At the bottom of the Record

This 10-part series is a tribute to all the players who have played a senior VFL/AFL game wearing a guernsey number of 50 and above.  The players whose names appear just above the omnipresent Mr “Rushed” at the foot of the player list in the Record, and who have used (in some cases temporarily) a locker that is bereft of the names of past champions and is usually situated at the far end of the home ground change rooms.

Since first going to watch Geelong play in the late-1970s, I have seen several Geelong players wearing 50 plus on their backs and have been interested in their progress.  This article is the first in a series that discusses some of the players who were privileged enough to wear a half-century number on their Geelong jumper, and it also mentions some examples from opposition clubs that spring to mind.

This is an invitation to readers to recall players from other clubs who sported a 50 plus number at senior level, whether that number was allocated to the relevant player at the time or was a replacement guernsey.

Unfortunately, with the reduction in senior lists over the last 10 years or so, the appearance of a 50 plus guernsey at the elite level is becoming increasingly rare.

Number 50 – Tony Malakellis and Robert Scott

After his older brother Spiro debuted for the Cats midway through the 1989 season, Tony Malakellis first appeared for the Cats in round 13, 1990.  He was recruited from local club Geelong Amateurs and made his way up through the Geelong Under 19s and Reserves ranks.  Sporting a half-century, Malakellis made his debut against Carlton at Princes Park in a remarkable game that the Cats lost by 19 points after leading by 41 points at half time.  Malakellis played a slashing game in the midfield pushing forward, kicking two neat goals and earning a Brownlow vote.  His form as a midfielder or small forward was a bright spot in what was a dismal second half of the 1990 season for the Cats.  He appeared in nine out of the last 10 games in 1990, adding another Brownlow vote in round 15 when Geelong upset Melbourne at Kardinia Park, a performance in which Malakellis Mach 2 netted 26 disposals and three goals.

Following Darren Morgan’s departure after the 1990 season, Malakellis was given the number 11 jumper for season 1991.  With the return of Mark Bairstow from his farm in Lake Grace, the recruitment of Sean Simpson from St Kilda and the emergence of Andrew Wills, Geelong had a glut of midfield types which resulted in Malakellis battling to hold his spot.  He played another five games early in 1991 and was unable to win back his senior spot for the rest of 1991 and for the whole of 1992.  He was recruited by the Sydney Swans for the 1993 season, moving up to the number 33 jumper and losing a wrestling battle with Tony Lockett at Waverley Park.  After his AFL career was over, Malakellis was reunited with Spiro at Port Adelaide in the SANFL, where he played from 1994 to 1998, including the 1994 and 1995 premierships.

Number 50 was also briefly worn by dynamic rover and small forward Robert Scott.  Scott wore number 50 in his debut season of 1986 and number 45 in 1987, as number 8 was occupied by Shane Williams.  Scott moved down to number 8 and became a Geelong regular, playing 132 games from 1986-1994, including the 1989 and 1992 Grand Finals.  He was fleet of foot and a handy goal contributor whilst at Kardinia Park, kicking 164 goals, including returns of 42 goals in both the 1989 and 1992 seasons, and he appeared in five State of Origin matches for Victoria. He was traded to North Melbourne after the 1994 season, a deal which was a win-win for both clubs as Geelong received the steady Brad Sholl in return.  Scott added 113 games at the Kangaroos from 1995 to 2000, wearing the number 8 jumper and often playing as an accountable, run-with player, a significant shift from his roles at Geelong.  Scott played in North’s 1996 premiership, the losing 1998 Grand Final and he was unlucky to not be selected for the 1999 flag side.

Players from other clubs to don Number 50

Fitzroy – Mercurial forward Darren “Doc” Wheildon began in number 50 at senior level in 1989.

FremantleNeil Mildenhall, number 50 in 1995, is the only Docker who has worn a half-century.

North Melbourne – Close checking full-back Mick Martyn began with the Roos in 1988 wearing number 50.

Sydney – Gary Frangalas started his senior career in 50.  Prolific Sheffield Shield batsman Jamie Siddons appeared in two games for the Swans in 1984 in number 50.

West Coast – ruckman Ryan Turnbull was a long-serving member of the 50 club, wearing 50 in 129 games from 1991 to 2001, including the 1994 premiership.

Thursday: Number 51.

 

Comments

  1. Tony Malakellis. Would love to know where Tony and Spiro are these days – in business together I can only hope.

  2. Shaun Rehn, 52 for the Crows

  3. Cookie says:

    Sean, stay tuned for Friday’s installment, entitled – you guessed it – Number 52!

  4. Dave Nadel says:

    When you get to 60 I assume that you will mention Craig Davis at the Sydney Swans. Davis had appropriate numbers at Carlton, North Melbourne and Collingwood (23, 14 and 19). He went to Sydney as assistant coach to Tommy Hafey but came out of retirement in 1988, aged 33, when Sydney was short of experienced players. Apparently some unkind members of the crowd suggested to Craig that the number on his back represented his age.

  5. James Grapsas says:

    Thanks Dave. You’re ahead of the game: my article does refer to Craig Davis at Sydney in 1988 when I deal with the last lot of numbers. It also mentions the crowd’s comments and Davis’ memorable response: that 60 represented the IQ of the heckler!

    Davis kicked four in his comeback game against Footscray at Waverley Park on Easter Monday IIRC. He also played a key role in plotting Victoria’s downfall at the hands of NSW at the SCG in May 1990, much to the chagrin of EJ Whitten!

  6. Skip of Skipton says:

    Most goals kicked in the #50 jumper: 46 by Jon Ballantyne, Footscray 1990-’93.

  7. Mic Rees says:

    Robbie Peers – 3 games Footscray 1979.

    Debuted in the draw with Essendon at the Western Oval in Round 4. Had a collision with the fence on the members wing that day.

    Played district cricket for more than a decade at Uni, HEM Richmond and the evil empire.

    MCR

  8. Mick Martyn…great get !! He actually lives a few doors down from me
    and is as “gorilla-like” as ever.
    I am pretty sure that John Law played his first few games for North in
    the #50 guernsey. He moved on to the #13 guernsey before becoming
    club captain and playing 200+ games. A very under-rated player.

Leave a Comment

*