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Opinion

The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter F

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Roar Rookie
22nd May, 2020
13

We move on to the F team, with such a bevy of fantastic key position players that fitting them all in was a challenge in and of itself.

One quick comment before we begin. Russell Ebert was mentioned several times in the comments as missing from the E team, and understandably so. I will reiterate that these teams are based solely on VFL/AFL performance in order to somewhat limit the scope of research.

As I wrote in the first article of this series, for the A team:

I am basing my decisions on a player’s VFL/AFL career. Someone such as Russell Ebert, having played the majority of his career in the SANFL, may well make the E team were I to expand the scope but it was already tricky enough to narrow down lists of names from the past and present.

As such Ken Farmer will not be sitting at full-forward, much as he would be in an Australian football all-time F team. The forward line here is still plenty imposing.

Back line

Fred Fontaine (Fitzroy 1898-1907)
111 games, 33 goals
Fontaine was one of the most famous early Maroons, capable of playing anywhere on the field and remarkably strong overhead. He played in each of Fitzroy’s first four premiership sides of 1898, 1899, 1904 and 1905, making his mark most in 1904 when, playing at fullback, he set off on a telling run to set up the decisive goal to Percy Trotter. As individual awards were thin on the ground in the early years of the VFL, he was not well decorated, but he developed a reputation as one of Fitzroy’s finest finals performers and was the only player to play in all four of the early Maroons premierships.

Danny Frawley (St Kilda 1984-95)
246 games, 13 goals
A tough and uncomplicated fullback, Frawley holds the record for most games as captain of St Kilda, taking on the role in 1987 and holding it through to retirement. He won a club best and fairest in 1988 and was named as All Australian in the same year, and he represented Victoria in five straight years. After his playing career ended he moved into coaching, leading Richmond to the 2001 preliminary final. He also spent time as a much loved commentator before tragically losing his life late last year.

Dustin Fletcher (Essendon 1993-2015)
400 games, 71 goals
The Fletcher name is Essendon royalty, with Dustin and father Ken both conspicuous for a long period of time. As a fullback who could play on virtually anyone, Dustin Fletcher played in a premiership while still in school in 1993 and won the club best and fairest when winning the second flag in 2000. He used uncanny anticipation and strength to spoil the ball often, and his pace meant that he could keep up with the smaller forwards of the day. Of course he was also well known for his prodigious kicking, often popping up forward for a barrel to sail through goalpost high. Fletcher retired as the third player to reach the 400 game milestone.

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Dustin Fletcher

Dustin Fletcher (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Halfback line

Ken Fletcher (Essendon 1967-80)
264 games, 55 goals
A Fletcher double team in the backline would be a lot of fun to see. Ken played around the ground for the Bombers, but it was as a wingman and halfback that he was most notable, winning a club best and fairest in 1978. He regularly played for the Victorian State of Origin side, and he captained the club from 1977-79. Consistent throughout his career, it took a broken leg to end his playing days, and he retired in 1980 having played the fourth-most games to date for the club. In 2014 Ken and Dustin Fletcher broke the record for most games by a father-son pair.

Jim Francis (Hawthorn 1929-33, Carlton 1934-43)
223 games, 78 goals
Jim Francis was nominated by no less a judge than Laurie Nash as his toughest opponent during Francis’s time at Hawthorn, but the Mayblooms kept naming him as 19th man even as he returned from representing Victoria. So he sought a clearance and Carlton were the beneficiaries, with Francis starring in the 1938 premiership as the fulcrum of one of the most talented halfback lines in Blues history alongside Bob Chitty and Frank Anderson. Francis was courageous, athletic and able to play anywhere with adeptness, as he proved in the early 1940s when shifted onto the ball. Francis won two club best and fairests in 1935 and 1940 and returned to coach the club in the late 1950s. The fallout from his sacking was acrimonious, but Francis did return to the club and at the time of his death was the oldest surviving Blue.

Tom Fitzmaurice (Essendon 1918-24, Geelong 1925-28, North Melbourne 1932-35)
188 games, 246 goals
A footballing nomad, Tom Fitzmaurice flitted around the country, playing in New South Wales in 1921, the WDFL in 1929, the VFA in 1930-31 and three different VFL teams. At Essendon he was a high-leaping ruckman who had to reinvent himself as a halfback after an injury sustained in 1921. He won best and fairests in 1922-24 and starred in the 1923 and 1924 flag sides before walking out in controversial circumstances, claiming some of his teammates had played dead for money. In 1925 he achieved the unique record of playing in premierships in successive years for different teams. He captain-coached Geelong in 1928 before departing. North lured him back, and he starred in an entirely new role, leading the club goalkicking for three years. Fitzmaurice was named in the back pocket of Essendon’s team of the century and listed as No. 10 of the champions of Essendon in 2002.

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Centre line

Robbie Flower (Melbourne 1973-87)
272 games, 315 goals
One of the greatest Demons to play the game, Robbie Flower would patrol a wing with distinction. Unflinching and elusive, he was the brightest light at Melbourne for 15 years, and his standing was such that he was lured out of retiring in 1986 with a ‘Please give Robbie one last chance to play in a final’ fundraising drive to recruit new players for the team. It worked, and after 169 games without a final Flower’s last three matches were all on the big stage in September, where he naturally starred. It ended in heartbreak, but that doesn’t take away from the club best and fairest in 1977, the frequent Victorian appearances (three times as captain), or the designation as wingman in Melbourne’s team of the century.

Neville Fields (Essendon 1969-77, 1981-82, South Melbourne 1978-80)
200 games, 193 goals
Fields spent the early part of the 1970s as one of the dominant centremen in the league, winning Essendon’s most improved player award in 1971 and their best and fairest in 1972. His form tapered off until he revived his career somewhat at South Melbourne after being traded for Terry Daniher. He represented Victoria in 1973 and 1980 before returning to Essendon for two years, where injury cruelled the end of his career. Fields featured regularly as a high club poller on Brownlow night and was the third-highest goalkicker in 1972 and 1974.

Garry Foulds (Essendon 1974-89)
300 games, 140 goals
One of Fields’s teammates for a prolonged period, Garry Foulds was a handy and unobtrusive member of the Bombers and one of only five players to have reached 300 games for Essendon. While he never won a club best and fairest, he finished second in 1981 and played in Essendon’s 1984-85 premierships. Foulds could play on the wing or at halfback and was occasionally thrown forward when needed. Consistency was his hallmark, and he was rarely troubled on the field, winning Victorian selection in 1979 and 1985.

Robert Flower of the Melbourne Demons

Robbie Flower. (AFL Photos/GSP)

Ruck line

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Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer (Geelong 1962-67)
101 games, 65 goals
No-one has revolutionised a position on the football field as Polly Farmer did rucking. He was one of the first to use handball as a weapon, frequently setting up attacks with creative use of the tactic. His WAFL career was beyond compare by the time he signed for Geelong for what was effectively five full seasons – though in 1962 he damaged a knee in his first game and missed the rest of the season. As a Cat, Farmer was instrumental in the club’s 1963 flag, won two club best and fairests and was half of perhaps the most famous ruck duels in history with John Nicholls. After his time at Geelong was over, Farmer returned west and won two more WAFL premierships. Farmer was named as first ruck in the teams of the century of Geelong, Western Australia, West Perth, the Indigineous team of the century, and the V/AFL team of the century. On top of this, he was understandably one of the inaugural legends in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. Quite a career.

Nat Fyfe (Fremantle 2010-)
174 games 148 goals
Nat Fyfe still has plenty of time in his career left, but what he has achieved to date is certainly impressive enough to place him here. With two Brownlow Medals, three club best and fairests and All Australian selections and two AFLPA MVP awards, the accolades alone are there, but add in his aerial ability and strength around the contest and it is no surprise he is regularly brought up as one of the best players in the league today.

Keith Forbes (Essendon 1928-37, North Melbourne 1938-39, Fitzroy 1940)
187 games, 475 goals
South Melbourne would regret rejecting Keith Forbes, as after three seasons at Coburg he crossed to Essendon and became one of their greatest ever players. Winning two club best and fairests and finishing second on two other occasions, Forbes was able to use his small stature to evade opposing tacklers and often kick multiple goals a game. He featured prominently in Brownlow voting, twice finishing runner-up. Unfortunately Essendon were going through a lean period at the time, and he crossed to North as captain-coach for two seasons before finishing his career at Fitzroy. Forbes was named in Essendon’s team of the century and listed as No. 16 in the champions of Essendon in 2002.

Graham 'Polly' Farmer kicks a ball.

Polly Farmer (Getty Images)

Half-forward line

Des Fothergill (Collingwood 1937-40, 1945-47)
111 games, 337 goals
Fothergill’s talent was immediately apparent at Collingwood when, after debuting as a schoolboy, he won best and fairest awards in his first two years at the club when the likes of Harry and Albert Collier, Gordon Coventry, Jack Regan and Ron Todd were all regulars in the side. His freakish skills and nose for the ball meant he was always conspicuous. He went on to win another best and fairest in 1940, the same year he tied with Herbie Matthews for the Brownlow Medal. Shockingly he left Collingwood after this for Williamstown and won the VFA equivalent of the Brownlow in 1941 before joining the army for three years. Come 1945, the rivalry between the VFL and VFA had cooled and Fothergill was welcomed back to Collingwood, winning the club goalkicking in 1945 and 1946 before injury caused him to retire. He was named on the half-forward flank in Collingwood’s team of the century. Fothergill was also an accomplished cricketer, playing 29 first-class games for Victoria.

Lance Franklin (Hawthorn 2005-13, Sydney 2014-)
300 games, 944 goals
Talk to any football fan about ‘Buddy’ and they know who you mean. As one of the most electrifying players of the modern era, Franklin could goal from anywhere, run opponents ragged and dominate a game like no other. Even before he was drafted in 2004 his talents were apparent, and Hawk fans everywhere must have salivated when he slipped through to No. 5. He announced himself as a star in 2007 with a matchwinning goal against Adelaide before winning the Coleman Medal in 2008 as the most recent player to kick a century of goals. After a premiership in 2013 Franklin shocked the football world by departing for Sydney, where he continued as he had left off. With four Coleman Medals (two each at Hawthorn and Sydney), a best and fairest in 2008 and 11 club goalkicking awards, Franklin has only 56 goals to reach an incredible 1000.

Les Foote (North Melbourne 1941-51, St Kilda 1954-55)
167 games, 109 goals
One of the most brilliantly skilled players of his day, Les Foote was famous for his ability to evade opponents and deliver the ball forward. A favourite trick was to set up for a drop kick and, as the man on the mark jumped to attempt a smother, suddenly take off and run around them. Foote would win best and fairests for North in 1946, 1949 and 1950, in the latter year singlehandedly inspiring a comeback from 42 points down in the preliminary final against Geelong. After the 1951 season he went to New South Wales for two years before returning to St Kilda as captain-coach, winning one more best and fairest before retiring. Foote is a member of North Melbourne’s Team of the Century.

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Lance Franklin

(Brett Hemmings/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Forward line

Jeff Farmer (Melbourne 1995-2001, Fremantle 2002-08)
249 games, 483 goals
The Wizard was an excitement machine for both Melbourne and Fremantle, capable of the extraordinary and regularly kicking over 30 goals a season. In 1998 Farmer announced himself as a star, leading Melbourne’s goalkicking and winning the goal of the year after a length of the field effort – he could easily have won mark of the year with a leap over Garry Lyon as well. In 2000 Farmer was transcendent, kicking nine goals in a half against Collingwood and eight against North in the preliminary final and being among Melbourne’s best in the grand final. After returning to Fremantle Farmer kicked a goal after the siren to defeat his old club and kicked over 50 goals in 2006. He retired in 2008 and was named in Fremantle’s 25 since 95 squad

Brendan Fevola (Carlton 1999-2009, Brisbane 2010)
204 games, 623 goals
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Fevola’s career isn’t the way it ended at both clubs or that he missed out on 100 goals by a single kick in 2008; it’s that Fevola was born for the big moments, and for the Carlton side of the 2000s big moments were few and far between. He did win the Michael Tuck Medal in 2005, kick 12 goals in the Millennium Match against Collingwood, kick six goals in the 150th anniversary game and have several iconic moments, such as his eight goals to launch a 48-point comeback in 2007, to provide a lot of joy in a dark time. Only escaping delisting when Denis Pagan was appointed coach, Fev went on to lead the Blues goalkicking every year from 2003 and won Coleman Medals in 2006 and 2009. His idiosyncratic style endeared him to the fans and his marking and accurate kicking showed his great quality as a forward. His enduring popularity is shown by his winning the second series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2016.

Bill Findlay (Footscray 1933-34, North Melbourne 1935-45)
173 games, 360 goals
Findlay initially struggled at Footscray, but he started to shine when released to North Melbourne, where he made his name as a clever rover who could move forward to kick handy goals – so much so that he led the club’s goalkicking in each of his last three years. Findlay would share the club best and fairest in 1941 and captain the side for three years while also coaching for part of 1942 and 1943. After he left North Melbourne, Findlay would go on to star at Port Melbourne in the VFA.

Interchange

Mike Fitzpatrick (Carlton 1975-83)
150 games, 150 goals
The rarest of footballers – a Rhodes scholar! Mike Fitzpatrick had been a star for several years at Subiaco before signing with Carlton to replace John Nicholls as the club’s No. 1 ruckman. He took to the role adeptly, gaining a reputation as one of the best palmers of the ball and winning a best and fairest in the premiership year of 1979. After the bitter split in 1980 Fitzpatrick was a natural choice for captain and led the Blues to two more premierships in 1981-82. Injury forced his retirement in 1983, but Fitzpatrick was definitely not lost to the world of football, serving as AFL chairman for ten years. He was named on the bench in Carlton’s team of the century.

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Ken Fraser (Essendon 1958-68)
198 games, 157 goals
Ken Fraser was a leading exponent of the centre half-forward position for a decade, sitting at CHF in Essendon’s team of the century and listed as their No. 7 Champion. Fraser was agile, quick, and able to get clear for clean marks with impunity, winning best and fairests in 1963 and 1964 as well as being runner up in two Brownlow Medal counts. Fraser played in the 1962 and 1965 premierships and captained the club from 1965 to 1968. In his final year the absence of Fraser very possibly cost the Bombers the flag, as they lost the grand final by only three points.

Fred Flanagan (Geelong 1946-55)
163 games, 182 goals
Another team of the century centre half-forward, Flanagan was most noted for his aerial ability and accurate passing skills. As with Fraser, he won a club best and fairest and finished runner up in the Brownlow Medal. As with Fraser, he won two premierships, both as captain in 1951-52. As with Fraser, he was a regular in Victorian sides of the era, donning the Big V in every season but his last. And as with Fraser, he was remarkably consistent for a very long time. Flanagan was Geelong’s leading goalkicker in 1954 and retired in early 1955 to concentrate on his business ventures.

Josh Francou (Port Adelaide 1997-2005)
156 games, 72 goals
For Port Adelaide’s first six years Josh Francou was an important part of the midfield, racking up the ball and frequently attracting the eyes of external judges – he won three Showdown Medals and was runner up in the Brownlow in 2002 and named All Australian that same year. Well decorated during his time at North Adelaide before Port’s arrival into the AFL, Francou missed almost two whole seasons with knee injuries, sadly sitting on the sidelines when Port won the 2004 flag. He played one more year before being forced to retire.

Emergencies

Don Fraser (Richmond 1945-52)
124 games, 125 goals
Fraser started out being viewed as a little too light while playing for the reserves, but some motivation from coach Jack Dyer and army service saw him transform into one of the toughest defenders of the time. A strong mark and booming kick, Fraser actually started as a key forward before his wayward goalkicking saw him shifted to the back line, where he made his name. A regular visitor to the VFL tribunal, Fraser served a 16-week suspension during his Richmond career before transferring to Port Melbourne in the VFA. Famously he was known as ‘Mopsy’ due to a cartoonist at the time depicting him as a mop with long hair.

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Ted Freyer (Essendon 1929-37)
124 games, 372 goals
A legendary figure at Port Melbourne to go with his exploits at Essendon, Freyer was regularly seen in the forward pocket for the Dons and led the club’s goalkicking five times. Tall and wiry, Freyer was an accurate kick and averaged exactly three goals a game. In 1935 Freyer kicked 12 goals in Round 1, still a record to this day. He was second in the club best and fairest in 1936 and also received the second-highest number of Brownlow votes for the club that year. He departed without clearance to Port Melbourne, as several players did during the era, and averaged over five goals a game there.

Jimmy Freake (Fitzroy 1912-24)
174 games, 442 goals
One of the first great full forwards, Jimmy Freake played in two premiership teams (1913 and 1922) and led the club goalkicking on seven occasions. Not a tall man, he relied on his pace and anticipation to get the ball from his midfielders and kick accurately for goal on both sides of the body. At the time of his retirement he had kicked the most goals for Fitzroy and holds the record for most goals in finals matches for them. Freake also won a best and fairest in 1918 and was the league-leading goalkicker in 1913 and 1915.

The G team is up next, with a very modern forward line and some very famous Geelong names in the midfield.