Thursday, April 23, 2009

The AFL Hall of Fame - Who Gets In: Part One (the top bracket)

OK we’ve worked out how to make the AFL Hall of Fame better, now let’s decide who gets in.

The thing about the Hall of Fame is that it shouldn’t be the Hall of the Very Good; it has to be for only those who were in the top echelon of players. In academia when awarding PhDs, those which are considered to be among a theoretical top 5% of PhD theses are awarded it 'cum laude'. Those in the Hall of Fame should be considered much the same – among the top 5 percent of those against whom they played.

So with 22 players selected in 16 teams, that means 352 players are going around each week. Five percent of that is around 17; so that’s a nice marker for us to work with (though obviously it’s not an ironclad set amount).

How do you judge the best of the best? Brownlow Medals are good, but does anyone really think Shane Woewodin should be in the Hall of Fame? All Australian selection is almost a prerequisite – if you weren’t ever considered the best in your own position it’s hard to see how you should be considered among the best ever.

But often it comes down to what you felt when you saw the player – either playing for your team or against. When Gavin Brown was selected I scoffed to a mate of mine (who is a Collingwood supporter) that he hardly deserved membership. He replied that he was the soul of Collingwood in the 90s, was a great all-round player yada yada. I replied that when the Crows ever played Collingwood I never wondered, "How the hell are we going to stop Brown"? I never thought, "Gee I wish we had Brown playing for us".

And such thoughts are crucial to looking at the Hall of Fame. If you were wondering how your team was going to beat a guy, or even while abusing the guy you had to admit that deep down you wish he was playing for you, then we’re getting close to a Hall of Famer. Of course a Hall of Famer keeps that level for a long time.

Longevity is a key for getting in the Hall of Fame. If you played less than 200 Games, then you better have been brilliant for 180 of them. But does playing 300 Games get you in the Hall? I think not. You’ve already got life membership, but it doesn’t mean you were the best of the best. Though in modern times as the ability to keep going for so long gets harder and harder, I’ll wager that those who do play 300 games are more than likely going to be the type of player who would be in the Hall anyway.

But enough introduction! Let’s get to it.

The “Why Are We Even Debating This?” Category

Andrew McLeod (300+ Games, 2 Norm Smith Medals, 2001 MVP, 5x All-Australian, 2 x Premierships, 3x Club Champion)

McLeod has done everything you can do in footy excepting win the Brownlow (and let’s be honest I doubt even Jason Akermanis believes he deserved to beat McLeod in 2001). He is the personification of the “how are we going to stop...” player. A guy who could win a game on his own boot, and who seemed to thrive on the biggest stage. That even at this point in his career, as Collingwood found out in Round 1, he can still carve up an opposition is testament to his longevity. Will get in as soon as he is eligible.

Matthew Lloyd (250+ games, 899 goals - 8th best all time, 5xAA, 3xColeman, 2x100+ goals in a season )

Lloyd is a player of whom it is easy to forget just how good he is. He never kicked massive totals like Locket or Dunstall or Ablett, but he played in a different era – a time when the full forward almost seemed in danger of becoming extinct. But think of this - he averages 3.5 goals a game, the next best current player is Buddy Franklin with an average of 2.96. And the real mark of Lloyd as Hall of Fame material is that you always feared he would kick a bag against you and most often he did – he has kicked 5+ goals in a match 82 times – the 8th most of any player ever. He’s in.

Ben Cousins (200+ games, 2005 Brownlow, 2005 MVP, 6xAA, Rising Star Award, 1x Premiership, 4xCC)

Look, I am no fan of Cousins. I think he was juiced up to the eyeballs when he came out at half time in the 2006 prelim final and tore through the Crows. But I tell you this now, anyone who wins the MVP Award, the Brownlow, and is also a 6 times all-Australian goes straight into the Hall of Fame. The other barometer? I hated him because he always seemed to kill us – and I’m betting there are a few supporters of other teams who think exactly the same.

Adam Goodes (200+ games, 2003, 2006 Brownlow, 2xAA, 1x Premiership, 2x CC, RS)

OK, winning one Brownlow can be put down to luck and happenstance. But twice? That takes talent, and it has you walking straight into the Hall.

The “Now that is a Career – Get Your Speech Ready” Category

Simon Black (200+ games, 2002 Brownlow, 3xAA, 1xNorm Smith, 3 x Premiership, 3xCC)

Black was part of the fab four that made Brisbane the most feared team of the early 2000s. Perhaps not as rugged as Michael Voss, and not as flashy as Akermanis he was still someone you wouldn’t have minded having in your team. In fact he is just the archetypal player who does his job without any fuss – except he did it brilliantly. A great handballer and tackler (he is ranked 5th all-time among players with games with 5 or more tackles.), if you’re leaving him out, you might as well kick out 70 per cent of those already in.

Jason Akermanis (will be 300+ games, 2001 Brownlow, 4xAA, 3 x Premierships, 2xCC)

If Black gets in, you have to let in Akermanis. OK, I hardly count his Brownlow, but the fact is the reason opposition supporters have hated Akermanis for so long is because the bastard could rip you apart and do it while seeming to be showboating.

Brad Johnson (300+ games, 5xAA, 3xCC)

Johnson is a true stalwart of the game. Never as good as his long-time teammate Scott West, but five All-Australian selections demonstrate that he was no passenger.

Brent Harvey (poss 300+ games, 4xAA, 1 x premiership, 3x CC)

Boomer Harvey is the type of player everyone wishes was in their side. Honest, tough and chock-full of skill. His best ever game was maybe in the last real State of Origin match in 1999 when he destroyed South Australia. Four time All-Australian plus close to 300 games should see him in the Hall.

Matthew Richardson (280+ games, 799 goals - 11th all-time, 2xAA, 1xCC)

Has there ever been a player more maligned for not being as good as everyone thinks he should be? If he kicks 18 more goals he goes 10th all time. You can’t leave someone like that out of the Hall of Fame. Though to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has to wait a year or two.

The “Even if You Never Play Another Game” Category

Gary Ablett Jr (150 games, 2007, 2008 MVP, 2xAA, 1x Premiership, 1xCC)

By the time he finishes, the phrase 'Greatest of All-Time' will be used in any discussion of his place in AFL history. Only he and Voss have won the MVP two years in a row. The way Ablett is playing, he’d be odds on to make it three in row this season.

Chris Judd (159 games, 2004 Brownlow, 2006 MVP, 1xNorm Smith, 3xAA, 1x Premiership, 3xCC)

Unfortunately his stacks of injuries has slowed his pace, and mean he’s not on Ablett’s level at the moment. But everyone has wished he was on their side since he was first drafted. And from 2005-2008 was first picked in anyones Dream team. Truly one of the best of the best.

Matthew Pavlich (198 games, 6xAA, 5xCC)

There aren’t many certainties in life, but six times All-Australians getting in the Hall of Fame is one of them. Pavlich has perhaps been guilty of, like Richardson, not being as good as everyone expects (which means he doesn’t win every game for Fremantle off his own boot). But compare him with fellow 1999 draftee Jonathon Brown. Pavlich has more games, goals and all-Australian appearances (Brown only has one). And get this – he is the only person to have been named All Australian full back and full forward. That takes some special skill. (Though he would have done it all better had he worn a Crows guernsey...).

The “At this Rate they Would be a Shock to Miss” Category

Nick Riewoldt (162 games, 1xMVP, 3xAA, RS,4xCC)

I’m probably being a bit hard - Riewoldt probably doesn’t need to play another game, but a 100 more games and a 150-200 more goals will make him a certainty.

Jonathan Brown (164 games, 3xPrem, 2x most courageous, runner-up MVP, 1x Coleman, 1xAA, 2x CC)

Like Riewoldt you’d want him to play a few more games to make sure of his getting in the Hall. He has only kicked 350 goals. Wayne Carey, with whom he is often compared, kicked 727. Brown is expected to get in the Hall, but if he stopped playing now, you’d think only of the wasted talent.

Dean Cox (170 games, 4xAA, 1 x Premiership, 1xCC)

The ruckman of the decade will be shoo-in in his first year of eligibility if he gets to 250 games.

Jimmy Bartel (137 games, 1x Brownlow, 1 x Premiership, 2xAA)

He’s played a season fewer games than Ablett or Judd, so time is on his side, but his trophy cabinet already looks good. And he is defiantly a player you know you have to worry about.

Now that's 16 players. Next week I’ll do Part 2 – those players with over 200 games who should get over the line, those who should get over the line with kind thoughts and prayers, and those who I’d leave out. Plus those with under 100 games who are most likely.

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