“Jesaulenko, you beauty.” Mike Williamson’s classic commentary is almost as famous as the mark that inspired it.
When Alex Jesaulenko leapt for the ball during the 1970 VFL grand final, he encapsulated all that is good about the Australian game.
He emphasised its three dimensional aspect. This was not a game confined to the length and width of its playing field. It was a game that could soar and utilise the space above its grassy ovals.
Jezza didn’t invent the speccy, but television immortalised it. It remains a perfect example of balance, judgement, poise and athleticism.
Following in the footsteps of near mythical names such as Bob Pratt and John Coleman, Jezza was just one of many to thrill fans with his high flying ability.
Many claim that Jezza’s mark is the best ever and it is hard to argue against. It was a clean leap that sat him squarely on the shoulders of Graeme ‘Jerker’ Jenkin and it happened on the biggest stage football has – the MCG on grand final day.
What I like about Jezza’s mark is that it is a classic one on one contest. No big ugly packs providing extra lift or obscuring the aesthetics, just one man sitting on top of another.
Using this as a pre-requisite I have attempted to rate the top five one on one high marks since 1980.
Now undoubtedly I am going to miss some, so I am relying on my fellow Roarers to nominate their own favourites (and post links) and also to pass judgement on my own selections.
Remember though it must be one on one, be from 1980 onwards, have extreme elevation and be spectacular.
5 – Warwick Capper (Sydney) sideways grab over Chris Langford (Hawthorn), 1987 Qualifying Final
Despite playing the fool and becoming increasingly annoying, Warwick Capper could play football. He was an aerialist of the highest order and any number of his grabs could have been short listed.
This was the most memorable however and makes it onto the list at number five.
Langford was a champion defender for the Hawks but on this occasion Capper had the drop on him. The Swans’ forward flew early and got a good ‘sit’ on Langford, but began to lose his balance.
Eventually, with his whole body positioned horizontally across Langford’s shoulders, Capper managed to snag the ball with his one free arm, before falling to the ground.
It appears approx 12 seconds into the clip.
4 – Stephen Silvagni (Carlton) over Craig Starcevich (Collingwood), round 14, 1988
Nothing is bigger than a Carlton v Collingwood clash at the MCG. The crowd roars from start to finish, but on this day, the roars intensified as Stephen Silvagni launched himself into footy folklore.
The darling of the Magpie faithful, Peter Daicos, had just cleared the back line with a long, hard kick towards centre half forward. Team mate Craig Starcevich found himself waiting under the ball as it came in higher than expected. He provided the perfect launch pad for his Carlton opponent.
Off a couple of short steps, Silvagni leapt vertically to find himself positioned nicely with his right knee firmly planted on Starcevich’s left shoulder. As if suspended above Starcevich’s head, Silvagni clocked up some hang time, before taking a chest mark, toppling over and falling head first into the ground.
It was a huge grab for the man who, eight years later, was controversially named full back of the century by the AFL.
It is approximately 18 seconds into the clip.
3 – Gary Ablett Snr (Geelong) wrecks himself flying over Gary Pert (Collingwood), round 7, 1994
No list of high flyers would be complete without the name G. Ablett Snr featuring somewhere. Ablett was a freak whether the ball was in the air or on the ground.
On his day he had no equal. On this day he brought the house down with a grab that was as difficult as it was spectacular.
Collingwood full back Gary Pert looked to have the ball covered as it tumbled toward him late in the game. But behind him, putting in big, desperate strides was one Gary Ablett.
With a final half step, Ablett leapt, like he had so many times before, and managed to straddle Pert’s shoulder with his legs.
With momentum twisting his body in the air, he began to lose balance. Thrusting out one hand he managed to hook in the football after it had gone past him. The ball ran down his arm and bounced off his chest as he landed flat on his back having twisted 180 degrees during the contest.
A stunned Ablett lay on the ground, the fans were sent into raptures and radio commentator Rex Hunt had an orgasm.
There was some conjecture that the Geelong superstar hadn’t held the ball long enough, but the umpire paid it, and that is all that matters.
It is approximately 1 min and 20 secs into the clip.
2 – Gary Moorcroft (Essendon) has a day out against the Bulldogs including this speccy over The Roar columnist Brad Johnson, round 14, 2001
Gary Moorcroft was on fire. The plucky forward pocket player had already booted five goals before taking this mark deep into the second quarter at Docklands.
Bulldog Brad Johnson led Moorcroft to the ball following a quick kick around the corner by Bomber centre half forward Scott Lucas. The ball carried just a little bit further than expected, causing Johnson to prop.
Moorcroft launched himself, planted his knees high up on Johnson’s back and stretched, arms extended to their limit, fingers searching for the Sherrin.
As Johnson fell forward, Moorcroft extended his legs, pushing off and gaining even more height while taking the ball at full extension.
The footy stuck, and Moorcroft, by now almost horizontal, came crashing back to earth with a thud.
He calmly went back and slotted the goal, giving him six before half time.
It is approximately 15 seconds into the clip.
1 – Andrew Walker (Carlton) hovering over Jake Carlisle (Essendon), round 18, 2011
Not much went right for Essendon during this night match at the MCG and Andrew Walker put the icing on the cake for the Blues with this magnificent leap over young Bomber Jake Carlisle.
Carlisle is not a short man. At 198 cm tall, he is one of Essendon’s key position players, and yet Walker jumped over him with ease, in the process taking a safe, if not spectacular chest mark.
With his head bandaged from a previous war wound, Walker flew like a gazelle, planting a knee on each of Carlisle’s shoulders. He then sat there for awhile, awaiting the arrival of the ball which he cradled safely to his chest, despite being several storeys above ground level.
With the mark completed, he turned slightly to one side, continued on over the head of Carlisle, before crashing back to Earth.
Even the Essendon fans were brought to their feet, a true indication that this was a special moment.
So, there it is Roarers. My top five. What do you think?