The addition of David Neitz to the Australian Football Hall of Fame raised a few eyebrows in certain circles.
Looking at his career as a whole, it is hard to deny Neitz’s claim on a place in the Hall. A Coleman medallist and club best and fairest in 2002, the only Melbourne player to ever reach the 300-game milestone, leading goal kicker for his club on seven occasions, and a pair of All-Australian berths are achievements any young player would aspire to have next to his name when all is said and done. But the fact that Neitz was not the traditional superstar player seems to have caused a few ripples. No one will doubt he was a good player, but a Hall of Famer?
This has led to some questioning the integrity of the Hall of Fame, espousing that the inclusion of “pretty good players” damages the overall prestige of the Hall of Fame as an institution. There have been a couple of inductions that have raised eyebrows over the years, most recently with Barry Hall in 2017, but the Neitz induction, ahead of some other well-credentialed players has not sat particularly well.
Here at the Mongrel, we believe the decisions about who’s in and who’s not should be left to the experts… a category in which we definitely don't place ourselves. What we do think, however, is that looking at some of the players yet to be inducted, and seeing the quality that is yet to grace the red carpet at the ceremony actually increases the prestige.
There are Brownlow Medallists yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. There are household names that do not appear on the Hall of Fame honour roll that have meant so much to the game. The value of the Hall of Fame can not just be measured by the calibre of those currently residing in the Hall, but also by the achievements of those who have not yet been inducted. Surely they’d have to be considered soon.
Leowe is still ranked third all-time in marks taken for his career in the V/AFL. He took over 2500 marks in an era when arm-chopping was still allowed, wet weather football (using the same water-logged football for the whole quarter) was a weekly occurrence, and chip kicks sideways and backwards weren’t a part of the strategy. Leowe’s efforts (and those Gary Dempsey’s who is ranked second) are quite amazing, considering.
Leowe was a pillar in the St Kilda forward line. His season-high for marks saw him average 10.23 marks per game in 1990 (who knows how many of those were "Get out of jail" contested marks), and he booted 90 goals in 1996, following on from 76 in 1995. For reference, Neitz won the Coleman in 2002 with 82 goals.
In an age where centre half forwards were quite prominent, you could argue, quite convincingly, that Lyon was in the top couple. He was All Australian three consecutive years – forced onto the half forward flank by none other than Wayne Carey. He also led the Dees as Captain from 1991 until 97.
His best season for disposals saw him top 20 touches per game, but he averaged over 19 disposals per game for another three years. He had back-to-back seasons of 79 and 77 goals in 1994-95. Lyon bagged a career high 10 goals in a 1994 semi-final against the Bulldogs.
Lyon was cruelled by a back injury later in his career, but at his peak, he was one of the best in the game.
In an age where tackling was nowhere near as prevalent as it is now, Liberatore was before his time. His ferocious attack on the man saw him lead the league in tackles in 1990, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 2000. He could almost get a berth in the Hall on those stats alone.
He worked his way through the Under 19s, winning the Morrish medal for best in the competition. He graduated to the reserve grade – apparently too small for the seniors. In the reserves he won two Gardiner medals as the best player in the competition.
Though he played only 18 games over four years from 1986-89, he finally graduated into the senior ranks with a permanent spot in the Bulldogs’ side in 1990, and earned a Brownlow medal for his efforts. He is the only man in history to win the best player in the competition at all three levels.
Sadly, Libba will be remembered by some as the tagger who smacked Matthew Knights in the face, drawing a torrent of blood. This called into question the way he played the game. Whilst his tactics later in his career were highly questionable, you can’t doubt his effectiveness in the role he reverted to in order to prolong his career.
The 1989 Brownlow medallist passed away in 2016, and whilst he had one absolute standout year, he was no Shane Woewodin in other years of his career. As a matter of fact, Couch only averaged less than 21 touches per game twice in his 13 seasons, those being his first and last years.
He boasted three Geelong Best and Fairest Awards and two All-Australian selections, both of which were NOT in his Brownlow year.
Featherby is a funny one. Started with Subiaco before heading the the VFL and playing two seasons with Footscray, where he played 42 games. He returned to WA and Subiaco, where he remained until Geelong came a knocking.
His years in Geelong, 1979-83 saw him at his best. He collected a Best and Fairest in 1981. During his VFL career he did not average under 20 disposals per game once, and boasts a game of 48 disposals and four goals, five behinds against the Demons. That game also included a crazy 40 kicks. Only Bob Skilton (44) ever had more.
Wiley is an amazing story. Playing for Perth in the WAFL, he won the club’s best and fairest award five straight years from his debut season in 1974. Two of those awards were in premiership years. He then made the move to the VFL and the Richmond Tigers.
When you look at Wiley’s record with the Tigers, you can see just how talented their 1980 premiership team truly was. 1979 saw him play only nine games, but in 1980, he averaged 25.7 disposals per game and over a goal a game. It’s no wonder Geoff Raines couldn’t poll a single vote in the Brownlow…
Wiley’s best performance in 1980 saw him notch 46 disposals as Richmond powered past Carlton.
He played two more years for Richmond, averaging 25.5 and 24.5 disposals in 1981-82 before returning to Perth for the 1984 season, where he proceeded to win another three best and fairest awards in a row. In 1987, he was back in the extended VFL, playing 18 games for the West Coast Eagles in their debut season at age 32.
THE KRAKOUER BROTHERS
This is a more personal choice, as I grew up in Kensington - within walking distance from Arden Street. My family would attend there every North home game.
When Jim and Phil Krakouer came across to the VFL after they helped Claremont to a WAFL premiership, I sat up and took notice. Every week, a ten minute walk from my home, these two mercurial brothers played football in a way I hadn’t seen up until that point. When I was a kid, when you played footy and wanted to get your hands on the ball a bit more, you’d “wax” with a teammate. It was like an agreement that if I got the ball, I’d look for him first, and if he got the ball he’d do the same for me. It was a nice little way to bolster the stats and get your name in the paper.
Jim and Phil waxed on a weekly basis. Over the head handballs in traffic, clearances that hit the other brother in stride… they seemed to have a sixth sense about where the other was at all times.
Their years at North were spectacular, sharing one Syd Barker medal and six leading goal kicker awards. While Jim’s criminal convictions will most likely prevent the brothers from ever being inducted together, you can’t really have one without the other. They’re not Jim Krakouer and Phil Krakouer. They’re not individuals – they’re the Krakouer Brothers, and if ever a pair deserved to go in as a double act, it'd be these two..