have been a 200 plus gamer had Bails stuck around as I think he was the type of nurturing coach he needed (albeit the rest of the club was toxic). However, 186 pretty much burnt that idea to the ground. He then had 1 and a half years of Neeld and the 'reality bus' era which would shatter anyone's confidence. By the time Roosy had become coach, Col's career was nearly over.

Really sad stuff and a good reminder how ruthless AFL can be.

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On 12/27/2021 at 8:03 PM, rjay said:

If you're taking it from 1972 then probably not, he was in his last couple of seasons.

If you are talking his whole career, then most definitely he would rank higher than probably any on that list.

Same with Frank Davis...

Whether they were in their last seasons or not, they were great Melbourne players, both represented Victoria, both played in Premiership and Graeme Osborne was not worth one of their bootlaces.

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41 minutes ago, dieter said:

Whether they were in their last seasons or not, they were great Melbourne players, both represented Victoria, both played in Premiership and Graeme Osborne was not worth one of their bootlaces.

Agree Dieter.

Also it is interesting how ANB has in virtually  in ONE  season of excellence and leadership forced himself IMHO into this list.

Also proves the point how culture is so important in that he ( and others) from our current list ( and youngsters recently coming into the system) are going to be able to be judged having that advantage..

Graeme Osborne, Russell  Richards, Jack Trengove Jack Grimes Colin Sylvia and many others did not have the advantage of the elite culture our Club  has created in 2021, that Nibbler helped create and quite rightly should be so proud of his efforts and improvement this season. 

Really the question is who would you pick in the team in 1972 ( and now)  in your team ?

Barry Bourke, Frank Davis or Graeme Osborne in defence ? Or Osborne or Bourke in attack?.

The requirement of say 80 to 100 games from 1972 on is logical but ultimately ability etc. should be the final determinant for selection.

Incidentally Jonesy and Lord Nev are favoured in this selection process by length of service and sustained excellence over nearly a decade  or much more. 

Is Nev more worthy of selection or going to be judged higher than Christian Salem? 

That's why the rest of this post is going to be so interesting and maybe polarising..

Perhaps a Team of the last 50 years (1972-2021) should be chosen once the 100 players have been listed.  It will inevitably make a huge comparison with our team of the Century which is loaded quite rightly with players mostly from the Glory Years of the 50's and 60's and our 1939-41 and 1948 premiership teams.

We await the next 80 players with interest and excitement. Over to you Deespicable. 

 

 

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Love these threads. Thought Rigoni was a bit too low he was a gun until he done his back. A better player than Trengove, Nicholson, Tyson and McLean. McLean far too high. Had a good finals series in 2006 and that's about it was stuffed after he did his ankle. Other than that great job. 

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Just like Mike Sheahan's Top 50, these lists will always be open to debate. Attended my first Dees game in 1972, so at least I can say I saw all of them play.

The biggest headscratcher so far is Tony Elshaug at 99. He represented the Big V whilst at Melbourne, and was a very good footballer. I'd rate him ahead of almost all those ranked 81-98.

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On 12/29/2021 at 2:03 AM, WERRIDEE said:

Love these threads. Thought Rigoni was a bit too low he was a gun until he done his back. A better player than Trengove, Nicholson, Tyson and McLean. McLean far too high. Had a good finals series in 2006 and that's about it was stuffed after he did his ankle. Other than that great job. 

McLean was fourth in a rising star, third in a B+F, 10th and then 2nd in a B+F from 14 games.  For two or three seasons he was the heartbeat of the side, with James McDonald, and then he was traded for a first round draft pick.  Very good player at his best and then placed in a Carlton B+F as well.

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    With Covid 19 ravaging the club, forcing the absence of five players from last week and some more premiership players still sidelined or returning after isolating, it was certainly a depleted Melbourne side that turned up to front Hawthorn in their Round 7 match up at the MCG. Normally, when a team loses ¼ of its soldiers, you would expect a less than favourable result but after the Hawks opened up a 2 goal lead in the opening minutes (and indeed, it could have been more) the Demon machine

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    Match Reports

    NO COMEBACKS by The Oracle

    Q:  How do the Hawks come back after being 32-0 early, leading at every interval and then conceding nine goals in the last quarter to lose to the Swans by 41 points in the comfort and safety of their second home down in Launceston? A:  If they’re playing the Demons at the G off a five-day break, there are no comebacks. They simply won’t come back! That’s the short form preview of the Melbourne v Hawthorn match up at the Home of Football this weekend. That is not to dismiss the you

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    Match Previews 1

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