Australian poet Les Murray once said he had never seen a decent poet who actually looked like a poet. It’s amazing how many champion footballers don’t look like footballers.
To that group add those players who don’t look good enough to be playing, those with extreme eccentricities, and those who fail to fulfil their potential and you have: The Unlikely All Stars:
BP: STAN MAGRO: actually an excellent back pocket player who represented Victoria. Unfortunately he’s here because he was short and bandy-legged. Also I can’t get the footage of Kevin Bartlett waltzing around him on the boundary in the 1980 Grand Final out of my head.
FB: STEPHEN SILVAGNI: Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the Fullback of the Century, a great overhead mark and an exceptional goal kicker doing in this team?” Well, the answer is long sleeves and bow legs.
BP: JAKE KING: On a football ground, as on a fashion catwalk, short legs are not a good look. Much of what this grim-faced waddler and push-up guru does isn’t pleasant viewing but he is deceptively quick, has excellent goal sense, and is a brutal defender. Being fearless with a diminutive frame comes at a cost. In 2012 he broke a wrist and fractured a cheekbone, and he is currently recovering from operations on a broken foot and hand, a strained knee and a torn groin. Will he survive to add to his 87 games?.
HB: MICHAEL TUCK: Who could believe a man who looked like this would be the all time games record holder and one of the best players ever? He started out at 60 kgs and eventually “filled out” to become a massive 74kgs. Stick-thin, and he wore long sleeves of course.
CHB: DUSTIN FLETCHER: What right did a skinny school kid have winning a premiership in his first year? And how can a man who still looks like a skinny child at 37 years of age be on the verge of breaking Essendon’s all time games record and be considered one of the greatest defenders in the game’s history? Did I mention he is a redhead?
HB: BRUCE DOULL: This halfback flanker had 356 games, 5 premierships, 4 best and fairest awards, bad hair, an awful beard, and a dreadful headband; and was once seen running away from a female streaker.
C: TERRY KEAYS: a Collingwood wunderkind debuting as a 16 year old in 1987. Although strongly built and naturally gifted he never really established himself at the Pies or later at Richmond.
HF: BRETT HEADY: an afterthought in the 1989 Draft, Heady developed into a potent attacking player in West Coast’s premiership teams in the ’90s. Looked like a bellboy though.
CHF: ALLEN JAKOVICH: An extrovert who kicked 209 mainly brilliant goals – and missed almost as many – from just 54 games. The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long. Jakovich only lasted four and a half seasons.
HF: NATHAN ABLETT: Retired at 21 years of age after kicking three goals in the 2007 Grand Final, citing a desire for a normal life. Returned to the AFL with the Gold Coast four years later but was delisted. Suns coach Guy McKenna explained that he was too slow and that the game had passed him by. We’ll never know if his premature retirement cost the game a superstar.
FP:TED HOPKINS: A true Renaissance man. Hopkins – who looked like a poet, and was one – was a junior water skiing champion, a park ranger and an economics graduate. More importantly, he was the professional bench warmer with poor eyesight who somehow kicked four goals in the famous Carlton comeback against Collingwood in the 1970 Grand Final.
Football, as it turned out, wasn’t the most successful of his many pursuits. He was also obsessed with, and brilliant at, collating and interpreting statistics and went on to found Champion Data and the data analysis and consulting company TedSport. It’s a shame he didn’t also dabble in optometry, as a pair of contact lenses may have enhanced his on-field performances.
FF:WARWICK CAPPER: No explanation required.
FP:KEVIN BARTLETT: A decade after being undone by a poet/water skier/statistician, Collingwood would be destroyed in a grand final by a chap with a comb over and a lace up jumper. This John Howard-Dick Smith lookalike kicked 7 goals in the 1980 decider to win the last of his 5 premierships. He would later become an Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend.
FOLL:MICK NOLAN: The “galloping gasometer” couldn’t see his feet for his enormous stomach but knew where his rovers were. A great tap ruckman and an important player in North Melbourne’s first premiership in 1975.
LEIGH MATTHEWS: The great man needs no introduction but the AFL’s official greatest player of all time did look, at best, like a porn film extra, or at worst a (pre Bunnings) hardware store proprietor.
TONY SHAW: The Danny Devito of the AFL. Short, plump, slow as a wet week, and struggled to kick further than thirty metres but the 1990 Norm Smith Medallist was strong, tough, and clever.
INT: PETER “CRACKERS” KEENAN: A real character who appeared to have no teeth.
MARK “JACKO” JACKSON: A possible madman who definitely had no teeth.
RONNY WEARMOUTH: with the worst hair (even for the ’70s) and his rodent-like features Wearmouth just pips John “The Rat” Platten.
JADE RAWLINGS: A player who failed to fulfil his promise, or just an ordinary player?
COACH: ALLAN JEANS: I had to choose between Jeans, a former policeman who often wore a raincoat, and John Kennedy, a former school principal who also wore a raincoat. Both were great coaches, but Jeans was shorter.
Unfortunately no wingmen have come to mind so post any suggestions you might have.