JOHNNO: Scott West in the Hall of Fame – now it’s time for that flag

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    Until half an hour before it happened, I had no idea that one of my best mates was about to make it into the AFL Hall of Fame.

    Driving home listening to the radio, I heard Tony Jones mention seeing Scott West and his family arriving at the induction ceremony in Canberra.

    I left ‘Westy’ a voicemail and got on the phone to another former teammate, Rohan Smith. We were absolutely pumped for him.

    At the Western Bulldogs, the three of us wore numbers 5, 6, and 7, and sat next to each other in the locker room every day for a decade and a half.

    But our friendship began in my first year, when I followed Westy around for so long that he was basically forced to become my mate.

    My first pre-season was at the end of 1993, and Westy had arrived as a senior player the year before. I knew who he was, having sat as a spectator to watch him kick six goals at the Whitten Oval against Essendon.

    I remember sitting down with our coach Terry Wheeler, and he pointed me in Westy’s direction. As a younger player you hang around with the guys of your age, but Scott was already setting a standard with his training and intensity.

    His hands were unbelievable; they were so good. In the early days, it was great playing on the wing next to Westy, because you always knew where it was going to go. He was the one doing the grunt work on a weekly basis.

    Westy didn’t get the crowd’s attention, but he was so skilful in the way that he worked with the ruckman. He was the clearance architect for so many years; every time you ran back for a centre bounce it was Westy setting everything up.

    Admittedly we used to have a bit of fun reminding him he wasn’t the longest kick going around. The thing was, he was extremely accurate, meaning he was effective by foot over 30 to 40 metres. That’s still the most important area in footy today.

    Westy was undervalued in the early part of his career, as so many midfielders were. It really wasn’t until behind-the-goals footage came along that people began to appreciate how hard the top midfielders run. These days we’ve got the GPS to back it up.

    Scott’s great attribute, though, was consistency. The coaches rated most of his games as at least seven or eight out of ten, and almost never below five.

    That’s why, of his 324 games, he had 25 possessions or more in 194 of them.

    That’s why he won seven best-and-fairests, five All-Australian jumpers, and just missed out on a couple of Brownlows, polling 175 votes in his career.

    We used to roll up to best-and-fairest night just waiting to listen to Westy have another go at an acceptance speech.

    The only thing missing from that CV is a premiership, and that’s something that everyone from our team feels the loss of. I would so much have loved to have stood up there with Westy on that final day of the season.

    It still hurts him – he said as much in his Hall of Fame interview. Scott was always intense about the contest.

    He was an outstanding basketballer, but even with badminton or table tennis during recovery sessions, anyone who turned up to play knew it would be hard fought.

    But he was also the ultimate team man. In the first year we did a team-building exercise at his mum and dad’s house in Essendon – a 19 year old opening up his house to a whole team. From then on, he would open his door to any player throughout his career.

    Teams need to grow together as a group. Westy emphasised this when the club was down, so when we did turn the corner and start playing some really good footy again, we were a tight-knit group of guys who would do anything for each other.

    When I was captain, Scott was the one I would go regularly to ask for input. He was so attuned to what players needed at what time – whether that meant a challenge or a bit of fun, whether we should pick up training on a certain aspect or relax for a little while.

    He’s taken that into his coaching as well, doing great things at Werribee. I’m confident that in 12 months he’ll be coaching in the AFL system.

    I look back – at Scott, at Rohan, at Chris Grant – and think, that’s who I learned the game from as teammates. Quality people, not just quality players. Those guys gave everything, not only to improve themselves but to improve those around them.

    So to Westy: it’s an amazing achievement, and well and truly deserved. The next step for you is to be a senior coach one day, you’ve got the right attributes to take a club forward and search for that flag.

    It’s just a shame the induction wasn’t in Melbourne so we could enjoy a quiet beverage to celebrate.

    Brad Johnson
    Brad Johnson

    Six-time All-Australian Brad Johnson is a former Western Bulldogs captain, Team of the Century member, and played a record 364 games for the club. He now commentates for Fox Footy and writes for The Roar.

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