The Roar
The Roar


Why 1980 was year zero for our modern game

Roar Pro
20th August, 2014
1091 Reads

The year 1980 was a year in football that has reverberated massively right through to this day.

In particular, the Richmond football club that won the premiership that year has turned out to be arguably the most influential in VFL-AFL history, boasting names that wield enormous influence in footy even 34 years later.

Moreover, Jan 1980 began a four year and eight month period that gave us most of our Brownlow medalists and Norm Smith medalists of recent years.

Let’s start with the Richmond football club of 1980. The team that took the field included Mick Malthouse, Robert Wiley, Emmett Dunne, Geoff Raines, David Cloke, and Kevin Bartlett. Malthouse’s influence, as one of the longest serving coaches in AFL-VFL history, needs no elaboration here.

Alongside him, Robert Wiley is currently Director of Development and Coaching at Carlton. Emmett Dunne still serves on the AFL tribunal going forward in 2014. Geoff Raines and David Cloke both have sons who have played AFL footy in 2014, for Brisbane and Collingwood respectively.

Bartlett has wielded ongoing influence as a member of the AFL Rules Committee until 4 March 2014 and he remains a well-known radio commentator.

But the influence of the 1980 Richmond club does not end there – 1980 saw the arrival at Richmond of Brian Taylor.

He played just one senior game that year, and didn’t make the premiership team. He has, however, gone on to become arguably the most controversial television commentator of the modern period.

And let’s not forget Sheeds.


Everybody knows about his coaching career with Essendon and GWS, fewer realise that Sheeds, in his first year of retirement, was an assistant coach to Tony Jewell in Richmond’s 1980 premiership year.

Now reach for your record books. In recent years, the Brownlow medal and Norm Smith medal have been awarded predominantly to veterans. Consequently, a relatively short period of four and three quarter year period has given us nine out of the past ten Norm Smith medallists and ten out of the last eleven Brownlow medalists.

The period starts on 8 Jan 1980, when Adam Goodes was born, and finishes on 30 Sept 1985, when Adam Cooney was born. In between these dates, the following other Norm Smith medallists or Brownlow medallists were born:

Lenny Hayes , 14 January 1980
Ryan O’Keefe , 24 January 1981
Andrew Embley, 27 June 1981
Paul Chapman, 5 November 1981
Brian Lake, 27 February 1982
Steve Johnson, 4 July 1983
Chris Judd, 8 Sept 1983
James Bartel, 4 December 1983
Dane Swan, 25 Feb 1984
Gary Ablett, 14 May 1984
Luke Hodge, 15 June 1984
Jobe Watson, 8 Feb 1985

Only the 2010 Norm Smith medallist, Scott Pendlebur,y and 2005 Brownlow medallist, Ben Cousins fall, outside the age bracket.

So are there any other AFL stars from the same age bracket who haven’t won a Norm Smith or Brownlow medal?

Current trends suggest you could tip a veteran like Matthew Pavlich (born 31 December 1981) or Sam Mitchell (born 12 October 1982) for the 2014 Norm Smith medal, and Aaron Sandilands (born 6 December 1982) or Nick Riewoldt (born 17 October 1982) for the Brownlow.

And let’s see what influential people the year 2014 brings forth for footy for the next 34 years.