Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Best Ever Hawthorn 22

After emigrating here in February 1971 from Derry, Northern Ireland, one question followed me wherever I went from the very moment I landed on the tarmac at Tullarmarine;

' Who do you barrack for.....?'

My instant replay was Derry City in the Irish League and Aston Villa in English football.

Blank stares, 'Bloody Paddy' on lips as they explained the VFL!

Responding 'Noone,' guaranteed further exasperated gasps and people taking it upon themselves to educate me. I played cricket with a few guys who played for South Melbourne, and they got me tickets to see a game against Carlton in the early throws of 1971.

South lost, but I was hooked, and just as I was about to dedicate to the Bloods faithful, Fate intervened

A drive up Glenferrie Road, seeing this sign:

"What would you do if Jesus came to Hawthorn?"

'' Move Peter Hudson to Centre Half forward.'

I was aghast as well as exhilarated by the brazenness, fully knowing that if this type of 'sentiment' was even imagined where I came from in Ireland, it would guarantee bloodshed, and likely mean war.

Fuck Religion, my calling to Hawthorn!

45 years later, I thought I would write my best Hawthorn 22

Feel free to label me a silly old coot that has had his senses evaporated by indulging in way too much Jameson Irish whisky.
Also, enjoy

My Best ever Hawthorn 22

B: Shaun Burgoyne, Kelvin Moore, Gary Ayres

HB: Peter Knights, Chris Langford, Luke Hodge ( C )

W: Robert Dipierdomenico, Sam Mitchell, Geoff Ablett

HF: Buddy Franklin, Dermott Brereton, Gary Buckenara

FF: Jason Dunstall, Peter Hudson, Peter Crimmins

R; Don Scott ( VC ), Michael Tuck, Leigh Matthews

Int: Russell Greene, Shane Crawford ,John Platten, Grant Birchall

Player Bio's

Shaun Burgoyne ( 142* games with Hawthorn )

Burgoyne's selection might shock a few but it was sealed by David Parkin's thoughts on him recently, where he stated he is on the same level as both Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell. Hughe call, only because Burgoyne never gets the full respect for just how great he is.

To me, he is a walk up starter for the AFL Hall of Fame and should be in our best ever team when it is revisted in 2025 to commemorate our 100 years in the VFL/AFL

His strength is his completeness, forward, back or midfield he rules as well as in defensive or attacking roles.

Also, has there ever been a better big game performer than Burgoyne?

Kelvin Moore ( 300 games )

We often laud the players who are expert of reading the play in this the modern age.

Kelvin Moore wrote the book.....

So many times you would see him intercept with a mark or spoil through that ability to be one step ahead. With ball in hand he oozed class, ahead of his time with his composure and distribution

Completing his package was he was one of the best body players the games has seen, meaning one on one against any forward, he was rarely beaten

Think of a Brian Lake/Josh Gibson combo and you have Moore

Gary Ayres ( 269 games )

Slow as a wet week, but made up for it in so many other ways.

Top of his pops was his natural leadership, he did so many things on the field that inspired others. Tough, uncompromising with such a relentlessness and unyielding defiance in the face of any hardship. The great teams of the 80's calling card was it was never beaten and just quietly one could see Ayres was at the forefront of instilling this in the unit.

He was an astute man marker of smalls due to his footballing smarts. He often had speedsters on him to exploit his lack of toe, but he pantsed them by seeing the play unfold before it even started.

Also versatile, with some of his heroic acts coming in Grand Finals further afield. If you need proof, check out him blitzing from a wing in the 1986 flag

Peter Knights ( 264 games )

Breathtaking player, renowned for taking outrageous speccies, but, his dash from defence was just as gobsmacking.

If he played in this age of defensive rebound, he would be on every wish list.

Taking this a step further, he was the quintessential swingman. Elite as a key back as well as a nightmare match up as a key forward.

The thing that always leaves me in stunned awe of Knights is he was a vindicated legend, but, I always thought injury robbed us of seeing just how much better he could have been

A true natural!

Chris Langford ( 303 games )

Made his name as a great Full Back, but I always thought he would have been even better as a CHB.

In this role, his underrated strength as a rebounder out of defence would have been fully accentuated due to his natural athleticism. Fast for a huge man as well as strong as an ox meaning he was a nightmare for most forwards.

Entered the hearts of all Hawk fans as a true icon during the fight against the Melbourne takeover bid in 1996. With him taking off his guernsey and showing it to the faithful as a show of support while walking off at the conclusion of the 'merger game'

Luke Hodge ( 273 games* )

Words rarely give true homage to Hodge

One of the best leaders the game has seen as with his giving real credence to the 'make your teammates walk taller' cliche. He is worthy of a place in this team on that alone, but he is also the definition of complete as a player. With him able to play any role on the field to a level rarely seen ever.

Just quietly, we might see in his twilight years show just how good he is as a forward as well.

Robert Dipierdomenico ( 240 games )

I could focus on the publicised aspects of 'Dippers' game but the one that made me laud him was his resilience.

With him initially tasting premiership glory in 1978 as a tough half back but then struggling to be a regular again until reinventing himself as a big wingman in 1984.

It was if the genie was uncorked for him in this role with him becoming one of the most dominant figures in the VFL/AFL. A combination of heart, toughness and real skill making him a difference maker as a wingman that could kick an uplifting goal or win a tough clearance in real crunch time.

His courage was legendary as well as uplifting, he was so dedicated to the Hawks that he was willing to die for them as seen in the 1989 GF epic where he played most of the game with shattered ribs and a punctured lung.

Sam Mitchell ( 289 games* )

Remarkable player, that is a real throwback to the days where it was insisted on players being able by foot on both sides. He is not only 'able', but truly elite. Taking the throwback a step further, Mitchell is such an old style football with real natural instincts and smarts. He has an unnerving ability to find the ball whether it be by hand or foot his distribution is of a level comparable to any in the games history.

At 33, he just keeps getting better and must be a real chance of winning a 'second' Brownlow to go with the one he 'won' in 2012

Geoff Ablett ( 202 games )

This selection might shock a few but Gary Ablett Seniors older brother was one of the best wingers the game has seen. His main strengths were his pace and penetration by foot. whether it on the left or right he could bomb it 60 metres and land it on a 5 cent piece.

If you want testimony of his greatness, get a copy of the 1974 Preliminary final against North. Where he kicked three goals from a wing in a dominating display that nearly carried us to victory.

Lance Franklin ( 182 games )

Amazing player, built like a power forward but his main strength was his cat-like skills that put most small forwards to shame. This aspect of him made him a nightmare matchup for you had to respect his size by playing a big on him but he would kill them with his pace. pace made more threatening by the fact that on the run he was a goal threat anywhere from 70 out.

Really heartbreaking when he left the club, mainly for it gave rise to the hysterical aspect of our following, and with it the lack of respect that his legendary time at our club deserves.

Dermott Brereton ( 189 games )

In my view, better than Carey, and only bested by Royce Hart as the greatest CHF the game has seen.

I say this for he used to impact games in more ways than Carey did. He could beat you by his marking brilliance or goal kicking skill or through sheer intimidation. The 1989 second semi against the Filth was a standout, where we started slowly and Dermie changed the trend by flattening VanderHaar with a perfect bump and a few seconds later crushing Daisy Williams with a brutal tackle.

Fast forward to the 89 GF, flattened by Yeates in the opening seconds, but refusing to go off. Instead, backing into an oncoming pack, taking a mark and kicking a goal.

In the conversation as the best big game performer ever.

Gary Buckenara ( 154 games )

Great player, whether as a deadly dangerous forward or superlatively skilled centreman.

To bask in his completeness watch the first half of the 1986 Grand Final. Where he kicked four goals, all displaying differing skills of the game and nearly took the greatest mark ever seen.

Jason Dunstall ( 269 games )

One of the greatest full forwards the game has seen, in many opinions the best.

He would hold the record for most goals ever if not for injury. He was built like a brute but so jet propelled on the lead, and had vice-like hands making it nigh on impossible for defenders to spoil him. great kick for goal, and a noted big game performer.

With Dermott Brereton, he formed arguably the best forward double act the game has seen.

Peter Hudson ( 129 games )

Definition of a 'Freak'

He used to astound the number of times that the ball would go forward to a milling pack and he would mark uncontested or run into an open goal. It was if he was blessed with luck, but it happened so many times that it made you know he was toying with all others with his genius. Bluffing leading up, double bluffing by leading opponents under the flight of the ball, with him leading back to mark or goal easily.

Arguably, footballs greats example of 'what if'

For he would have obliterated all goalkicking records if not for a tragic knee, including, I have no doubt 250 goals in a season,....

Peter Crimmins ( 176 games )

I often get antsy about how history depicts Peter Crimmins.

With it always about his tragic battle with testicular Cancer and untimely death, all too young. This always takes away from just how good he was as a footballer. He was very like John Platten, as that bottom of every pack courageous small man with a Phar Lap type heart, and such courage. Using the Platts comparison, he was better because he was such a natural goal kicker, either as a rover or as a deadly dangerous resting forward.

Don Scott ( C- 302 games  )

Legend, and should be made a Legend in our Hall of Fame

Exceptional as a big hearted ruckman that despite his lack of size willed his way to beat every comer. This heart made him one of the games greatest leaders with him so relentless in his desire to succeed despite any obstacles set before him.

Michael Tuck ( 426 games )

In a surreal sense, Tucky's career was vastly underrated.

He gets respect for his longevity, premiership success and leadership, but i always think he never gets his just dues for just how great he was as a player. Brilliant ruck rover with the versatility to play as a key forward or as a negating flanker in his latter years. I saw most of his 426 games and struggle to think of him playing a bad game.

He remarkable consistency was married with unparalleled excellence

Leigh Matthews ( 332 games )

This rover and devastating forward is the greatest player the game has ever seen.

I will not even try to give his legend due homage with my words.

Russell Greene ( 184 games )

This versatile utility was an unsung great of the legenday 80's teams and he should be in our Hall of Fame

Shane Crawford ( 305 games )

Great player who got his just desserts with his last game culminating in the 2008 flag

John Platten ( 258 games )

Most will be outraged Platten being on the bench, but it points to how strong our best 18 is

Grant Birchall ( 220 games* )

Birchall's selection might shock a few, but, he is a player that rarely gets paid true respect for how great he is


  1. Love this.
    The only questions I have regard two of our current elite: Josh Gibson, and Cyril Rioli.

    Gibbo being one of only 5 players to have ever won 2 club champion awards in premiership years in AFL/VFL history, and undoubtedly the most important member of a Hawthorn back 6 in my time as a member (only 15 years, but still)

    And Cyril as, probably the most exciting player in the game today, in an age in which excitement is as important as just about anything else.

    I don't know who would come out of this side to make way (maybe a Birchall or an Ablett) but I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Love the story too, thanks for sharing.

    1. And indeed, I wonder your thoughts on Roughy. Arguably no one else in the game for a very long time who can do what he does, as well as he does it

    2. Mitchell, thank you kindly for the reply

      As for you posers:

      Gibbo- i was torn over four players for the back pocket position that went to Burgoyne ( Gibbo, Burgoyne, Rubber O'Halloran and David Parkin )I settled on Burgoyne because of his versatility and big game performances.

      As for Cyril, very worthy, and I thought of him for Russell Greene's position on the bench. Also factoring in Darren Jarman. I choose the steady consistent excellence of Greene over the excitement of the other two

      I think I erred on Roughy's exclusion, but I was so intent on including Birchall. A player who has been such a measure for us in this great era. When Birchall plays well we win- which says all about his effect

      Once more, thank you for your comment

    3. Thanks for the response, Tim, it is clear you put a large amount of thought and effort into this.

      If I may, who would have as the 3 emergencies in this hypothetical side?

      And to which genius do you give the coaching position to? There's a few very valid claims to that spot