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AFL top 100: Hawthorn's Ron Nalder

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Roar Rookie
11th February, 2019
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I wonder if former Hawk Ron Nalder, who turns 80 in September this year, took any interest in the team selections at Hawthorn leading up to the finals last year.

If he did, I wonder whether he knew or cared about the threat Ryan Schoenmakers’s inclusion in the team made to his position as a member of Hawthorn’s elite top-100 game-players of all time.

Schoenmakers played the first two games of the year, came back in Round 18 and played every game left in the home-and-away season but missed the qualifying final against Richmond before returning for the semi-final against Melbourne in which he played his 121st game for the Hawks.

That game took him to level on the games-played list with ‘Darky’ Nadler in 100th position – the hot seat – so his next game for the Hawks will see the departure of Nadler from this group.

Nicknamed ‘Darky’ because of his black hair and dark complexion, Nalder hailed from the central Victorian town of Maryborough and arrived at the club in 1959 at the age of 19. Despite being about to lose his top-100 status, Nalder remains an immortal at the club as he played in the Hawthorn’s first premiership win in 1961, albeit as 19th man, and followed this up two years later by being among the team’s best players in their 49-point loss to Geelong in his best year at the club, 1963, in which he kicked 17 of his career total of 44 goals.

A good-sized utility at 178 centimetres and 76 kilograms, he played all of his football between the half forward and half back lines, including many games in the centre. In 1959 and 1960, his first two years at the club, he wore jumper No.33, but his worth was soon noted and he was awarded jumper No.3 for the remainder of his career.

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Nalder became a top-100 player because of his durability. Between the watershed years bookended by the start of the careers of two of the club’s greatest-ever champions, Graham Arthur (1955) and David Parkin (1961), only one other player of the 58 recruited played more games than Ron ‘Darky’ Nalder, and that was Scotch College recruit Colin Youren, who started his career one year earlier than Nalder in 1958 and, like Nalder, played for eight years, amassing 135 games as a wingman and emulating Darky’s achievement of one winning and one losing grand final. Youren still sits at No.84 on the Hawthorn all-time games-played list.

Ironically, the next two players who could have become top-100 players in 2019 both departed the club at the end of 2018: Ex-Murray Bushranger Taylor Duryea, who was a dual premiership player at the Hawks, opted for the extra security of a two-year deal offered by the Western Bulldogs over the one-year deal offered by the Hawks, and ex-Queenslander and crowd favourite Brendan Whitecross, who missed those two grand finals due to injury and was later delisted. Duryea needed only three more games to equal Nalder, whereas Whitecross would have required ten more games.

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In what would amount to a footballing miracle, if ex-Saint Ben McEvoy managed to play every game in 2019, including four weeks of finals, he too would be looking at joining the elite top-100 game-players at the Hawks.