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The Roar


AFL top 100: Brian McGowan and Darren Jolly

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22nd February, 2019

The long and short of it is Brian McGowan stood at only 165 centimetres when he played for South Melbourne as a second rover behind triple Brownlow Medallist Bob Skilton, whereas Darren Jolly was an extremely athletic 197-centimetre ruckman who played for Sydney.

Despite the latter playing for only five years, he featured in enoguh games to join Sydney’s elite top-100 game players.

Originally from Murray River town Barham in New South Wales, Brian McGowan started at the Swans in 1955 but played just one game, in Round 13, against Fitzroy, scoring one goal. He missed the whole of the 1956 season – the year Skilton arrived at the club – but announced his arrival in Round 1, 1957, with a four-goal performance against St Kilda.

For the remainder of his career McGowan played second fiddle to Skilton and spent long periods camped in the forward pocket, where he used his speed and agility to become a valuable goal sneak, regularly scoring multiple goals, included hauls of seven (1959) and six (1961). In 1961 he scored goals in 17 of the 18 games he played, missing out in Round 16 against Footscray, and won the Swans goal-kicking award with 38 goals.

Even today his tally of 171 goals has him placed 31st on the club’s all-time top-100 goal scorers list, so although his top-100 game player status may be lost to Jake Lloyd early in 2019, his top-100 goal scorer status will not be threatened for decades to come.

Acknowledged as the shortest player in the league at that time, McGowan was also a trend setter, being the first player to wear a bicycle helmet on the field in 1963, his final year at the club. In 1964 he moved to South Australian team Glenelg, winning the club’s best and fairest in 1965 and their goal kicking award in 1966 before retiring at the end of the 1967 season while captain.


The Swans were not successful during his nine years there, and although he played in every one of the 18 games available to him in his last five years, he was unable to boost his game tally by even one final. This provides another sharp contrast between him and his fellow hot-seat companion Darren Jolly.

Darren Jolly was at the Swans for only five years, but his total number of games for the club included ten finals and he played at least 22 games in every year from 2005 to 2009, including the 2005 grand final win.

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Originally from Lexton, he played for the North Ballarat Rebels before starting his AFL career at Melbourne in 2001. After four years at the Demons in which he played 48 games, he was traded to Sydney, where he proved to be an outstanding success.

In 2010 Jolly returned to Victoria to play for Collingwood and was again rewarded with a premiership in the first of his four years at the club. In total he played 71 games for the Magpies, and his AFL career finished in 2013 with a total of 237 games, including 22 finals, and 122 goals.

His best year at Collingwood was his first, in which he played 26 games and kicked 24 goals, the best games and goals tally of his career.