As I sit here wearing my newly arrived Nor-West Jets AFC footy shorts, two things spring to mind. I need to thank President Nick “General” Milkins of the Jets footy club for the lovely gift. Secondly, will my Nor-West Jets brothers get to wear the same pair of shorts on the hallowed turf of Bensons Lane? For those of you unfamiliar with Bensons Lane, it’s the jewel in the Hawkesbury region’s crown of Western Sydney. A picturesque ground with the occasional Hercules Transport Aircraft gliding through its airspace and a gorgeous view of The Blue Mountains in the background. Hopefully once the curve flattens, the boys can take to the field once again! There was nothing sweeter than belting out the team song after a victory. If it was against Sydney University, we would sing it louder and prouder. Sadly, we never got to play against the same squad of players when it came to finals time. It seemed like their squad swelled to an enormous size and we’d be playing against blokes we’ve never seen before. Whoops, I’m digressing again… My apologies everyone!
When the Captain of Armchair Champions asked me what I was going to write about, I had to think about my answer for a bit. You see readers, Uncle Oyster is what the Australian Government considers an essential worker. This means he pretends to be Ben Richards from the book and movie The Running Man and struggles to last another day without becoming infected with old mate COVID-19. So far, I’m surviving.
I wanted to write about the great midfields of successful teams in the modern era. Yes, forwards and backs are important but when it comes to receiving umpires votes for the Brownlow, we all know who gets the rub of the green. Not the back six that’s for sure! So, without further ado, I give you Oyster’s Delicious Dozen midfield combinations from 1986. Why 1986 you ask? I watched my first game of footy with my dad Blinkie at the SCG that year.
- Geelong Cats 2007-2011. Is this showing bias? Absolutely! In this period, the Cats played in 4 grand finals, winning 3 of them and lost in a preliminary final in 2010 to the eventual premiers Collingwood. Where do I start? Gary Ablett Jnr, Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Cameron Ling, Paul Chapman, Joel Corey, James Kelly and Stevie J all rotated through the midfield at different stages. Add Mr September Brad Ottens in the ruck, and the Cats had an impressive winning percentage of 84%. What was even more remarkable was the fact Gary Ablett Jnr wasn’t a part of the premiership winning side due to his self imposed relocation to the Gold Coast.
- Hawthorn Hawks 1983-1991: 7 consecutive grand final appearances, 5 grand final victories! Wow! Lethal Leigh Matthews was towards the tail end of his career but was still a major factor in the Hawks success. Let me rattle off some Hawks who played in the midfield during this era shall I? Terry Wallace, Rodney Eade, Peter Schwab, Gary Buckenara, Darrin Pritchard, Robert “Dipper” DiPierdomenico, Michael Tuck, Darren Jarman and Ben Allan. Greg Dear was the ruckman for three of those premierships. An incredible who’s who of Hawthorn legends.
- Brisbane Lions 1999-2004: How could I not mention my new hometown team in this list?! If you watched AFL in the early 2000’s, you would also agree with me on this one. 4 consecutive grand final appearances, 3 grand final wins and two preliminary final losses during this period showed the Lions consistency over several seasons. With mastermind coach Lethal Leigh Matthews at the helm, the Lions’ physical style of footy was fascinating to watch. Michael Voss was ferocious, Simon Black’s ball use was first rate, Jason Akermanis was freakish! Add the likes of Nigel Lappin, Brad Scott, Luke Power, Martin Pike and Norm Smith medalist Shaun Hart to the mix and you’ve got an A+ midfield rotation. Clark Keating as ruckman of the three-peat side was grossly underestimated in my opinion.
- Adelaide Crows 1997-1998: You’re probably thinking to yourself, why only in this short a period? Well, the years on either side of their back to back premierships, the Crows didn’t make the finals! I couldn’t leave their midfield combination out because of the calibre of names who played in both winning sides. Dual Norm Smith medalist Andrew McLeod, Simon Goodwin, Darren Jarman, Mark Ricciuto, Mark Bickley and Tyson Edwards with Shaun Rehn and Darren Pittman rotating in the ruck. How this side didn’t win more flags still puzzles me.
- West Coast Eagles 2004-2007: Without a doubt, the scariest midfield combination I can recall. Explosive pace, silky smooth skills and a dominant ruckman. The Eagles could’ve had a decade of dominance. Alas, this never eventuated. Listen to this midfield rotation… Chris Judd, Ben Cousins, Daniel Kerr, Daniel Chick, Andrew Embley, Chad Fletcher and Big Dean Cox in the ruck! Word has it that an inflated ego caused this team to capitulate when it had the world at its feet. Chris Judd requested a trade to Carlton, Chad Fletcher almost died on a Las Vegas bender, Daniel Kerr had several off-field controversies and Ben Cousins smoked ice during his television documentary and has since spent time in prison for a string of drug offences.
- North Melbourne Kangaroos 1994-2000: Again, another team that were quite unlucky not to win more premierships during this timeframe. In the end, settling for two in three attempts is a fair sign that there were cracking players in these squads. In between grand final appearances there were also three preliminary finals losses too!
Remember, I’m only discussing midfield combinations but Wayne Carey, John Longmire, Mick Martyn and the toughest shinboner of them all Glenn Archer definitely had a massive impact on this team’s success too! Anthony Stevens, Wayne Schwass, David King, Adam Simpson, Peter Bell, Corey McKernan in the ruck and 1999 Norm Smith medallist Shannon Grant. Throw Byron Pickett, Brent Harvey and Martin Pike in the guts and your midfield rotations tick every box.
- Carlton 1993-1995: No, Uncle Oyster hasn’t lost his marbles. The Carlton midfield combination at this time of the 1990’s were a special group of players. Justin Madden in the ruck, Craig Bradley, Greg Williams, Fraser Brown, Brett Ratten, Scott Camporeale and the Greek God himself Anthony Koutoufides makes a coach’s mouth water! Kouta was a 6’3 adonis who could run like the wind. Craig Bradley and Diesel Williams just knew how to get the ball and use it beautifully. Harry Madden was a great tap ruckman who found his onballers on a regular occurrence. Yes, I realise that Carlton won and lost a grand final in this time but the way they played in the 1995 season warranted their selection in Oyster’s Dozen!
- St Kilda 2009-2011: Now I say this to the utmost respect, only St Kilda could play in three grand finals in two years and not win any! They were the best team in 2009 and lost to my Catters after a sketchy Tom Hawkins goal, which hit the post and a magical Matty Scarlett toe poke in a 50/50 contest in the middle of the MCG. In 2010, a cruel bounce robbed them of their chance of victory with Stephen Milne ready to run into an open goal. The replay will be remembered for Heath Shaw’s amazing smother on a lackadaisical Nick Reiwoldt as he strolled into the goal square unaware of what was behind him. St Kilda had a terrific midfield, which in a different set of events could’ve seen them dual premiership players. So close, yet so far away. New South Welshmen Lenny Hayes led the way along with Nick Dal Santo, perennial whinger Brendan Goddard, Luke Ball, Leigh Montagna, Jason Gram, tagger Steven Baker and Clinton Jones all rotated through the guts at stages during this period. Is this the greatest midfield never to win a flag?
- Richmond Tigers 2017- Present: I hate to admit it but this is a bloody good midfield combination. Will Brandon Ellis’s desire to have a footy free September and play for the Gold Coast Suns make much of a difference? Time will tell when the season starts up again. Dustin Martin gets a lot of praise being a Brownlow Medallist and a dual Norm Smith Medallist but there are other midfielders in this team who do the hard work so Dusty can be a seagull in the forward 50 collecting those cheap goals. The arrival of Dion Prestia definitely changed the Tigers fortunes. There’s no coincidence that success finally came to Ninthmond after years of failures.You have to remember folks, Richmond lost to Carlton in the Elimination Final in 2013 after Essendon were stripped of points after the ASADA drug scandal. Only Richmond could’ve lost to a team who finished 9th. It did take a Chris Judd masterclass to do it though. Captain and Brownlow Medallist Trent Cotchin, All Australian Shane Edwards, Josh Caddy and ruckmen Toby Nankerivs and Ivan Soldo rounded up the Tigers impressive midfield.
10. Sydney Swans 2012-2016: Those who know Uncle Oyster will know how much this pains me to include the Swannies in my list. The Swans were there or thereabouts for such a long period of time. It’s a shame that they faced a red hot Hawthorn in 2014 and an even hotter Western Bulldogs in 2016. Much like Wes Mantooth with Ron Burgundy, I may dislike the team but you have to respect the great players the Swans had in this period. Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker, Kieren Jack, Dan Hannebery, Lewis Jetta, Tom Mitchell, Jarrad McVeigh and dual Brownlow Medallist Adam Goodes were an integral part of the Swannies consistent success. Josh Kennedy’s individual efforts in the 2016 Grand Final almost dragged the Swannies over the line. Tom Boyd decided to play the game of his life and put a stop to that. Ask BT about his goal in the last quarter. It’s definitely worth the google search.
11. Hawthorn Hawks 2011-2016: As much as it pains me to have Hawthorn twice on my list, how can I be taken seriously and not have the side who made 4 consecutive grand finals, winning 3 in a row?! Sure, they lost both their finals in 2016 but their dominance was pretty evident for the majority of the decade. Brownlow Medallist Sam Mitchell, Dual Norm Smith Medallist Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis, Cyril Rioli, Liam Shiels, Isaac Smith, Shaun Burgoyne, Matt Suckling, Bradley Hill, Brad Sewell and Big Boy Ben McEvoy. The list is never ending. A majority of these players also played in the 2008 Premiership winning team too!
12: Collingwood 2009-2012: COLLLLINNNNGWOOOOOOODDDDDD AKA The Colliwobbles have had a period of sustained success for a long time now. A Dom Sheed goal from a tight angle late in the 2018 GF stopped Eddie and Joffa rubbing it in everyone’s faces. Thank God for Dom Sheed! Now in this particular time frame, the Magpies played in three grand finals. They won, drew and lost one. Their other finals appearances in this time were preliminary finals losses to the eventual premiers in Geelong 2009 and Sydney 2012. Not a bad few years for any team. How’s this for a midfield rotation? Luke Ball, Steele Sidebottom, Daisy Thomas, Dane Swan, Dayne Beams, Sharrod Wellingham, Alan Didak, Darren Jolly in the ruck and their ace in the pack, Scott Pendelbury. Dane Swan was the best player in the competition during this time averaging a ridiculous 30+ possessions in the 2010 season. Unlike Tom Mitchell’s 2018 season for Hawthorn, these disposals were highly effective! Beams, Thomas, Sidebottom were all playing in their peak during this time too and Pendles, well he was adding the Midas’ touch. If they had some decent forwards, who knows how many flags this team would’ve won?!
Well, tell me if you agree? I could’ve added the Cats midfield 1989-1995 if they had won a premiership in their 4 grand final appearance but sadly, it wasn’t to be. Any midfield with Dangerfield, Ablett, Selwood and Duncan would also be high on the list too but again, my Geelong Cats bias would
shine through. West Coast Eagles’ midfield this season would’ve been hard to contain with the addition of Tim Kelly! Until next time, stay inside you bloody idiots! Uncle Oyster says this with love of course xoxo
U’11’s Most Improved Award for Seven Hills Bombers AFC 1991