WHENEVER the average football fan heads down to the local for a beer with their mate on a Friday afternoon, whether that day or another, the topic of best footballer seen will be raised and debated.
In my opinion, I don’t believe we can have a clear and unbiased view of the best player, or the best of our generation.
Comparing Dick Reynolds to Bob Skilton to Gary Ablett Jr is simply impossible, as is John Coleman to Peter Hudson to Tony Lockett.
There has been an almost immeasurable change to the expectation of our players and teams since the game started as a way to keep cricketers fit more than 150 years ago.
The training regime of Reynolds and Coleman simply doesn’t compare to that of today’s players.
We can, however, give our view on which player has had the edge in each component needed to play our game.
Keeping in mind I watched my first game of VFL-AFL footy as a six or seven-year-old around 1983, that is my limitation.
Disposal by foot – There have been great kicks of the footy and some have been just as good on both sides, players like Jason Akermanis and Leon Cameron. For pure penetration, efficiency and damage to the opposition Nathan Buckley is the best I have seen. His ability to deliver with precision over anywhere from 20 to 60 metres made him so dangerous and would make him so effective in beating today’s defensive set-ups.
Disposal by hand – I would love to have Robert Harvey as leader in most areas, but on this occasion he sits second to Greg Williams. Greg is a huge name in Bendigo and a genuine star of his era. Greg’s ability to find the footy and put a team mate in space free of pressure was unique. His brilliance by hand was as good as some by foot.
Workrate – In recent times, Shane Crawford, Chris Judd and Simon Black have been standouts in this area, but they all knew what was required by following Robert Harvey. Harvs was a machine and not one player who tried could stop him. Before rotations, Harvs would gut run all day, averaging more than 25 possessions per game throughout his career.
Marking – Couldn’t split this one, with apologies to Jonathon Brown and Nick Riewoldt. Stewart Loewe would be top of most lists and he is equal with Wayne Carey for me. Both players would take a huge number of marks each week, but it was their ability to regularly beat multiple opponents that sets them aside. Most current players are outmuscled by a third man into the contest, but not these two guns.
Speed – Players like Cyril Rioli and Stephen Milne have the ability to turn and change direction at high speed and Ryan Griffen and Patrick Dangerfield have great top end pace, but Peter Matera had it all. He could beat you off the mark, turn you inside and out and maintain it for four quarters. Simply unstoppable on his day.
Goal sense – I didn’t see Matthews, Bartlett or understand how good Daicos was as a kid, so Stephen Milne takes the prize here. His ability to beat his opponent on the lead, on the ground or a genuine crumb is second to none. Milney has 550 goals as a permanent forward accumulating goals mostly from dropped or spoiled marks from his forwards.
Courage – Lenny Hayes, Michael Voss and Jude Bolton are always names mentioned when we talk genuine courage, but I have to agree with the North Melbourne Football Club and have Glenn Archer at the top of the tree. Archer regularly did things others wouldn’t, but also against much bigger men. He once said he did have fear on the footy field, but never showed it in his deeds, making it even more remarkable.
Leadership – Personally, I rate this area of the game as high as anything else. Stephen Kernahan must rate high, as should James Hird and Tom Harley. I have decided on Michael Voss. His leadership was all you could ask for, he set a standard on the field, led with his actions and was able to lift his group when they needed it. The Lions had a great era, led by a great leader.
Now it will all start again, a few beers and maybe a few different chats about these facets of the game.
Surely he is not the best at that, he left him out of there, how could he not be in. Great game footy and like all footy fans, I love the discussions about our greats, love them or hate them.
The Bendigo Flight Centre Summer Cup is an initiative to reward our Gold’s best trainer during pre-season with a holiday package to Queensland.