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Opinion

The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter W

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Roar Pro
7th October, 2020
14

The W team has a prolific midfield, a talented forward line and a mercurial backline.

Read the previous alphabet teams here.

Back line

David Wirrpanda (West Coast 1996-2009)
227 games, 131 goals
David Wirrpanda became the youngest player to debut for the West Coast Eagles when he ran onto the field in Round 5, 1996. Over the next few years injury and poor form saw him play only sporadically, but from 2001 he became a regular in defence for the Eagles. A dashing back pocket or halfback flanker, Wirrpanda’s ability to break lines and clear from defence became a vital part of West Coast’s successes mid-decade.

He was named All Australian in 2005 and played in the premiership of 2006. Wirrpanda retired after three more seasons to spend more time with his family and charitable foundation. He was named as back pocket in West Coast’s 20th-anniversary team and as emergency in the 25th-anniversary team.

Darryl Wakelin (St Kilda 1995-2000, Port Adelaide 2001-07)
261 games, 12 goals
It was a tight selection between Darryl Wakelin and twin brother Shane, but Darryl has been selected by dint of playing in a premiership (2004) as well as being selected in the 1997 grand final when both were at St Kilda, whereas Shane missed out. In 1994 Wakelin won the Jack Oatey Medal for best afield in the SANFL grand final before moving to St Kilda where he was a reliable defender. He played in the 1996 preseason premiership and was a consistent presence, also representing South Australia in three seasons.

After the 2000 season St Kilda were turning to youth and Wakelin was traded to Port Adelaide. There he won two more preseason premierships before the 2004 premiership, where he was infamously engaged in a few tussles with Alistair Lynch. He retired as one of the pair of most-capped twin brothers, with 513 between him and Shane.

Gavin Wanganeen (Essendon 1991-96, Port Adelaide 1997-2006)
300 games, 202 goals
Gavin Wanganeen could play anywhere on the field and have an impact. Whether as an attacking back pocket, a small forward with a nose for the goal or a stint in the midfield, he would take to it with aplomb. It was in defence that Wanganeen was most effective though, as he starred in the 1993 premiership while also becoming one of the youngest players to win a Brownlow Medal – and also the first Indigenous player to do so.

When Port Adelaide entered the AFL he returned to South Australia as their inaugural captain. Wanganeen’s form deserted him somewhat, but he got back to his best after relinquishing the role in 2001, finishing as runner-up in the 2003 Brownlow. In 2004 he kicked an important four goals as Port Adelaide won the flag, and he became the first Indigenous player to reach 300 AFL games before retiring.

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Wanganeen was named as the No. 19 champion of Essendon, the back pocket in Essendon’s team of the century and on the halfback flank of the Indigenous team of the century.

Halfback line

Darryl White (Brisbane 1992-2005)
268 games, 165 goals
Blessed with an incredible leap, sticky hands and the ability to do anything on the field, Darryl White was a fan favourite for Brisbane from the moment he kicked goal of the year in his first season. Although he battled homesickness, his marking ability and habit of raising the ball aloft after another speccy endeared him to the crowd, and he played an important role in defence often on bigger opponents.

White represented the Allies in State of Origin and featured in all three of Brisbane’s premiership sides. He started to struggle towards the end of 2004 and retired one year later. White was named as fullback in the Indigenous team of the century.

Ted Whitten (Footscray 1951-70)
321 games, 370 goals
What can be said about Ted Whitten that hasn’t already been said? A remarkably versatile, tough and influential player, Whitten could hold down any key position with aplomb with sure marking and excellent kicking skills. Whitten led Footscray’s goal kicking four times and won the best and fairest five times. He played in Footscray’s 1954 premiership and captained the club from 1957 up until his retirement, when he had played a VFL-record 321 games.

Even after playing, the legend of Whitten was everywhere, from his passion for the Big V of Victoria to his radio and TV work. Whitten was named as centre-halfback and captain of both the Footscray and V/AFL teams of the century as well as one of the inaugural legends in the Hall of Fame. His final lap of the MCG is every bit as emotional now as it was 25 years ago.

John Worsfold (West Coast 1987-98)
209 games, 37 goals
A rugged defender who captained West Coast from 1991 until his retirement, John Worsfold was an inspiring leader who would hunt the ball and opponents with equal aggression. He began his career as a midfielder but moved to the halfback flank, winning a best and first award in 1988. Worsfold combined with the likes of Guy McKenna, Ashley McIntosh, and Glen Jakovich to create a fearsome backline as part of a team that would not miss the finals under his captaincy.

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He captained premiership sides in 1992 and 1994 to go with the 2006 flag he won as a non-playing coach, and he’s one of only six people to win flags in both capacities. Worsfold was named on the halfback flank on each of West Coast’s anniversary teams of 10, 20 and 25 years.

Centre line

Paul Williams (Collingwood 1991-2000, Sydney 2001-06)
306 games, 307 goals
Paul Williams was a hard-running, long-kicking, fierce-tackling midfielder who could break the lines for Collingwood with regularity in the 1990s. Although he struggled with injury on occasion, he was thought of highly by the Magpies, who paid a premium to keep him at the club when Fremantle came knocking in 1994. Williams finished in the top three of Collingwood’s best and fairest on four occasions, breaking through for a win in 2001 after being traded to Sydney.

He repeated the effort in 2002 and was named in the All Australian side for 2003. In 2005 Williams became the longest-serving player to win a premiership in his 294th match, and he played one more season before retiring with a broken collarbone. He was named on the bench of Tasmania’s team of the century.

Tim Watson (Essendon 1977-94)
307 games, 355 goals
One of the greatest names at Essendon, Tim Watson debuted while still a schoolboy of 15 and acquitted himself well. As a pacy and skilled midfielder, he was a prime mover for over 15 years and featured in the premierships of 1984 and 1985. Watson won four best and fairest awards and was named captain in 1989, relinquishing the post in 1991 when he announced his intention to retire.

West Coast drafted him for the 1992 season, but he didn’t play a game before Kevin Sheedy lured him back to Windy Hill, where his experience assisted the Bombers to another premiership in 1993. Watson retired in 1994 having played over 300 games and was named as the No. 6 champion of Essendon in 2002 as well as being the ruck-rover in the club’s team of the century.

Nicky Winmar (St Kilda 1987-98, Western Bulldogs 1999)
251 games, 317 goals
Nicky Winmar was one of the most spectacular players of his era, able to kick a long goal and take a spectacular mark (he won mark of the year in 1992), and he was a catalyst for the recognition of racism in the AFL, with the famous photo of him pointing to his skin a defining image of the 1990s. After starring at South Fremantle, Winmar moved east and quickly made himself known in the VFL by winning St Kilda’s goal kicking in 1988 and best and fairest the following year.

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He became the first Indigenous player to reach 200 games, reaching the milestone in 1997 but missing a premiership that same year. Winmar won a second best and fairest in 1995 before leaving St Kilda in 1998 and having one last season with the Western Bulldogs. He was named on the wing of St Kilda’s team of the century and on the half-forward flank of the Indigenous team of the century.

Ruck line

Roy Wright (Richmond 1946-59)
195 games, 127 goals
The best of a line of great Richmond big men, Roy Wright served an apprenticeship under Jack Dyer and Brownlow medallist Bill Morris before blossoming when they both left the club. Winning a Brownlow Medal in 1952 and following up in 1954, Wright won four best and fairest awards and was conspicuous in his play for making the ball his sole objective. His ruck work and understanding with rover Billy Wilson was exquisite, and he was capable of kicking extremely long distances.

Wright captained Richmond in his last two seasons and represented Victoria 18 times. After his career ended, he was a popular feature of ABC’s football coverage. He was named as first ruckman in Richmond’s team of the century. All of this came after Wright was forced to wear splints as a child and suffered rheumatic fever, being forbidden from playing any sport until he was 16!

Scott West (Footscray 1993-2008)
324 games, 104 goals
Incredibly consistent and competitive in the midfield scrums, Scott West was a major part of the Footscray teams of the 1990s and 2000s that threatened to break through but could never take that last step. He was given the No. 7 jumper after Doug Hawkins’s departure and lived up to the billing with seven best and fairest awards and five All Australian selections. West led the AFL in disposals five times and is one of the unluckiest players to never win a Brownlow Medal, three times finishing second or third in the voting. West was named as ruck-rover in Footscray’s team of the century.

Greg Williams (Geelong 1984-85, Sydney 1986-81, Carlton 1992-97)
250 games, 217 goals
Greg Williams did not look like a footballer. Short and stocky, with knock-knees and a slow running pace, he made up for his physical deficiencies by having one of the keenest football brains and some of the fastest hands in the league. Williams was fiercely competitive in the midfield, able to feed the ball out with precision or hit up a leading forward. He secured three Brownlow Medal votes in his first game and won the best and fairest at Geelong the following year.

Moving to Sydney after the Cats wouldn’t meet his salary demands, Williams won the Brownlow Medal and became known as one of the preeminent midfielders of the day. After moving to Carlton, he won a second Brownlow in 1994 after missing out by one vote in 1993 before dominating on grand final day 1995 to be rewarded with a premiership and Norm Smith Medal on his 32nd birthday.

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Williams was named in the centre of both Sydney’s and Carlton’s teams of the century and on the interchange bench of the AFL team of the century.

Half-forward line

Jack Wrout (North Melbourne 1931-36, Carlton 1936-44)
183 games, 319 goals
As a follower or forward with North Melbourne, Jack Wrout played well enough to be selected for Victoria in 1934 but never cemented a place in the team. Carlton lured him to Princes Park, and he became a reliable avenue to goal at half-forward with his marking ability and bullocking style of play.

Wrout was one of the best afield in Carlton’s 1938 premiership win, kicking four goals, and improved as his career continued, leading the club’s goalkicking in 1943. In his 97th consecutive game in 1944 he suffered a broken leg that ended his career on the field. Wrout went on to be one of the most influential Carlton figures off-field for over 30 years.

Robert Walls (Carlton 1967-78, Fitzroy 1978-80)
259 games, 444 goals
Coming to Carlton as a skinny high school student and debuting at only 16 years old, Robert Walls developed into a classy and spirited centre half-forward after spending his first years in the back pocket, where he played in the 1968 premiership. By 1970 he had moved forward and was a catalyst in Carlton’s remarkable recovery in that grand final before being best on ground in the 1972 shootout.

Walls’s leadership tendencies were well known and rewarded with a role as vice-captain for five years before captaining the club in 1977 and 1978. He had also led the club’s goal kicking in 1975 and 1976.

Halfway through 1978 Walls applied for a clearance to Fitzroy and played useful football until his injured knees gave out and he embarked on a prolific coaching and media career. He was named on the bench of Carlton’s team of the century.

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Garry Wilson (Fitzroy 1971-84)
268 games, 452 goals
Garry Wilson was a dynamic and hard-running rover who was conspicuous for his incredible courage and resilience – on one occasion in 1977 he fractured his jaw but returned to the field a few weeks later. He was creative enough around goals to lead Fitzroy’s goal kicking twice and was a regular shining light for the club in winning five best and fairest awards.

Twice Wilson finished on the podium in the Brownlow Medal count, and he represented Victoria 12 times. He was named captain in 1981 and held the role for the remainder of his career. Wilson was named on the half-forward flank of Fitzroy’s team of the century.

Forward line

Dale Weightman (Richmond 1978-93)
274 games, 344 goals
As good as Dale Weightman was for Richmond, he was often even better in interstate matches. Playing for Victoria 20 times throughout the 1980s, Weightman won the Tassie Medal, Simpson Medal and two Whitten medals for his brilliance in the interstate arena. At club level he was a courageous and creative rover whose use of handball would launch many a Richmond attack.

He won two best and fairest awards and played in the 1980 premiership. Weightman was named captain from 1988 to 1992 and formed a lethal partnership with Mark Lee for most of his career despite suffering from diabetes. He was named as forward pocket in Richmond’s team of the century.

Doug Wade (Geelong 1961-72, North Melbourne 1973-75)
267 games, 1057 goals
One of only five players to reach the 1000-goal milestone, Doug Wade was not the most spectacular full-forward but one of the most effective. Equally comfortable flying for a big mark or engaging in a physical battle with the top defenders of the time, in his 15-year career only once did he not lead his club’s goal kicking, playing only ten matches in 1965. Wade won four Coleman medals and a best and fairest award in 1969 when he kicked 127 goals.

He played in Geelong’s 1963 premiership and was named captain in 1972 before transferring to North Melbourne under the short-lived ten-year rule. In his final season Wade’s effectiveness dimmed somewhat, but his experience and cunning enabled him to play a vital role in North’s breakthrough premiership. Wade was named at full-forward in Geelong’s team of the century.

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Lindsay White (Geelong 1941, 1944-50, South Melbourne 1942-43)
142 games, 540 goals
Doug Wade’s predecessor as a great Geelong spearhead, Lindsay White was incredibly fast on the lead and a great overhead mark. He first drew attention when kicking 67 goals in his debut season to lead Geelong, but when he played for South Melbourne during the Cats’ wartime recess kicked 80 to lead the league in 1942.

When White returned to Geelong he picked up where he left off, leading the goal kicking another four times and captaining the club in three separate stints. White won a best and fairest award in 1947 and led the league’s goal kicking in 1948. He retired in 1950 after a severe Achilles tendon injury.

Interchange

Norm Ware (Footscray 1932-46)
200 games, 220 goals
Norm Ware owns a unique place in league history, being the only captain-coach to win a Brownlow Medal. He did so in 1941, the last time the medal was awarded before a hiatus during WWII. Ware found out about this when stationed at an army camp and it was announced that ‘Warne’ had won – there was no Warne in the league at the time!

Ware was a ruckman whose pace belied his size, and he could almost act as another rover once the ball hit the ground. He was known for his fairness and was respected across the league for both that and his skills. Ware won five best and fairest awards and won the club’s goal kicking in 1942. He retired after losing a final in 1946 and was named on the bench of Footscray’s team of the century.

Ivor Warne-Smith (Melbourne 1919, 1925-32)
146 games, 110 goals
One of the most brilliant players in Melbourne’s early years, Ivor Warne-Smith debuted as part of a winless Melbourne squad in 1919. Relocating to Tasmania to take up farming, his football prowess became noted and he led the Latrobe club to two premierships before being lured back to Victoria. Warne-Smith quickly set about showing his prowess and versatility, winning a Brownlow Medal and premiership in 1926. He became the first player to win two Brownlow medals with his second win in 1928 and served as Melbourne captain-coach from 1928 to 1931.

Warne-Smith had served in WWI while underage and been gassed by the Germans, but this did not stop him enlisting when WWII broke out. He was named as centre half-forward in Melbourne’s team of the century and as back pocket in Tasmania’s team of the century.

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Stephen Wright (South Melbourne/Sydney 1979-92)
246 games, 247 goals
Stephen Wright was a tough and skilful midfielder for South Melbourne and Sydney and was important in remaining loyal to the club after their relocation in 1982. He won best and fairest awards in 1985 and 1990. Interestingly, in the latter of those seasons Wright was selected for interstate matches for New South Wales (defeating Victoria) and Victoria (losing to Tasmania)! He had previously represented NSW in the 1988 Bicentennial Carnival.

Wright retired and served as captain-coach of Clarence in the TFL, winning premierships in 1993 and 1994, before coaching Central District in the SANFL for two seasons. He was named on the bench of South Melbourne’s team of the century.

Terry Wallace (Hawthorn 1978-86, Richmond 1987, Footscray 1988-91)
254 games, 123 goals
Nicknamed ‘Plough’ for his tenacious in-and-under ability, Terry Wallace was a tough midfielder who enjoyed the clinches and would regularly pick up a bag of possessions. He played in three premierships at Hawthorn and won two best and fairest awards. After the 1986 flag Wallace departed to Richmond for a fruitless year before crossing to Footscray. He won two more best and fairest awards at the Bulldogs and played at a high level until injuries forced his retirement.

Wallace is now best known for his coaching career at Footscray and Richmond, having taken the Bulldogs to preliminary finals in his first two full seasons in charge.

Emergencies

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Bryan Wood (Richmond 1972-82, Essendon 1983-86)
253 games, 97 goals
One of the finest wingmen of the 1970s, Bryan Wood was pacy, agile and a ball hawk who would compete ferociously to get the ball. Having won a premiership for Richmond’s under-19 team in 1970, he graduated to the seniors within two years and won the best first-year player award. Wood played in the premierships of 1973, 1974 and 1980 and was appointed captain for the 1981 season. After the losing grand final of 1982, he transferred to Essendon to play under old teammate Kevin Sheedy and was rewarded with another premiership in 1985.

Scott Wynd (Footscray 1988-2000)
237 games, 31 goals
Scott Wynd was one of the best ruckmen of the 1990s, not only for his deft tap work and feeding of the Bulldog midfield but for his leadership ability, captaining the club from 1994 to 2000. His best year was 1992, when he won a Brownlow and a best and fairest and was named All Australian for the only time.

Never a big goal kicker, Wynd would often drop back as a spare man in defence to assist in repelling the opposition. He retired having averaged almost 22 games per season in his last six years. Wynd was named on the bench of Footscray’s team of the century.

Greg Wells (Melbourne 1969-80, Carlton 1980-82)
267 games, 275 goals
A heavy-set centreman who could handle anything, Greg Wells was a conspicuous part of the Melbourne side for over a decade. He won two best and fairest awards and led the club goal kicking in 1977. Wells captained the Demons in 1977 and 1978 and had finished second in the 1972 Brownlow Medal.

During his time at Melbourne, Wells had on occasion almost left the club and Carlton was one team that had designs on recruiting him. eventually doing so in a protracted battle in 1980. It came as a surprise – so much so that Wells played for Melbourne in Round 13, sat out Round 14 with injury and pulled on the navy blue jumper in Round 15 against his old teammates! The change worked wonders for both club and player, as his experience helped Carlton to the 1981 flag, and he retired after missing a spot in the following year’s premiership. Wells was named as an emergency in Melbourne’s team of the century.

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The final team is the alphabet soup containing the letters I, Q, U, Y and Z. No X players qualified – sorry, Tristan Xerri!