A tribute to 8 Legends of Rugby League
Rugby league has been a consequential part of life in most Australian homes since it started back in 1908.
Fri 17th Sep 2021
You can't deny fans of AFL are in a league of their own when it comes to their commitment and love for the game; and on any given weekend, rain, hail or shine, stadiums will be packed full of them wearing their team scarves.
From spectacular marks to big-booting goals; from the humble and modest to the flamboyant and fabulous, we pay tribute to nine AFL players whose feats on and off the field have earned them a place in football history books.
Edward 'Ted' Whitten played for the Footscray Football Club in the VFL from 1951 to 1970 and by 1954 had won his first of five club Best and Fairest awards and was selected in the All-Australian team that same year.
Nicknamed "Mr. Football", Whitten was a hero in the Melbourne western suburbs, admired for his football skills and larrikin showmanship.
In 1957 he became captain-coach and led Footscray to its second grand final appearance in 1961. In 1967, Whitten broke Arthur Olliver's club record of 271 senior games accomplishing a league record of 321 games in 1970.
After his retirement from the game, Whitten became a popular football commentator throughout the 1970s and a radio commentator in his later years.
In 1995 he announced he was suffering from prostate cancer, and in his final public appearance he received a farewell lap of honour during a State of Origin match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground - a moment said to be one of football's most unforgettable.
Inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 and elevated to Legend status in 1995, one of 12 inaugural Legends inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, voted captain and centre half-back in the AFL's Team of the Century, and in his honour Footscray's home ground, Western Oval, was renamed Whitten Oval.
Ted Whitten passed away 17 August 1995, aged 62.
Considered one of the greatest footballers in the games history, Graham "Polly" Farmer began his top-level career in WAFL with East Perth in 1953, playing 176 games from 1953 to 1961. He won the club's Best and Fairest award seven times and was a member of their 1956, 1958 and 1959 premiership teams.
Known for his revolutionary ruckwork and handballing, Farmer joined Geelong in 1962, winning the premiership and coming equal-second in the Brownlow Medal behind Bob Skilton in 1963. Playing 101 games with Geelong from 1962 to 1968, Farmer won the Best and Fairest award in 1963 and 1964 and captained the club from 1965 to 1967.
After Farmer retired, he returned to Geelong to become VFL's first coach of indigenous background, and coached Western Australia's first state of origin team.
In 1971, Farmer became the first Australian footballer to receive a Queen's honour when he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire. One of the 12 inaugural Legends inducted in the Australian Football Hall of Fame, he was also inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.
Graham Farmer passed away 14 August 2019, aged 84.
Cazaly played ruckman for South Melbourne and St Kilda in the VFL and represented Victoria and Tasmania in interstate football.
Famous for his high-flying marks despite his small stature, teammates would simultaneously yell "Up there, Cazzer". "Up there, Cazaly" eventually became a popular catchphrase and popular song, securing his name in Australian folklore.
After retiring from competitive football in 1941 at the age of 48, Cazaly shifted his talents to coaching a number of Tasmanian Football League premierships.
Cazaly was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 as one of the inaugural 12 Legends inducted in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. In 2009, The Australian nominated him as one of the 25 greatest footballers never to win a Brownlow Medal.
Roy Cazaly passed away 10 October 1963, aged 70.
Dyer, nicknamed Captain Blood was a ruck, ruck-rover and forward who played a record 312 games for Richmond in the VFL between 1931 and 1952.
The club voted Dyer Best and Fairest player in 1932, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, and again in 1946! Playing seven Grand Finals for two premierships in 1934 and 1943, one as captain and playing coach of the side - Dyer certainly earned his name as one of the game's most prominent players.
Captain for Richmond in 160 matches, he coached a total of 222 games, taking them to the Finals five times during his reign.
Removing the coach hat, Dyer turned to the media, becoming a commentator on Melbourne television, a radio broadcaster and had a regular column under the name "Dyer 'ere" in Melbourne's Truth newspaper.
One of the 12 inaugural Legends inducted in the Australian Football Hall of Fame, one of the 25 greatest footballers never to win a Brownlow medal and awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 1990 Queen's Birthday Honours List, it's no wonder the "Jack Dyer Medal" was created in honor of this champion ruckman.
Jack Dyer passed away 23 August 2003, aged 89.
Gordon Coventry played for Collingwood in the VFL and was renowned for his strong build, sticky fingers and skillful understanding of how to use his body to best advantage.
Coventry was the first player to play 300 VFL games, the first to kick 100 goals in a season, the first to kick 1000 VFL goals, and had a career total of 1299 goals serving as a VFL/AFL competition record for over 60 seasons.
Coventry was a humble and modest player who was appointed Legend status in the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1998. AFL Legends.com said "He is often considered by fans and journalists to be amongst the greatest forward-line players of all time."
In 1998 Coventry was named a full forward in Collingwood's Team of the Century and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame the following year.
Gordon Coventry passed away 7 November 1968, aged 67.
Norm Smith, nicknamed the Red Fox due to his craftiness and slicked-back auburn hair, played more than 200 games, including three premierships with Melbourne as well as Fitzroy, being said to be the finest full-forward of his era.
With a 20 year coaching career, including 15 years with Melbourne, Smith is regarded as one of the greatest ever coaches of the game. Called the 'Demon Dictator' and the 'Martinet of Melbourne', Smith raised the standards of fitness and team discipline and increased the importance of the coach in Australian football. With a stern demeanor and intolerance for tomfoolery, he was well respected for his intuitive thinking on the game and high standard of teamwork.
A Legend in the Australian Football Hall of Fame, the VFL instituted the Norm Smith Medal in his honour.
Norm Smith passed away 29 July 1973, aged 57.
Bunton represented Fitzroy in the VFL, Subiaco in the WAFL, and Port Adelaide in the SANFL during the 1930s and 1940s. Said to be one of the greatest players of the game, Bunton had brilliant ball skills, was a great runner and was a player known for his integrity.
The only player to have won the Brownlow Medal and the Sandover Medal three times each, he is also the only player to have at least one Brownlow vote per game over his career.
The Secretary of Fitzroy, J. Buckley, said: "Haydn was the greatest player ever to wear the Fitzroy jersey. He had unlimited stamina, courage, and was the quickest thinker I have ever seen."
Regarded somewhat of a sex symbol throught the 1930s, Bunton had his own radio show as well as his own column in a Melbourne newspaper. Bunton was a sporting hero who made life more bearable for Australians during the difficult days of the Great Depression.
Haydn Bunton Sr. passed away 5 September 1955, aged 44.
Frawley was a tough, hard-hitting full back for St Kilda, a coach, administrator, commentator and media personality.
Captain of the St Kilda Football Club for an incredible nine seasons spanning 1984 to 1995, he became the longest ever serving captain for the club. Winner of the Best and Fairest in 1988, he was also named in the All-Australian team that same year.
Frawley progressed to become Richmond Football Club Coach from 2000 to 2004, bringing them to the preliminary finals in 2001. He later became CEO of the AFL Coaches Association from 2008 to 2014 and had part-time roles with the Hawthorn and St Kilda Football Clubs.
Frawley was an AFL commentator for Fox Footy, Triple M and 1116 SEN, and was seen regularly on The Sunday Footy Show and Fox Footy program, Bounce. In radio he was heard on Triple M, most notably The Saturday Rub.
Danny Frawley passed away 9 September 2019, aged 56.
One of the AFL's most prominent figures, Synes was a mobile ruckman for the Melbourne Football Club. An Irish-born player who converted from Gaelic football to Australian rules football, Stynes broke the record for the most consecutive games of VFL/AFL football (244) winning the prestigious Brownlow Medal, in 1991 - the first and only non-Australian-born VFL/AFL player to ever win.
Stynes also represented Victoria in interstate football matches, and both Australia and Ireland in international rules football.
On the back of his successful football career, Stynes focused his attention on youth work, co-founding the Reach Foundation in 1994. His work with young people in Victoria led him to be named Victorian of the Year in 2001 and 2003, and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007 and Melbournian of the Year in 2010.
Jim Stynes passed away 20 March 2012, aged 45.
By Kirsten Jakubenko