Essendon’s Round 1 performance was one of the hardest to read of any club, making them a tough team to get a read on ahead of the AFL’s June 11 restart.
Bill Hutchinson is one of Essendon’s all-time greats, but in 2019 he’s likely to lose his spot on the list of the AFL’s top 100 game players.
Hutchinson started his career with the Bombers in 1942 and was always destined for greatness, playing 11 games, kicking five goals and playing on the half forward flank in the club’s first premiership for 19 years.
It was the start of the halcyon days for Essendon as he joined his great mate Dick Reynolds to play alongside him in every finals series for ten of the next 12 seasons. In 1949 they were joined by the mercurial John Coleman and roared away with the next two flags, beating Carlton in 1949 by more than 12 goals and following up in 1950 with another convincing victory, this time over North Melbourne by more than six goals.
With Coleman missing the 1951 final series, the Bombers fell short by 11 points in the big one. That was the end of their magnificent run.
Although Coleman played on until 1954 and Hutchinson until 1957, Reynolds had effectively retired at the end of 1950 and played just the one comeback game in 1951 – the grand final. It was a magnificent time for the Essendon faithful to have three of their greatest-ever champions on the field at the one time and see them play in three constitutive grand finals together for two wins and one loss.
Bill Hutchinson played his whole career under the coaching of Dick Reynolds and is second on the list of players with the most games under the one coach – Collingwood’s Gordon Coventry holds that particular record. During Hutchinson’s 16 years at Essendon, Reynolds was unavailable as coach for eight of his games, meaning he coached him for 282 games.
When Reynolds retired as a player, Hutchinson took over as captain and led the club for the next seven years. He won the best and fairest award seven times during his 16-year career and was runner-up on two other occasions. He also won the best clubman award.
He won the Brownlow Medal in 1953 as a 30-year-old after losing the 1952 medal to Richmond’s Roy Wright on countback. Sadly, by the time the AFL amended the rules to award Brownlow medals to all those who finished on equal votes, he had passed away at the age of 59 and therefore was not aware of his second win. In 1989, when the retrospective medals were awarded, he was the only winner not alive at the time of the decision.
As a goal kicker, he won Essendon’s goal-kicking stakes in 1948 and was ten times a runner-up. He was third in 1954, and he twice booted seven goals and twice six goals in games in the 1940s.
Even today Coleman (3), Hutchinson (5) and Reynolds (8) all command positions in the Bombers top eight goal scorers despite having been born over 90 years ago.
Bill Hutchinson may drop out of the top 100 AFL game players in 2019, 62 years after he played his last game, but his place in Bombers football history will live well into the 22nd century as a champion player, goal scorer and all-round good bloke.