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The greatest key forward combinations of the modern era

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Roar Rookie
6 days ago
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Richmond fans are salivating at the prospect of watching Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch playing together, while West Coast supporters ponder how destructive Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling would be if they stayed injury free.

So I thought it was worth reflecting on the great full forward – centre half forward combinations of the last 40 years.

Jason Dunstall and Dermott Brereton

Number of premierships won together: 4

Arguments for
Dunstall and Brereton both performed when it mattered most – in grand finals. Brereton kicked eight goals in the 1985 grand final (only bettered by Gary Ablett and Gordon Coventry), while Dunstall kicked six in the ’86 grand final on one the greatest defenders of all time in Bruce Doull.

Between them, they kicked 12 in the ’88 grand final and ten in the ’91 grand final.

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Dunstall was known for kicking straight and tackling pressure, Brereton for his aggression.

Argument against
Many would argue their success was mainly driven by playing in one of the greatest teams of all time in an era when equalisation measures were in their infancy.

They got silver-spoon service from a star-studded midfield who had Brownlow medalists, Robert DiPierdomenico John Platten, dual-Norm Smith medalist Gary Ayres and other highly acclaimed footballers such as Gary Buckenara, Peter Schwab, and Terry Wallace.

Tony Lockett and Stewart Loewe

Number of premierships won together: 0

Arguments for
Few pairs of forwards dominated the home and away season like these two did during the early ‘90s.

Lockett won the Brownlow in 1987 and was sixth in 1991 despite only playing 17 games. Loewe came fourth in 1992.

They had the rare distinction of being named as the full forward and centre half-forward combination in the ’91 All-Australian team.

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They repeated the achievement in ’92, except Lockett was in the forward pocket instead of full forward.

Arguments against
For all their consistency when playing together they only led St Kilda into the finals on two occasions. Loewe couldn’t kick straight until the later stages of his career, while Lockett missed a lot of football through suspension.

Alastair Lynch and Jonathan Brown

Number of premierships won together: 3

Arguments for
In the five seasons they played together (2000-2004) Brisbane played in four consecutive grand finals, yielding three premierships. Each won mark of the year 13 years apart.

Brisbane Lions player Jonathan Brown is assisted from the field

Jonathan Brown retired in 2014. (Photo: Patrick Hamilton/AFL Media)

They were both included in Mike Sheahan’s top 50 players of the past 25 years published in 2015.

Arguments against
The 13-year age gap between the two meant Brown hit his peak after Lynch had retired. Their All-Australian years were 14 years apart.

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We never got to see the two of them playing together at their peak.

It could be argued Brisbane’s premiership success was built on the back of one the greatest midfields, which had three Brownlow medalists, rather than their forwards.

Lance Franklin and Jarryd Roughead

Number of premierships won together: 2

Arguments for
Two contrasting forwards who led Hawthorn to their first premiership in 17 years (2008), and won another five years later.

The huge leap and strong hands of Roughead complemented the speed, athleticism and mercurial skills of Franklin.

They combined for a total of 188 goals in 2008 and each took turns at winning the Coleman medal during their two premiership years.

Arguments against
It could be argued that a lot of their best football came after Franklin left for Sydney. Roughhead went on to win two more flags and another All-Australian selection.

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Franklin won a further four All-Australian selections playing for Sydney.

Jarryd Roughead and Lance Franklin of the Hawks celebrate with the Premiership Cup.

Were Franklin and Roughead the greatest pairing ever? (Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Honourable mentions

Wayne Carey and John Longmire
Across six seasons (1990 to 1995) Longmire kicked 464 goals, and Carey 304.

Gary Ablett and Barry Stoneham
In the few seasons they played as the Cats’ keys, they were unstoppable. You still wonder what Geelong might have achieved had they snuck into the finals in 1993.

Verdict

It’s difficult comparing forward combination from different eras given the game and its style of play has evolved so much. Each of them was the best during their era and played a brand of football that best suited their time.

However, if I was forced to pick one, I would pick Lynch and Brown. They experienced premiership success, won individual accolades, performed consistently as well as producing the spectacular.

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