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The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter P

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3rd September, 2020
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The P team is one that has a fine balance of class, flash and toughness, with several milestone holders among their number.

Back line

David Parkin (Hawthorn 1961-74)
211 games, 21 goals
David Parkin’s coaching career spanning three clubs and four premierships has obscured his excellence on the field, serving Hawthorn well as a rugged and determined back pocket with a great relationship with coach John Kennedy. Representing Victoria five times, he won Hawthorn’s best and fairest award in 1965 before being appointed captain from 1969 to 1973. Parkin’s finest footy hour was the 1971 premiership, where as captain he was almost best afield. After leaving Hawthorn, he had an unsuccessful year with Subiaco in the WAFL before returning to Hawthorn as coach for the 1978 premiership, Carlton for the 1981, 1982 and 1995 flags, and Fitzroy for the last finals successes in 1986. Parkin was named as coach of Carlton’s Team of the Century.

Joe Pearce (Melbourne 1904-13)
152 games, five goals
Unflinchingly fair and resolute at full back, Joe Pearce was Melbourne’s outstanding player in the years leading up to World War I. Capable of shutting down opposing full forwards and dashing up field to set up plenty of Melbourne attacks, Pearce represented Victoria in 1908. Dick Lee considered him by far the best full back of his era, and he was appointed captain in 1913. When war was declared, Pearce enlisted in the first AIF, and was promoted to Corporal on 6 April, 1915. Only 19 days later, Pearce would be shot and killed during the landings at Anzac Cove, one of the first VFL players to fall in war.

Charlie Payne (Essendon 1962-72)
184 games, 128 goals
Charlie Payne began his career at full forward, leading Essendon’s goal kicking in his first two years and playing in a premiership in his first season – remaining as the youngest player in an Essendon flag to this day. As his career progressed, he started to spend more time in defence or as a follower in the midfield, using his mobility and skill to great effect. In 1965, Payne played in the back pocket of another Essendon flag, and he continued to give good service, winning Best Clubman in 1965, 1970 and 1971 before departing to South Adelaide in the SANFL.

Half back line

Gary Pert (Fitzroy 1982-90, Collingwood 1992-95)
233 games, 46 goals
At his peak in the late 1980s, Gary Pert was one of the best players in the league. A brilliant defender, Pert could shift to anywhere on the field with equal effectiveness, but it was his relationship with Paul Roos that dominated for Fitzroy, winning a best and fairest in 1989 and playing for Victoria in 1984 – the youngest player to do so for 20 years. After a second knee injury in four years, Fitzroy released Pert and Collingwood subsequently drafted him, and he showed he had lost little by finishing as runner up in the best and fairest in 1992. Pert gave three more years of good service before retiring, and was named on the half back flank of Fitzroy’s Team of the Century.

AFL generic

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

Billy Picken (Collingwood 1974-83, 1986, Sydney 1984-85)
240 games, 46 goals
“Look out, here comes Billy!” So would Billy Picken announce himself to an oncoming pack as he would leap to take another spectacular mark. Although he was originally recruited as a forward, Picken’s awkward kicking style would result in his move to the back line, where he became one of the most popular Magpies of the era. He was a constant in the highlight reels of the era, whether for his marking or his fearless runs turning defence to attack in the blink of an eye. Picken won two best and fairest awards and was named runner up on three other occasions, and was recognised as the club’s best finals performer on four occasions. A pay dispute saw him spend two unhappy years with Sydney, but he returned for one last year to captain-coach the reserves side, although he did play five more matches in the senior team. Picken was named on the half back flank of Collingwood’s Team of the Century.

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Martin Pike (Melbourne 1993-94, Fitzroy 1995-96, North Melbourne 1997-2000, Brisbane 2001-05)
247 games, 126 goals
Martin Pike spent time at four clubs, increasing in effectiveness as his career moved forward. At Melbourne, he was a talented yet inconsistent defender, being traded to Fitzroy despite featuring in Melbourne’s three finals in 1994. At Fitzroy, Pike etched his name into the history books as Fitzroy’s last best and fairest winner, before being overlooked as one of the players to be picked up by Brisbane at the merge due to off field indiscretions. At North Melbourne, he started to blossom, playing for South Australia in 1998 and winning a premiership in 1999. Finally, after another off-field incident saw the Kangaroos discard him, Pike was picked up by Brisbane, where his experience shone in the club’s three premierships and he enjoyed a role as one of the elder statesmen of the club until his retirement in 2005. Pike was named on the bench of Brisbane’s Team of the Decade.

Centre line

Charlie Pannam (Collingwood 1897-1907, Richmond 1908)
193 games, 133 goals
The patriarch of one of the most famous families in Australian rules history, Charlie Pannam began his Collingwood career in 1894 and blossomed into a durable and pacy wingman. In 1902, he was responsible for part of the game’s evolution after a Collingwood trip to Tasmania led to some of its players developing the stab kick – so successfully that the Magpies were unbeaten for the rest of the year and won the following season’s premiership as well! As he aged, Pannam was more often used up forward, where he led the VFL goal kicking in 1905. Early in 1907, he left for Richmond in the VFA, playing one more season in the VFL when the team was invited to join the following season. Pannam was the first player in the history of the VFL to play in 100 games, reaching the mark in Round 14, 1902.

Matt Priddis (West Coast 2006-17)
240 games, 73 goals
Matt Priddis worked his way into the West Coast midfield as they were starting to decline from the Cousins-Judd-Kerr heyday, but became very well known for his grunt work in extracting the ball as well as his tackling prowess. He won the Sandover Medal in 2006 with a record 58 votes, and quickly became a mainstay in the midfield afterwards, winning best and fairest awards in 2011 and 2013. In 2014, Priddis became the first West Coast player to win a Brownlow Medal, and the second player after Haydn Bunton to win a Brownlow and Sandover Medal. He was named All Australian in 2015, and retired in 2017 as the all-time tackle record holder for the league.

Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood 2006-)
310 games, 179 goals
Time has a habit of standing still when Scott Pendlebury gets the ball. A rangy and intelligent midfielder, Pendlebury has spent 15 years using his footy smarts to distribute the ball among his teammates with great accuracy and effect. Eleven times he has finished in the top three of the Magpies’ best and fairest, winning on five occasions, and he won a Norm Smith Medal in the 2010 premiership. Pendlebury has been named All Australian six times, and his consistency is highlighted by the fact that since 2009 he has not polled less than 13 Brownlow votes in a season.

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Scott Pendlebury of the Magpies celebrates a win

(Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Ruck line

Matthew Primus (Fitzroy 1996, Port Adelaide 1997-2005)
157 games, 81 goals
Matthew Primus had a baptism of fire in the AFL, being drafted to Fitzroy in their final season. He acquitted himself well, finishing second in the best and fairest, before Port Adelaide picked him up once Fitzroy merged with Brisbane. He finished second again in Port’s best and fairest in 1997, and swiftly developed into a prominent on-field presence for the Power. In 1999 a knee injury saw him miss the majority of the season, but he recovered to be named All Australian in 2001 and 2002, winning a best and fairest in the latter year. Named captain in 2001, injuries derailed his 2003 and 2004 seasons, meaning he missed out on the Power’s premiership of the latter year. He struggled through 2005 before retiring when it became clear he would need a third knee reconstruction.

Luke Parker (Sydney 2011-)
207 games, 157 goals
One of the toughest midfielders currently playing in the AFL today, Luke Parker has had a decorated career after being drafted at pick 40 in 2010. Twice winning best and fairest awards for the Swans, he played in the 2012 premiership and was named All Australian in 2016. Consistently racking up possessions in the clinches, Parker has been named the AFLPA Most Courageous Player twice and averages over 23 possessions throughout his career. He was named Sydney captain in 2019 and looks set to retain the role for some years to come.

Luke Parker

(Cameron Spencer/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

John Platten (Hawthorn 1986-97)
258 games, 228 goals
After winning a Margarey Medal in 1984, John Platten originally signed with Carlton before a legal wrangle ended with him moving to Hawthorn. There, he became one of the finest rovers in the league with boundless courage and excellent anticipation and disposal skills. Platten played in a premiership in 1986, adding three more to his tally throughout his career, and won a Brownlow Medal in 1987 as well as two best and fairest awards. He represented South Australia a record 15 times, and following his Hawthorn career returned to Central District in an attempt to win a SANFL flag. While this didn’t happen, he remained every bit as popular as he was at the start of his career. Platten was named in the forward pocket of Hawthorn’s Team of the Century.

Half forward line

Byron Pickett (North Melbourne 1997-2002, Port Adelaide 2003-05, Melbourne 2006-07)
204 games, 177 goals
Byron Pickett was tough and hard, leaving an impact on the game and players alike with his bruising bumps – sometimes courting controversy. His footy skills were sublime too, winning the Rising Star award in 1998 as a disciplined back pocket and taking part in the 1999 premiership. In 2001 Pickett started to move up the ground, kicking over 35 goals in both that year and the next, before being traded to Port Adelaide. There he won a Norm Smith Medal in the 2004 premiership and went on to Melbourne for a short coda to his career. Pickett was named on the interchange bench of the Indigenous Team of the Century.

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Matthew Pavlich (Fremantle 2000-16)
353 games, 700 goals
The greatest player in the history of the Fremantle Football Club, Matthew Pavlich was named All Australian on six occasions – both at full back and at full forward in differing years. This, combined with six best and fairest awards, nine years as captain, eight leading goal kicker awards including twice as runner up in the Coleman Medal, and being named the captain of Fremantle’s 25 since ‘95 Team, indicate the esteem in which he is held. Pavlich was faultless in the air, and had a deft touch at ground level enabling him to kick some impossible goals. He was the first player from West Coast or Fremantle to reach 300 games, and currently holds both the games and goals record for Fremantle.

Percy Parratt (Fitzroy 1909-17, 1920-23)
195 games, 202 goals
Percy Parratt was one of the first star forwards in the VFL. Talented beyond compare and capable of turning a match with an act of brilliance, Parratt played in the 1913 (as playing coach), 1916, and 1922 premierships. He formed a lethal double act with Jimmy Freake in the 1910s, and was noted for keeping wide of his opponent to open up space for Freake to run into. After the 1917 season, Parratt enlisted with the Field Artillery, but on his return showed he had lost no pace or skill in the duration. After retiring, he spent seasons coaching at Carlton and Geelong with little success. Parratt was named on the interchange bench of Fitzroy’s Team of the Century.

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(Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Forward line

Luke Power (Brisbane 1998-2011, GWS 2012)
302 games, 226 goals
Although he started his career as a clever and deadly forward pocket, Luke Power’s career developed to such an extent that he was seen as the fifth member of Brisbane’s “Fab Four” midfield. He kicked over 50 goals in 2000 before settling into the midfield and playing in each of Brisbane’s three premierships. In 2007 Power was appointed as co-captain of the Lions, returning back to vice captain in 2009. He retired after the 2011 season but was persuaded to come back to assist GWS in their first season in the league, co-captaining them in his only season there.

Bob Pratt (South Melbourne 1930-39, 1946)
158 games, 681 goals
In an era of spectacular aerialists and incredible goal kicking feats, Bob Pratt stood atop them all – quite literally in some cases! In his early career he was stationed at centre half forward and regularly showed promise, but it was as full forward that he made his name from 1932 onwards. Pratt led South’s goal kicking on six occasions – three times topping the century and becoming the first of only two men to reach 150 goals, in 1934. Incredibly, he did not win the best and fairest that year, being told he was spectacular but not very effective (a tally of 94 behinds to go with his 150 goals goes some way to explaining this). In 1935 Pratt was hit by a truck the day before the grand final, and this was seen as a major factor in South’s loss. After the 1939 season he transferred to Coburg in the VFA, before returning to South after WWII was over and playing one match before retiring. Pratt was one of the inaugural AFL Legends in the Hall of Fame, and was named in the forward pocket of South Melbourne’s Team of the Century.

Alby Pannam (Collingwood 1933-45, Richmond 1947)
183 games, 459 goals
The youngest of seven Pannam children and the second to follow in father Charlie’s footsteps, Alby Pannam was known throughout his career as one of the finest rover/forwards in the league. With uncanny anticipation and matchless elusive skills, he could kick goals from anywhere or deliver lace out to forwards. Pannam played in the 1935 and 1936 premierships, being nearly best on ground in the latter year, and from 1935 to 1945 never kicked less than 35 goals in a season, leading the club on three occasions. He won a best and fairest award in 1942, and was appointed captain in 1945 upon returning from RAAF service. Collingwood cleared him to Richmond in 1946, where he spent several seasons as captain-coach of the reserves, while also playing a handful of matches for the seniors.

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Interchange

Bill Proudfoot (Collingwood 1897-1906)
108 games, one goal
The Collingwood Football Club was formed in 1892, spending five years in the VFA before the breakaway VFL was formed. One of the men who ran out for the first ever game for Collingwood was Bill Proudfoot, lining up at centre half forward. He kicked the second goal for Collingwood, and no others throughout his career! From 1893 onwards, Proudfoot became known as one of the finest full backs in the state, with his bulky frame and surprising speed combining with prodigious kicking distance to set up Collingwood attacks. He won premierships in 1896, 1902, and 1903 – in the latter year being forced to play under a pseudonym ‘Wilson’ as his role as a police officer meant that he was banned from footy. This was despite the fact that he had potentially saved an umpire’s life in a vicious brawl during an 1896 match with North Melbourne! As his career wound down he played only four games in his last two years, but remained known as a major figure in early Collingwood history.

Drew Petrie (North Melbourne 2001-16, West Coast 2017)
332 games, 444 goals
While never a superstar of the league, Drew Petrie was a strong presence at centre half forward for North Melbourne over the span of 16 years. A strong marking forward who could also pinch hit in the ruck when needed, he first drew public attention in 2007, when he kicked six goals in the first quarter of Glenn Archer’s 300th match. Petrie went on to head North’s goal kicking on five occasions, and was named All Australian in 2011. When he was informed that his contract would not be renewed, he moved across to West Coast for one last season, bowing out in a losing semi-final.

Matt Priddis West Coast Eagles AFL 2017 Finals

Matt Priddis and Drew Petrie are two members of the P team. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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Liam Picken (Western Bulldogs 2009-17)
198 games, 87 goals
The son of P team centre half back Billy, Liam Picken started his career with a best and fairest for Williamstown in the VFL before the Western Bulldogs picked him up. He played most of his early career as one of the most effective taggers in the league, while still capable of winning his own ball. The arrival of Luke Beveridge as coach saw Picken start to become a more damaging player, and his efforts in 2016 were rewarded with a premiership and being named the club’s best finals player. He led the Bulldogs’ goal kicking in 2017, however was unable to play after that as he battled concussion symptoms for over a year, retiring in 2019.

Darrin Pritchard (Hawthorn 1987-97)
211 games, 94 goals
Rodney Eade, a Tasmanian wingman, retired in 1986. Darrin Pritchard, a Tasmanian wingman, stepped directly into the vacant spot and made it his own for a decade. Blessed with great pace and skill, Pritchard played in the premiership sides of 1988, 1989 and 1991, as well as representing Tasmania in State of Origin games – captaining the state in 1990 and 1993. After a severely broken leg in 1995 he lost form, but battled through two more seasons before retiring. Pritchard was named on the bench of Tasmania’s Team of the Century.

Emergencies

Michael Patterson (Richmond 1959-69)
152 games, 73 goals
Michael Patterson was a regular in the ruck for Richmond throughout the 1960s. Known as the ‘Swamp Fox’, he was tough, a good mark, and willing to split open a pack or two without fear. His finest hour came in 1967, when he deputised for Neville Crowe when the latter was suspended for the grand final. Breaking even with ‘Polly’ Farmer, he was instrumental in the Tigers’ flag win. Although he was never a true first-choice ruck, his quality was shown by becoming one of only five Tigers to win the reserves Best and Fairest twice. After his VFL career was over, he went to North Adelaide as captain-coach, to such success that he was named coach of the club’s Team of the Century.

Jim Park (Carlton 1932-40)
128 games, five goals
Jim Park was one of the most athletic and effective defenders of the 1930s, often shining on the last line with anticipation and an incredible leap. He represented Victoria in 1938, and played a vital role in Carlton’s premiership that year by keeping Ron Todd to only three goals. A photo of Park taking a magnificent mark over Eric Glass of Melbourne is one of the most famous sporting images of the 1930s. After the 1940 season, he enlisted in the AIF to serve in World War II. Sadly, he was shot and killed in action at the Battle of Wau in New Guinea.

Ted Pool (Hawthorn 1926-38)
200 games, 230 goals
Playing for Hawthorn in the 1920s and 1930s was a thankless task. Ted Pool, though, was up to the task to such an extent that he was selected for Victoria seven times. As a determined and skillful rover, he transferred across from Kalgoorlie and followed former Carlton secretary Reg Hunt to the Mayblooms. He was clever enough around the goals to lead Hawthorn’s goal kicking in 1933, and by the time he retired was just as effective as ever. He became the first Hawthorn player to play 200 games, as well as the first Western Australian to reach the milestone in the VFL.

Up next is the R team, with some great names who have only recently hung up the boots as well as several whose exploits off the field cannot overshadow their playing careers.

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