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Opinion

The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter D

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Roar Rookie
13th May, 2020
7

After a controversial selection for the C team, we come to the D outfit.

I have to acknowledge Peter the Scribe, who reminded me of a very obvious D that I had missed when first drafting this team. You’ll find him on the half forward flank.

Back line

Roger Dean (Richmond 1957-73)
245 games, 204 goals
The epitome of Richmond spirit for much of his career, Roger Dean was most noted as a back pocket but was thrown forward often enough and with enough positive results that he was named on the half forward flank of the club’s Team of the Century. Resolute and determined, he played in two Tigers flags (1967 and captaining 1969), missing the 1973 flag through loss of form. He responded by captaining the reserves team to the premiership instead before retiring. Dean was a bridge between the old and the new Tigers, being the last active player to have played a game at the old Punt Road Oval before the team relocated in 1965.

David Dench (North Melbourne 1969-84)
275 games, 29 goals
Dench was one of the first attacking fullbacks, using his judgment to make forays down the field and push the Roos into attack. From being appointed captain in 1972 (at 21, he was one of the youngest in club history) to his retirement in 1984 he was a mainstay in defence, playing in both of the club’s premierships in the 1970s, captaining 1977. Dench won four club best-and-fairest awards, and would go on to be named fullback in North’s Team of the Century.

Wally Donald (Footscray 1946-58)
205 games, one goal
Recruited in 1946, Wally Donald played in the midfield to start his career, but shifted back as his career progressed. Forming a famous partnership with fullback Herb Henderson, Donald was a big part of Footscray’s rise to prominence in the early 1950s. Indeed, the team’s 1953 defence was the best to date since Footscray entered the league in 1925 – not just for Footscray, but the league as a whole! He won a club best-and-fairest in 1949 and finished second in three straight years. Donald played in the club’s breakthrough 1954 premiership and captained the club in 1956 after Charlie Sutton’s retirement. Despite playing the majority of his career as a back pocket, Donald was oddly named on the halfback flank in Footscray’s Team of the Century. Interestingly, he is also the only player with two separate streaks of over 100 games without a goal – his solitary major came in game 102.

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Halfback line

Bruce Doull (Carlton 1969-86)
356 games, 22 goals
For the Flying Doormat, it was just as often what he didn’t do as well as what he did that made him a legend. What he didn’t do: promote himself, lose his temper, make mistakes, have a bad game, let his team down. What he did do: win four club best-and-fairest awards, win four premierships, win a Norm Smith Medal in 1981, be named on the halfback flank of both the Carlton and AFL Teams of the Century, take part in the Toyota Memorable Moments commercials being accosted by Helen d’Amico again. Doull was simply a consistent and premier defender in an era covering two great Carlton teams at the start and end of the 1970s.

Bruce Doull

(Photo by Getty Images)

Bert Deacon (Carlton 1942-51)
106 games, seven goals
Alongside Doull in Carlton’s Team of the Century sits centre halfback Bert Deacon, who owns a place in history as the first Brownlow Medallist for the Blues, having won it in 1947. Scrupulously fair and with great anticipation, Deacon would often intercept opponents’ attacks and launch the ball Carlton’s way. He played in the club’s 1945 and 1947 premierships, being noted as one of the few in the former grand final to not get caught up in the atmosphere of the day, preventing opponent Ron Clegg from joining the fracas as well as ensuring he faced the right way for a free kick. After a few years struggling with injury, Deacon played with Preston for a few years before serving as Carlton’s club secretary.

Barry Davis (Essendon 1961-72, North Melbourne 1973-75)
289 games, 119 goals
A fabled name for two clubs, Barry Davis spent over a decade at Essendon as a star on the halfback flank before transferring to North as a result of the ill-fated ten-year rule. Winning premierships in 1962 and 1965, Davis won best-and-fairest awards in 1968-69 and 1971, while at North he won the best-and-fairest in 1973 and 1975 to go with captaining the 1975 premiership. Rarely beaten and often picking up well over 20 touches a game, Davis was named as number 15 on the list of Champions of Essendon, and on the halfback flank of their Team of the Century. He was also named on the bench of North’s Team of the Century. Notably, he was also the coach that made way for Kevin Sheedy at Essendon in 1980.

Centre line

Robert DiPierdomenico (Hawthorn 1975-91)
240 games, 130 goals
Dipper was one of the most popular Hawks on the field, and a larger-than-life character off it, serving as Channel Seven’s boundary rider for a decade after retiring. His on-field record of five premierships, a best-on-ground performance in the 1978 grand final (the year before the Norm Smith Medal was introduced), and a Brownlow Medal in 1986 all serve to show his genuine quality as a player. In the 1989 grand final, he punctured his lung in a collision with Gary Ablett in the first quarter, and still played the game out before spending over a week in hospital. Dipper is a wingman in Hawthorn’s Team of the Century.

Mitch Duncan (Geelong 2010-)
204 games, 149 goals
Mitch Duncan has been a consistent ball-winner for the Cats since being drafted in 2009. Able to push forward and kick the odd handy goal, Duncan hasn’t had the pure individual plaudits that could be expected besides the 2011 premiership (he was the first substitute player to win a medal), but has consistently featured as one of Geelong’s best players over the past decade. For each year since 2013 (besides 2015 when he was injured), Duncan has racked up over 500 possessions and has stepped ably into the hole left by the retirement of Geelong’s great players from the premiership teams.

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Mitch Duncan Geelong Cats AFL 2017

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Brian Dixon (Melbourne 1954-68)
252 games, 41 goals
One of the most prominent members of the great Melbourne sides of the 1950s and 1960s, the only reason Dixon did not join Bluey Adams and Ron Barassi as six-time premiership-winners was that he was dropped for the 1955 flag as a disciplinary measure after playing a University match against the wishes of coach Norm Smith. Dixon was fearless and forever going after the football to deliver forward, not always accurately! He was the first Demon to play 250 games and retired at the end of the season as injuries got the best of him. Interestingly, Dixon spent five years in parliament during his playing career and continued to serve until 1982, when the Liberal Party were voted out of office. He was named on the wing in Melbourne’s Team of the Century.

Ruck line

Jack Dyer (Richmond 1931-49)
312 games, 443 goals
Captain Blood. An inaugural Hall of Fame Legend, Dyer embodied Richmond for two decades as a tough ruckman who was never afraid to put his body on the line to assist his team, and was especially noted for his bruising manner of play. Winning premierships in 1932, 1934 and 1943, Dyer was appointed captain-coach in 1941 and held the position for the rest of his career. Despite his ruthless reputation, he was only suspended once in 19 years. He also won six club best-and-fairests (including four in a row) and eventually the award was named after him. Dyer ‘ere, as his newspaper column was titled, also became well known as a gaffe-prone commentator and columnist. Dyer was named on the interchange bench of the AFL Team of the Century.

Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide 2008-15, Geelong 2016-)
249 games, 284 goals
Dangerfield was already a star during his time at Adelaide, but since returning home to Geelong has lifted his game to even greater heights. Noted for his burst through the middle when collecting the ball, Dangerfield would either slot goals from the 50-metre arc or deliver to a forward in a greater position. He is also capable of shifting forward to impact the scoreboard, using his strong marking skills to provide another target for the team. Named All Australian on seven occasions this decade, Dangerfield won one best-and-fairest with Adelaide and has won three with Geelong as well as the Brownlow Medal in 2016 – he has finished in the top ten of Brownlow counting every year since 2012. Dangerfield still has several years left in his career and should easily add to his list of accolades.

Brett Deledio (Richmond 2005-16, Greater Western Sydney 2017-19)
275 games, 197 goals
Deledio was a pacy midfielder for Richmond, and could shift to the halfback or half forward lines as needed. He won the Rising Star award in his first year, and during Richmond’s poorer years at the turn of the decade he was a consistent star, winning club best-and-fairests in 2008 and 2009. His standing was reinforced when he was appointed vice-captain in 2013, finally playing his first final after 194 games. After the 2016 season, he was traded to GWS in a bid for that elusive premiership, but his body started to catch up with him and he retired at the conclusion of the 2019 season having seen his old team defeat his new one in the grand final. Deledio was also All Australian in 2012 and 2015.

Brett Deledio of the Richmond Tigers

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Half forward line

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Bob Davis (Geelong 1948-58)
189 games, 149 goals
The Geelong Flyer was one of the fastest players in the league throughout the 1950s, and Davis was a regular on the half forward flank not just for the Cats but for the Big V. Davis played in the club’s 1951 and 1952 premierships, and captained the club from 1955 to 1958. He won only one club best-and-fairest award, but was an automatic selection in Geelong’s Team of the Century on the forward flank. Of course, Davis went on to bigger things in the media, just like his fellow D teammate Jack Dyer, being fair dinkum unbelievable for several decades.

Terry Daniher (South Melbourne 1976-77, Essendon 1978-92)
313 games, 469 goals
The only Daniher to make it into this team out of the four brothers and Joe, Terry started his career at South Melbourne before being traded for Neville Fields. Daniher was ever present for the Bombers, winning the 1984 and 1985 premierships as captain and leading the club goal-kicking twice. One of the most popular clubmen for Essendon, Daniher retired after the 1992 season and was named on the half forward flank of the club’s Team of the Century. He was named as the 11th greatest Bomber in club history in 2002.

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Alan Didak (Collingwood 2001-13)
218 games, 274 goals
Alan Didak’s outrageous talent and ability to kick goals from anywhere saw him anointed as the successor to Peter Daicos among the Magpies faithful, and he endured as one of the most popular Collingwood players through most of the past decade. Although sometimes slowed by injury, Didak was able to win a club best-and-fairest in 2006, as well as play in Collingwood’s 2010 flag, leading the club goal-kicking in that year as well. After the premiership injuries started to build and Didak left the club after playing only five games in 2013. Didak was named All Australian twice, in 2006 and 2010.

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Forward line

Peter Daicos (Collingwood 1979-93)
250 games, 549 goals
And speak of the devil! Daicos would attempt kicks for goal that other players wouldn’t dare dream of, and more often than not they would come off. From his debut as a centreman in 1979 to his retirement in 1993, Daicos was one of the most talented players on the field, and won two club best-and-fairests in 1982 and 1988 before Collingwood’s drought-breaking flag in 1990. He led Collingwood’s goal-kicking on five occasions and was named in the Magpies’ Team of the Century as a forward pocket.

Jason Dunstall (Hawthorn 1985-98)
269 games, 1254 goals
In keeping with the efficiency that Hawthorn operated with through the ’80s and ’90s, Dunstall was a consistent and efficient full forward, finishing off the good work his teammates up the field had done. Not a spectacular high flyer, Dunstall was able to find space to lead into and slot home another major. Six times he kicked over 100 goals in a season, including the incredible 1992 season when he managed 145.84. Forward pocket in Hawthorn’s Team of the Century, Dunstall won four Hawthorn best-and-fairests and retired with the third most goals in league history.

Jason Dunstall and Gary Ayres

(Photo by Getty Images)

Allan Davis (St Kilda 1966-75, Melbourne 1976-77, Essendon 1978-79, Collingwood 1980)
250 games, 372 goals
Capable of the spectacular during his career with St Kilda in particular, Allan Davis found his spot in history in his first year, when he was the youngest player in St Kilda’s 1966 flag. Davis could kick the mercurial goal, and twice led St Kilda’s goal-kicking. Later stints at Melbourne, Essendon and Collingwood kept him in the league through to 1980, although he never recaptured his St Kilda glory. Perhaps the most memorable moment of Davis’ career was when he couldn’t be found on the bench at St Kilda… he was chatting to a spectator and eating a Violet Crumble!

Interchange

Peter Dean (Carlton 1984-98)
248 games, 41 goals
Courageous to a fault, Peter Dean was an important part of two premiership sides for the Blues in 1987 and 1995 (although almost as important were his celebrations on the podium!). Never one to say die, he started his career up forward before making his name as a hard-nosed and close-checking defender who never lost sight of his man. Although he never got the external plaudits, he was very well regarded at Princes Park and inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

Nick Dal Santo (St Kilda 2002-13, North Melbourne 2014-16)
322 games, 156 goals
Dal Santo was a hard-running and tough midfielder for the Saints, and would often find himself on the wings, delivering quality ball to the likes of Nick Riewoldt and Fraser Gehrig. As part of one of the strongest midfields of the era, Dal Santo was often overshadowed but rarely put a foot wrong. After leaving St Kilda as a free agent, he gave North good service for three years before retiring once his contract was not renewed.

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North Melbourne Kangaroos player Nick Dal Santo

(AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Gary Dempsey (Footscray 1967-78, North Melbourne 1979-84)
329 games, 144 goals
After only two years in the VFL, Gary Dempsey’s career looked over after he sustained burns to over 50 per cent of his body while fighting bushfires. That he came back is remarkable in itself – that he won a Brownlow Medal in 1975 and spent nearly two decades as one of the best ruckmen in the league is incredible. A brilliant tap ruck who often dropped back to take saving marks in defence, Dempsey won six best-and-fairests at Footscray before leaving to chase a premiership with North. The premiership eluded him, but one more best-and-fairest was won, and Dempsey was named in both clubs’ Teams of the Century as ruck (Footscray) and emergency (North). When he retired in 1984, Dempsey had been awarded the most Brownlow votes of any player in history.

Laurie Dwyer (North Melbourne 1956-70)
201 games, 34 goals
Laurie Dwyer was synonymous with North for half a century – first as a dashing and tough winger who almost won the Brownlow on three occasions as well as winning two club best-and-fairests, then as a runner, recruiter and administrator. Named Twinkle Toes for his ballroom-dancing experience, Dwyer twice recovered from season-missing injuries in 1959 and 1965 with no ill effects the next year. Named on the wing in North’s Team of the Century, Dwyer was part of a Roos family – his father Leo and sons Anthony and David also played for North Melbourne.

Emergencies

Charlie Dibbs (Collingwood 1924-35, Geelong 1936)
223 games, one goal
Dibbs was a fine fullback for Collingwood, taking part in the club’s famous four-peat of 1927-30. Although he started as a rover and was tried up forward (kicking his only goal in his fourth match – his 219 straight goalless games is a record), his anticipation and spoiling ability saving many a Collingwood goal. Towards the end of his career he shifted to the back pocket on the arrival of Jack Regan and played in one last premiership in 1935. Spending one year at Geelong as captain coach, Dibbs is best remembered as a member of the Collingwood machine.

Stuart Dew (Port Adelaide 1997-2006, Hawthorn 2008-09)
206 games, 265 goals
Surprisingly nimble, Stuart Dew developed a reputation as one of the most precise kickers in the league over his time at Port Adelaide. His influence was not often reflected in accolades, but he played an important role in the Power’s 2004 flag and led their goal-kicking in 2002. Dew initially retired in 2006 before being lured back to play by Alastair Clarkson. His role in the 2008 premiership showed that he had lost none of his incredible skill after the year out of the game. After injuries ended his career in 2009, Dew went into coaching and is now in charge at Gold Coast.

Stuart Dew

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Carl Ditterich (St Kilda 1963-72, 1976-78, Melbourne 1973-75, 1979-80)
285 games, 199 goals
Ditterich made one of the most explosive debuts in league history as a 17-year-old, with blonde hair flying everywhere. His high marking and bundles of energy distinguished him from the start. Over the next 18 years, he evolved into one of the toughest and most feared players in the league, making regular appearances before the tribunal. Indeed, he missed St Kilda’s 1966 premiership through suspension. Ditterich left St Kilda as part of the ten-year rule, serving Melbourne for three years before returning to St Kilda as captain (incidentally, Allan Davis’ transfer to Melbourne was part of this transaction). Finishing his career as captain-coach of Melbourne for two years, Ditterich won best-and-fairests at both St Kilda and Melbourne during his career.

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The E team will be next, with a few all-time greats and a couple of current stars in the mix as well.