Nearing the end of a crazy, unpredictable and sad 2020 for the world, here are my reflections on a season of AFL like no other.
With a forward line as potent as the one boasted by the T team, there would be plenty of shootouts.
Bill Thomas (South Melbourne 1905-13, Richmond 1914-16, 1918-19)
197 games, five goals
Bill Thomas was a resolute and consistent defender for South Melbourne and Richmond, playing a key role in the 1909 premiership for South by taking an important saving mark in the dying minutes. His leadership was well noted, and he captain-coached South Melbourne in 1910 and 1911 to finals appearances. Representing Victoria on four occasions, Thomas captained the state in 1913, before crossing to Richmond and captaining them during his time there. He would have played in Richmond’s first two premierships if not for a broken leg in 1919 ending his career.
Vic Thorp (Richmond 1910-25)
263 games, seven goals
Alongside Bill Thomas in the Richmond defence was Vic Thorp, who had already developed a reputation as one of the finest full backs in the league by the time Thomas had transferred over. Scrupulously fair and with great anticipation and supreme marking ability, Thorp was able to subdue the finest forwards with regularity despite Richmond’s poor performances in the first half of his career. Curiously, he was not selected for Victoria until 1919, but over the next six years pulled on the Big V 14 times. Thorp was instrumental in the club’s 1920 and 1921 premierships, and retired as Richmond’s games record holder. He was named as full back in Richmond’s Team of the Century, and conferred as a Richmond Immortal in 2015.
Daniel Talia (Adelaide 2011-)
200 games, six goals
A lynchpin of the Adelaide defence over the past decade, Daniel Talia is a key defender who is ready with an important spoil or desperate tackle to prevent a score. His potential was first realised in 2011 when he won Adelaide’s best first year player award, and in 2012 when he achieved league recognition by winning the Rising Star Award. In 2014, Talia won Adelaide’s best and fairest, while he has also been named All Australian twice. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, he was named in the 22 under 22 team, and has remained consistent despite Adelaide’s drop-off in the past few years.
Mark Thompson (Essendon 1983-96)
202 games, 50 goals
Although he is best known these days for his success coaching Geelong, Mark Thompson was a reliable and attacking half back flanker who never took a backwards step. He played in two premierships in his first three seasons, before a third as captain in 1993. Thompson won best and fairest awards in 1987 and 1990, and was named captain from 1992-95 before handing the reins to Gary O’Donnell in his last season. His stature was such that he was named on the bench of Essendon’s Team of the Century, and as number 20 in the Champions of Essendon list.
Harry Taylor (Geelong 2008-)
276 games, 75 goals
One of Mark Thompson’s charges during his time as Geelong coach was Harry Taylor, recruited after the Cats’ 2007 premiership and three seasons in the WAFL. He slotted handily into the defence as a replacement for the injured Matthew Egan and provided plenty of rebound as well as keeping his man quiet with regularity. In 2009, Taylor’s efforts in keeping Nick Riewoldt to one goal were instrumental in Geelong winning the grand final, and he was also part of the 2011 premiership. As his career has progressed, he has moved forward to provide an additional marking target on occasion, kicking 22 goals in 2015. Taylor was named All Australian centre half back in 2010 and 2013, and is currently gearing up for another tilt at a premiership.
Zach Tuohy (Carlton 2011-16, Geelong 2017-)
200 games, 63 goals
Alongside Harry Taylor in the Geelong defence will be Zach Tuohy, one of the most successful Irish expats to play AFL. First coming to Carlton’s attention in 2008, he spent his first years in Australia with the Northern Bullants before making his debut in 2011 – his first bounce of the ball consequently went over his head! Tuohy’s dash and awareness quickly made him a fan favourite with the Blues, and he became known for his long kicking prompting calls for him to move into the midfield. He primarily remained at half back, and was rewarded by finishing third in the 2015 best and fairest and being named in the AFLCA All Australian side that year. In 2016, Tuohy asked for a trade to Geelong, and has since continued his good form – including kicking a goal after the siren to ensure victory against Melbourne in 2018. He is the second Irish player to reach 200 games after Jim Stynes.
Dale Thomas (Collingwood 2006-13, Carlton 2014-19)
258 games, 155 goals
Dale Thomas burst onto the scene in 2006 after being best on ground in the 2005 TAC Cup grand final and being drafted by Collingwood. With a shock of blond hair, a predilection for high flying and impossible goals, he quickly became the most popular player in the Magpies’ team – his jumper easily outsold that of even Nathan Buckley. Thomas was a consistent half forward or wingman behind all the flash, and in 2010 raised his game to a new level, being named among the best in both the grand final and replay, and finishing third in the best and fairest. After being named All Australian in 2011, he struggled with injuries for the next two years before rejoining Mick Malthouse at Carlton. He never recaptured his barnstorming best, but it was still a surprise when he was not offered a contract for the 2020 season. He retired having become the first player to reach 100 games for both Collingwood and Carlton.
Scott Thompson (Melbourne 2001-04, Adelaide 2005-17)
308 games, 162 goals
A tough nut who could win his own ball in the midfield and use it well on the outside, Scott Thompson was a well regarded youngster and won Melbourne’s best first year player award in 2001. Injury and poor form interrupted his next few seasons, and he was traded to Adelaide for the 2005 season. There Thompson became a remarkably consistent presence, only once playing less than 20 games in a season until his farewell (and in that season he played 19). In 2010 he finished second in the best and fairest award, before taking the extra step in 2011 and 2012, being named All Australian and finishing as runner up in the Brownlow in the latter year. As younger players came on, Thompson was moved to defence, then spent most of his final season in the reserves as a playing assistant coach. He retired having won the reserves best and fairest in 2017.
Mick Turner (Geelong 1974-88)
245 games, 285 goals
One of the most eye-catching players in the 1980s, Mick Turner became well known for his exceptionally speedy running and ability to kick a long goal. Following in the footsteps of father Leo, he averaged over a goal a game and led Geelong’s goal kicking in 1982. Turner represented Victoria in 11 matches, and was appointed as captain for three seasons before stepping down as his career wound down. Curiously, he never won a best and fairest award in his 15 years with Geelong, but his stature was confirmed in 2001 when he was named on the wing of Geelong’s Team of the Century. It was a family affair for the Turners, as Leo, who had played in the 1951-52 premierships, was named on the other wing.
Len Thompson (Collingwood 1965-78, South Melbourne 1979, Fitzroy 1980)
301 games, 275 goals
Len Thompson had a tryout with Essendon before being rejected – given how Thompson’s career would pan out and Essendon’s subsequent struggles in the ruck, it would go down as one of the more memorable recruiting misjudgments. For after a debut in the 1965 preliminary final (ironically against Essendon), Thompson would stand atop the rucking tree for over a decade for Collingwood. Using his great athleticism to dominate the ruck and put himself where the play demanded, he would finish third in the best and fairest in his first full season before winning five times including the 1972 Brownlow Medal. In 1970, he and Des Tuddenham took part in a strike in protest against the club’s big spending to recruit Peter Eakins, and although the spat was resolved quickly, Thompson never felt the admiration of the Collingwood faithful to the same extent. After the 1978 season he was pushed out to South Melbourne and then Fitzroy, but was welcomed back into the fold some decades later. Thompson was named as ruckman in Collingwood’s Team of the Century.
Michael Tuck (Hawthorn 1972-91)
426 games, 320 goals
Spare a thought for Michael Tuck in 1972. In Round 1, Peter Hudson’s knee buckled, and Tuck found himself in the unenviable position of trying to replace the most prolific goal kicker in the league. He kicked goals with his first three kicks in the VFL, but lost form and returned to the reserves. It wasn’t until Tuck was tried at ruck rover that he hit his straps, and became known for his limitless stamina and determination. Incredibly, he finished second in Hawthorn’s best and fairest six times but never won the award outright. Tuck would have to make do with a league record seven premierships (four as captain), 11 grand finals and 39 finals matches instead. When he retired, he held the record for most games, and held on to it until Brent Harvey played game number 427 in 2016. Tuck was named as ruck rover in Hawthorn’s Team of the Century.
Neil Trezise (Geelong 1949-59)
185 games, 272 goals
Part of one of the best roving combinations of the 1950s along with Peter Pianto, Neil ‘Nipper’ Trezise was brilliantly skilled on either side of his body and fearless in his pursuit of the ball. He played in Geelong’s 1951 and 1952 premierships, and continued playing at a high level throughout his career. Trezise led Geelong’s goal kicking in 1958, and captained the club the next year – his last as a player. Following his career, he entered politics for the Labor Party, and served as an MP from 1964 to 1992, holding the role of Minister for Youth, Sport, and Recreation throughout the Cain/Kirner governments. He took over that ministerial office from fellow former VFL player Brian Dixon.
Percy Trotter (Fitzroy 1901-06)
109 games, 145 goals
A dashing and skilled rover who could kick well on both feet, the sight of Percy Trotter exploding from a pack wearing his trademark red cap was a frequent one for Fitzroy fans in the early 1900s. Within a few years, he was acknowledged as one of the finest players in the league, and was named club champion in 1903 to go with leading the Maroons’ goal kicking four times. Trotter represented Victoria in two matches, and played in the 1904 and 1905 premierships. After the 1906 season he crossed to Essendon Town in the VFA, before crossing the country to East Fremantle. During WWI, Trotter played in the Pioneer Exhibition Game in London in 1906, and showed he had lost none of his skill. He was named on the bench of Fitzroy’s Team of the Century.
Warren Tredrea (Port Adelaide 1997-2010)
255 games, 549 goals
Warren Tredrea’s Port Adelaide career began the year before the Power entered the league, helping the Magpies to the 1996 SANFL premiership. Having played only one game in 1997, his career took off in 1998 when he kicked a club record eight goals against Carlton. Tredrea became known for his imposing presence and marking surety, becoming a star of the competition in the early part of the 2000s with four straight All Australian selections. He won Port Adelaide’s best and fairest four times, and led the club goal kicking on eight occasions, while also standing in for Matthew Primus to lead the club to the 2004 flag. Tredrea retired in 2010 after ankle injuries, and holds the record for most goals kicked for the Port Adelaide AFL team.
Des Tuddenham (Collingwood 1962-71, 1976-77, Essendon 1972-75)
251 games, 317 goals
One of the most spirited and inspiring Collingwood players of his – or any – era, Des Tuddenham was a tough in and under player who could drag the team with him to greater heights. He won the best and fairest in his second season, and was runner up on three other occasions. Named captain in 1966, Tuddenham had the chance to win a flag in his first year in charge, but his last minute kick ended in the hands of Saints fullback Bob Murray. He retained the captaincy until 1970, when he went on strike with Len Thompson. Although he returned to the club, the captaincy was stripped from him and he crossed to Essendon as captain coach for four years. His last years at Collingwood were riddled with injury, and he retired after his knees gave out two games into 1977. Tuddenham was named as ruck rover in Collingwood’s Team of the Century.
Albert Thurgood (Essendon 1899-1902, 1906)
46 games, 89 goals
The raw numbers don’t look like much, but Albert ‘The Great’ Thurgood was one of the first true superstars of Australian rules. A prodigious kick and exceptionally high mark, Thurgood first played for Essendon in the VFA in 1892, helping lead the club to three straight flags before moving to Fremantle in the WAFA and two more premierships in three years. In each of these six seasons Thurgood led the league in goal kicking, something he would repeat in 1900 after returning to Essendon. In 1901, his three goals were vital in the Same Old (as they were known then) winning the premiership, while he also won the best and fairest award that year. In 1902, Thurgood was suspended for striking against St Kilda – an unknown player known as ‘Goodthur’ took his place for two matches! Thurgood was named as the number nine Champion of Essendon in 2002, and in the forward pocket of the club’s Team of the Century.
Jack Titus (Richmond 1926-43)
294 games, 970 goals
Before Jim Stynes, the man who had played the most consecutive VFL matches was a lightweight full forward who earned the nickname ‘Skinny’. Jack Titus started his career on a forward flank, but his nous for goal and ability to elude capture saw him shifted to the goal front, where he was able to either take a good mark or pounce on a loose ball and kick truly. He led Richmond’s goal kicking 11 times, and was in the twilight of his career when he kicked 100 goals for the only time, leading the VFL in 1940. Titus also won two best and fairest awards, and set the unfortunate record of playing in six losing grand finals (1928, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1940, 1942) to go with his two premierships (1932, 1934). He was an automatic choice as full forward in Richmond’s Team of the Century, and was conferred as a Richmond Immortal in 2019.
Ron Todd (Collingwood 1935-39)
76 games, 327 goals
One of Jack Titus’ contemporaries was the spectacular Ron Todd, who grew up idolising Collingwood legend Dick Lee. He served a brief apprenticeship under Gordon Coventry, including the 1936 premiership, before stepping into the full forward role in 1938. In two years being the main focal point for Collingwood, Todd kicked 120 and 121 goals, leading the VFL both times. His penchant for high marking was obvious, and his surprising pace led many defenders astray. However, leading into the 1940 season Todd crossed to Williamstown in the VFA – an action that saw him banned from the VFL for five years and persona non grata at Collingwood despite his attempts to return in 1945. At Williamstown he kicked 674 goals in total, including 188 in that 1945 season. Todd was expected to be named in Collingwood’s Team of the Century at centre half forward, but his place was barred by John McHale, son of the famous coach Jock McHale, in retribution for what had always been perceived as a betrayal of Collingwood for money.
Lardie Tulloch (Collingwood 1897-1904)
129 games, 67 goals
Lardie Tulloch owns a unique place in AFL history as the only player to captain a premiership side and later umpire a grand final. Ironically born in Carlton, Tulloch played for several years in the VFA to no great effect before the breakaway VFL formed and he had his best year in 1897. A versatile player who often did the grunt work for his flashier teammates, he was noted for his astute and inspiring captaincy which assisted Collingwood to the 1902 and 1903 premierships. Tulloch retired after one more season as a player, and immediately picked up the whistle, finishing his umpiring career in 1912. He remains one of only three players to captain multiple Collingwood premierships.
Kelvin Templeton (Footscray 1974-82, Melbourne 1983-85)
177 games, 593 goals
Kelvin Templeton first came to Footscray’s attention when he kicked over 100 goals for Traralgon as a 16-year-old. He became Footscray’s first star forward for two decades, leading the club’s goal kicking five times including two Coleman Medals. A strong mark and extremely competitive at ground level, he kicked 15.9 in one game against St Kilda, setting a league record for most scoring shots in a game. In 1980, Footscray were struggling, so Templeton was shifted to centre half forward with great effect, winning the Brownlow Medal that year. Injury plagued the end of his career at both Footscray and Melbourne, but he was still able to lead Melbourne’s goal kicking in 1984. Templeton was named at centre half forward in Footscray’s Team of the Century.
Mark Tandy (South Melbourne 1911-26)
207 games, 47 goals
A brilliant wingman or rover who earned the unfortunate nickname ‘Napper’ due to his habit of switching off in games, Mark Tandy nevertheless was named by Roy Cazaly as the finest rover he ever saw. Tandy played in the 1918 premiership, and it was his dash down the wing in the last minutes that led to the decisive goal. As part of the famous South Melbourne rucking trio of Cazaly-Fleiter-Tandy in the early 1920s, he had his finest seasons and represented Victoria on 13 occasions throughout his career. He was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, and was named on the bench of South’s Team of the Century.
Noel Teasdale (North Melbourne 1956-67)
178 games, 71 goals
In 1964, Noel Teasdale’s life hung in the balance after a head clash with teammate Ken Dean. Returning to the field with protective headgear, he recovered to such an extent that he won the 1965 Brownlow Medal. Teasdale was a tough ruckman who used his physical talents to make his presence on the field known, and represented Victoria 19 times. He won North’s best and fairest in four straight seasons from 1963, and captained the club for his last three years before crossing to Woodville in the SANFL. Teasdale was named as ruckman in the North Melbourne Team of the Century.
Len Thomas (South Melbourne 1927-38, Hawthorn 1939, North Melbourne 1940)
209 games, 78 goals
Len Thomas was a more accomplished player than his father Bill, but as the latter played in a less populated position on the field he was named in the 18 while Len sits here. As a pacy centreman with good skills, he starred in the 1933 premiership as one of the local players among the famous ‘Foreign Legion’ team. Thomas won two best and fairest awards, before crossing to Hawthorn and North Melbourne as captain coach at both clubs. By this time, WWII had broken out, and Thomas signed up to fight on behalf of his country halfway through 1940. Sadly, he lost his life in 1943 in Salamaua, becoming the most experienced VFL player to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Bill Twomey (Collingwood 1945-58)
189 games, 154 goals
In 1953, Bill Twomey made history along with brothers Mick and Pat, becoming the only trio of brothers to play in a premiership side together. By that time, Twomey had become one of the most enigmatic players in the league, capable of starring in the centre in his first few years, kicking eight goals in a half at full forward after asking to be taken off the field, and putting in a match-winning turn at centre half back. However, his body regularly let him down, and in the prime years of his career he managed only 20 games in three seasons. Indeed, only four times in 14 seasons did Twomey play at least 18 games – one of these as captain in 1957. He won Collingwood’s best and fairest in 1956 and retired after missing the 1958 premiership.
George Todd (Geelong 1922-34)
232 games, 54 goals
George ‘Jocka’ Todd began his career as a centre half forward for Geelong, and played in that role for the club’s breakthrough 1925 premiership. However, once he moved to the back line he became known as one of the toughest full backs of the era, competing with some of the all time greatest full forwards and often coming out on top. His spoiling and kicking were of particular note, being said to be able to punch the ball almost as far as others could kick. Todd won three best and fairest awards, including in the premiership year of 1931, and represented Victoria 12 times. Todd was named at full back in Geelong’s Team of the Century.
Up next is the V team, with one of the best players of the 21st Century as well as a legendary full forward.