Every team has had a player that sums up what the 80s were all about. Whether it was a complete and utter lack of style, a penchant for the extravagant along with a ‘look at me’ attitude, or a style of play that was lost to the history books once that decade passed, the men that truly embodied the 80s were unique.
But it would be unfair to focus solely on the players who only played in the 80s. Some teams in the AFL didn’t even exist at that stage, and really, sometimes the efforts of later players surpass those who played in the 80s anyway.
So who is your team’s essential 80s player?
ADELAIDE CROWS - ADAM SALIBA
Here’s a nice way to start… one of the sides that wasn’t even playing in the league in the 80s. Nevertheless, the Crows had some very 80s players in their first few years, and another one much more recently. As hard as Taylor Walker tries by growing moustaches and mullets, he simply cannot top the legacy left by the one and only Adam Saliba.
Saliba missed the decade in which he truly belonged by a few years, playing only 3 games in 1992, but he did his absolute best to ensure that 80s style was carried over into the 90s. Whether it was his flowing mullet, or his shorts that just didn’t quite fit, not even Greg Anderson could out-80s this man. Wherever you are now, Adam, we hope you’re driving a ute, rocking out to Livin’ on a Prayer and have a pack of Winnie Reds up the sleeve of your t-shirt.
GEELONG CATS - GARY ABLETT SNR
To say Ablett was a strange man would be like saying people on the internet are kind of full of crap. The 80s were all about excess and a real “screw it” attitude, and when it came to doing something you were supposed to, “screw it” was an Ablett specialty.
A coffee table book was produced about Ablett and he was to sign the leather bound editions, which would sell for a premium. Whilst signing them, Ablett got annoyed with the process and decided that it was a little too much hard work for his liking. Instead, he decided to get a rubber stamp of his signature made so he could just stamp those damn pesky books and save himself the inevitable writer’s cramp. So off he went, to wherever the stationer was in Geelong, got a stamp of his signature made, and headed back home to get on with the stamping.
Sadly, for those who purchased the books, the rubber stamp happened to have a solid border around it, which made it kind of obvious that Ablett had not actually signed them. Refunds were in order. The publisher was not happy.
RICHMOND TIGERS - JAKE KING
I bet you thought that we’d grab someone from their 80s teams, huh? Wrong! Whilst Disco Roach was the front-runner, we leapt into the not-so distant past and anointed Jake King as your ultimate 80s player. Alleged connections to organised crime figures and a speaking voice that’d make him a tremendous silent movie actor, Jake King looks like he fell out of a panel van while cruising for chicks in Broadmeadows.
Jake has crafted a media presence based on the fact that he’s knock-about, and according to recent news items, he’s allegedly threatened to knock about the heads of a few people.
GWS GIANTS - DEAN BROGAN
Way to make me feel old, Giants! None of the players you’ve had on your team even played in the eighties at all. That being said, they did have a man who looked like he belonged in the 80s. Dean Brogan missed his calling. Whilst he was serviceable as an AFL player for the Power before moving to GWS, the movie industry is where we could’ve seen Brogan excel. Picture him playing the villain in a Rocky movie. Ivan Drago, your services are no longer required. We now have Dean Brogan.
Perhaps if the guy with the metal teeth hadn’t already stolen his spot, Big Dean could’ve had a spot as a Bond Villain. His protruding forehead and vacant yet menacing expression were ideal for an 80s movie villain. He could also probably take your eye out with his chin. I hear they're remaking Masters of the Universe in the near future. Dean would make a pretty good He-Man... or an exceptional Skeletor.
PORT ADELAIDE POWER - CHAD CORNES
OK, this is an easy one. Pick the perfect name for a bully from an 80s movie. How about… Chad? Blonde, strong, and with just a touch of slowness about him, Chad could’ve harassed the boys from Revenge of the Nerds way more effectively than those jocks from Alpha Beta.
While we’re on movies, he also could’ve easily played the role of Johnny Lawrence from the Karate Kid… and not the crappy remake with Jaden Smith. I’m talking about the one with Ralph Macchio in it. You could see Chad representing the Cobra-Kai dojo, squaring off against Macchio in the final fight. I have no doubt he’d take out the hero’s knee, but would Chad allow the Karate Kid to get up and do that crane kick? Nup… Chad would finish him off.
SYDNEY SWANS - WARWICK CAPPER
Nothing said the 80s in Sydney like The Wiz. With the high-flying marks and lifestyle to match, Capper, his then-wife Leanne, and Geoffrey Edelston made the Swans seem glamorous. He drove a pink Ferrari, wore shorts that’d make a swimsuit model feel a little uncomfortable, and he even posed with his then-wife for a Penthouse shoot. He also released a single called ‘I Only Take What’s Mine’ which was as terrible as it sounds. But whilst you could be forgiven for thinking Capper was all sizzle and no steak, you’d be wrong.
In the days before he was a metre-maid and a porn star, Capper was a star amongst stars, and a massive drawcard. He kicked 103 goals in 1987, following on from 92 in 1986. He led the Swans goal kicking from 1984-87, then led the Brisbane Bears goal kicking in 1988. For all the nonsense, you can’t knock the player.
ESSENDON BOMBERS - PAUL VANDER HAAR
With many to choose from at Windy Hill, Paul Vander Haar gets the nod. Vanders was a high-marking maestro, routinely sitting on the backs, shoulders and heads of his opponents to take hangers. Any highlight video of the late 70s and early to mid-80s has footage of Vander Haar using opponents as a stepladder.
Then there were the drinking exploits of the Flying Dutchman. Urban legend has it that Vander Haar needed someone to pick him up at 6am the morning of a big game at the MCG as he was a little bit under the weather. He dominated that game, of course. He was one of the greats of the 80s who classified alcohol as a performance-enhancing drug.
WEST COAST EAGLES - JOHN WORSFOLD
Whilst Chad Jones almost gets the Guernsey for having the name ‘Chad’, we couldn’t split him and Chad Rintoul, so we had to opt for another.
John Worsfold was there when it all started for the Eagles in 1987, and played through a debilitating condition known as ‘white line fever’ for his whole career (not the Ben Cousins kind). A pharmacist by day, Worsfold would dispense his own kind of medicine to anyone foolish enough to leave themselves open. Sadly, with his physical style, he’d spend most of his career on the sidelines if he played now. I’m glad I got to see him play back then, when running through someone on the boundary line and leaving them gasping for breath was something to celebrate.
MELBOURNE DEMONS - ALLAN JAKOVICH
The 80s had plenty of blokes who were a bit out of shape but had immense amounts of skill. Allan Jakovich was just a few short years late to the party. His star shined brightly, but only briefly as the Melbourne full forward before injuries cut him down. He did make a short-lived comeback with the Bulldogs, but had eaten too many pies by that stage and looked a little porky.
Jakovich was a pioneer of same sex rights, pashing his brother on field as the Eagles played the Demons. A true innovator, Jako was the first to use the scissor kick in the AFL, which made people lose their damn minds.
WESTERN BULLDOGS - DOUG HAWKINS
You’d have to be pretty good to beat out the recent efforts by Jake Stringer, or those of the headlock specialist, Danny Southern, but Doug Hawkins is easily the most 80s player the Bulldogs have seen. Dougie loved drinking, mispronouncing most words even when sober, and had a bit of an aversion to training. He was an absolute lad.
When Mick Malthouse joined the Doggies in ’84, Hawkins had to conform. As a result, he had a brilliant ’85. Rumour has it that “Hawk” was witness to Malthouse having a little ‘chat’ with a renowned Bulldog hard man not long after the Mick arrived at the Kennel. Having seen Malthouse handle himself quite well in that situation, Hawkins saw the writing on the wall and fell into line quickly. As loutish as he was, give Hawkins some credit. He knew not to cross Mick.
HAWTHORN HAWKS - DERMOTT BRERETON
Remember Dermott Brereton strutting during the 1985 Grand Final? Yes… that was unwise. The brash young Brereton would break a record that day, kicking 8 goals in a side that was destroyed by the Bombers. Maybe he should’ve saved the strut for a game they were… you know, winning? Brereton claims to have been emulating WWF star at the time, Brutus Beefcake, which in itself is enough to get him on this list. If he’d emulated Macho Man Randy Savage, perhaps then I could understand.
Brereton also made the wise, and not-at-all extravagant purchase of a Ferrari, and rode his motorcycle up the steps to the door of the Metro nightclub in Melbourne. Quite a humble fellow, that Dermott.
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES - DANE SWAN
So many to choose from. Tony Shaw. Daicos. Rene Kink. Peter Moore. Collingwood were blessed with 80s talent, but it took until 2003 for their true 80s icon to show up. Dane Swan; tattooed, knock-about, stocky, hard running, and from all reports, loves a beer, but I’ll only believe that when I see it.
Swan’s style of play was straight out of the 80s. Swan’s game was a ramped up 80s game, complete with the 20 metre toe-poke kick that allowed him to run on, pick the ball up again and get another disposal.
If Jake King looked as though he was straight out of a panel van, then Swan would’ve looked at home with his arm hanging out of a Commodore. I bet he would’ve been popular using the CB Radio to pick up the ladies, too.
FREMANTLE DOCKERS - CLIVE WATERHOUSE
Folk hero. Ground breaker. Trendsetter. These are all words that apply to people. Sadly, ‘tragic’ is a word that applies to Clive Waterhouse, particularly early on in his career. Drafted number one overall in the 1995 AFL Draft, Freo should’ve known what they were getting. Waterhouse had a hairstyle that defied all style, sense and logic. Still, the management at Fremantle looked at Waterhouse and said “He’ll fit right in here.”
Clive knocked up 106 games for the Dockers, and with that hairstyle, probably would’ve knocked up a lot of women had he played in the 80s. Clive eventually got his hair cut, but nothing will ever erase the memories of the mulleted blonde from Port Adelaide on draft night, and the memories of everyone there watching asking themselves “what is that kid thinking?”
NORTH MELBOURNE KANGAROOS - PETER JONAS
Three things scream the 80s in North Melbourne; Fights in the public housing estate, the strange smell at times from the Moonee Ponds Creek, and the gasometer that was situated across the road from Arden Street. But what said football in North Melbourne at that time?
Now Peter Jonas might claim to have naturally curly hair. He might claim to be a billionaire astronaut cowboy as well, but I don’t believe him. I know a perm when I see one, and you, Peter Jonas, had a perm! Look at those locks cascading down onto his shoulders. I am pretty sure I dated a girl whose perm was significantly less impressive. Sadly for Peter, if his face were a work of art, people would ask about purchasing only the frame.
CARLTON BLUES - STEPHEN KERNAHAN
Need I say more? There’s something extremely 80s about getting blind drunk and belting out a Tammy Wynette song in public. Sticks had just won the premiership, and he didn’t give a rat’s backside what anyone thought about him.
Did he have the best mullet in the business? Whilst others like Garry Hocking and Paul Roos may object, we’re standing by our man and sticking with Sticks. His singing voice, though, is indefensible.
GOLD COAST SUNS - MATT SHAW
He may not have known Patrick Swayze personally. He could have, but I doubt it. He probably doesn’t have a relationship with Keanu Reeves, either. It's also probable that doesn’t rob banks whilst wearing a mask depicting a former president, but just where was Matt Shaw during the 50 year storm?
If anyone could slot into a movie poster about surfing, it’d be Matt Shaw. And what better place to be a surfer than on the Gold Coast? Well, there's probably quite a few places, actually. Despite Point Break being released in 1991, it was written in the 80s and that’s about all the connection I need to proclaim Matt Shaw a Gold Coast 80s icon.
BRISBANE LIONS/BEARS - JOHN GASTEV
After a short stint with the Eagles, Gastev took his talents to Queensland and became a fantastic running defender for the Bears for several years.
I can’t believe the reaction he used to get in the streets of Jerusalem. People were just chasing him around, hailing him, calling him the messiah. Turns out, according to his mother, he was just a very naughty boy.
ST KILDA SAINTS - TREVOR BARKER
The St Kilda social club should be renamed the Trevor Barker playground. Barks was the Saints in the 1980s. Whilst I might poke a bit of fun at players in this article here and there, Barker deserves nothing but the utmost respect. We’re now in an age where players pack up and leave at the first opportunity, but Barker was a Saint, and Barker stayed a Saint.
Rival clubs made offers that would’ve swayed others, Melbourne coming the closest when Ron Barassi returned to the club in the early 80s, but Barker was a Saint through and through. Loyalty – it’s something we don't see as often as we'd like these days, and Barker had it in spades.
Think a bit differently about your team’s 80s icon? Hit us up on Twitter @themongrelpunt and give us a bit of grief.