Come on, Liam Baker!
A recent tweet from Hawthorn Football Club alerted me to the fact that their first great champion, Alec Albiston would have turned 101 years old on November 16th.
Now, I have watched AFL/VFL football for a long time but I was only three years old when he retired after playing one season at North Melbourne so have no memory of him playing.
However, as a stats nut, I was well aware of his achievements and considered it timely to acknowledge his part in the game.
There is a real possibility that he may drop out of the AFL/VFL top 100 goal kickers in 2019, 84 seasons after he played his first game.
Albiston was a member of a footballing family in Kew that included older brother Harold who played one game at Collingwood before joining Alec in his debut year at Hawthorn and much younger brother Ken who had successful stints at both Richmond and Melbourne.
His nephew (Harold’s son) David played for the home team Hawthorn in the 1960s and feature in a Grand Final loss – a far cry from the dark days of Alec’s time.
A lightly built rover who weighed only 72.5kg and stood 175cm, Alec served the club well in his time at the Hawks (then the Mayblooms) winning the Best and Fairest in 1941 and 1946 whilst missing the 1943 and 1944 years due to his service in the RAAF.
Whilst still a Corporal in the Air Force in 1945, he won his fourth leading goalkicker award. In 1940 he became the first Hawthorn player to kick 10 goals in a game and – ironically – it was against the club that he finished his career at North Melbourne.
An amazingly durable player, he never missed a game due to injury during his career and captain-coached the Hawthorn Football Club for three years from 1947-49.
In 1950 – because of his lack of success as a coach, winning only 12 of the 57 games he coached the club for – he fully expected to no longer be the coach in 1950 but a committee member had promised him that he would still be captain.
The irony continued as the new coach Bob McCaskill had made his name as coach of North Melbourne.
As the first coach to coach for over 100 games at the Shinboners (as the Kangaroos were then known) – and having taken them to the finals in 1945, he expressed interest in coaching Hawthorn.
Wanting change, McCaskill changed the Hawthorn jumper from brown with a gold vee to brown and gold vertical stripes and wanted Kevin Curran as captain. This caused great acrimony with Alec Albiston and his best mate, Col Austen the reigning Brownlow medallist.
The committee sided with McCaskill and both players were given open clearances; Albiston to North Melbourne and Austen to Richmond.
Still, the irony continued: With the loss of the two best players, Hawthorn failed to win a game and Albiston – although only playing seven games at his new club – played in five winning sides equalling the most number of wins that he had ever achieved in his 12 seasons at Hawthorn.