AFL 1997 – Twenty Years On: Melbourne Demons (16th)

Melbourne wasn’t in very good nick in 1997, although that is hard to believe when looking at the names below, courtesy of the Football Record. Captain Garry Lyon injured his back and could only front for five appearances and David Schwartz returned from the big knee wilderness to play ten games.

Coach Neil Balme was ousted after Round 9. This article from Charlie Happell, as well as painting the grim picture of Balme’s demise, points to tactics that wouldn’t have been out of place ten years hence. Perhaps Al Clarkson was taking notes.

This might go some way to explaining the gap between potential and results, but what else can you remember from this forgettable Demons year? Who kicked on, who came back to play at your local club or who bobbed up somewhere else altogether?


List Management


AFL Debuts 1997: Brent Grgic, Anthony McDonald, James McDonald, Leigh Newton, Alistair Nicholson, Russell Robertson, Shane Woewodin

Players Kept Under Wraps 1997: Nathan Bassett, Mark Bradly, Clayton Gardiner, Hayden Lamaro, Mark Winterton

Never Heard of Him: Todd McHardy

Delistings/Retirements end 1997: Nick Pesch, Andrew Lamprill, Clayton Gardiner, Alastair Clarkson, Robert Pyman, Todd McHardy, Darren O’Brien, Andrew Obst (ret)

* Thanks to Adam Haase for pointing out that Dean Irving was short-changed in these photos


You can review all of the AFL 1997 lists here

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. At least two of them are no longer with us

  2. Tony Tea says

    The ACA’s own Alistair Nicholson’s only game for 1997 was the one Balmey got sacked.

  3. Mick Jeffrey says

    Grgic was so young he had to wear a jumper sans sponsors logos. Dees were sponsored by Tooheys for the last time in 1997.

  4. It is actually a fairly ordinary list, I reckon.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Any list that has the great Shaun Smith is a good one.
    Never realised future Collingwood Grand Final player Shane Woewodin wasn’t always blonde.
    Marcus Seecamp went on to captain/coach Colac.
    Think Todd McHardy went on to be a judge on ‘Dancing With The Stars’??

  6. The Encyclopedia of League Footballers from 2002 is helping me.

    I remember the Cockatoo-Collins duo and many of the stalwarts.

    Craig Nettelbeck and Russell Robertson – hasn’t he been in a rock band/making music for the last few years? And Nettelbeck I may or may not remember from the Swans.

    That Balme moment! I remember when Balme came to the club in February 1993 during the pre-season.

    And Woewoedin by the end of the 1990s was something of a cult hero and more.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Gerry, but who else besides Jim Stynes has departed?

    Yes Tony, Nicholson is the most newsworthy of them all right now.

    Great insight there Mick, ta.

    Smokie – it might not have been the best, but Lyon, Schwarz, Neitz and Stynes were handy types.

    Luke – it is rumoured that Woewodin’s hair may have been chemically enhanced

    Adelaide – It sounds like you didn’t really need that book.

  8. Pity the Dees couldn’t get more out of Allen Jakovich when he was there (I think until 1995?). He was a gun. One of the best small forwards I’ve seen when he was going.

  9. Chris Weaver says

    A list with little depth at a time when Melbourne put very little money into recruiting or strategy. Fun fact – MFC didn’t own a video player to use for match reviews until the following year.

    Most of the veterans were injured, the club was overcoming the rancour of the Melbourne Hawks and the youngsters were playing a ‘chip and chase’ game plan that didn’t suit their skill level. But after 1996, I remember it mostly as a year when I was just happy to have a club at all.

    Notes on some of the lesser knowns:

    Damien Gaspar – Darren’s brother. Played throughout the year with a hairline fracture in his hip. Got monstered by Sav Rocca in Round 2.

    Nathan Bassett – might have been handy at Adelaide. I’ve wiped it from my memory.

    Sean Charles – Wow, what a talent. One of my favourites from 1992-97. Scaphoid injuries cruelled him. Went to Carlton, broke his leg in his first game, was demoralised by the rehab, left the AFL, then popped up for one final season at St Kilda. Collided with Wayne Carey in our upset Round 1 win over the reigning premier – Carey dislocated his shoulder and missed the next three months.

    The Cockatoo-Collins brothers – brought down to Melbourne at 17, placed in Wesley College and then thrown to the wolves. Nowadays they’d be better supported and educated before entering AFL footy.

    Leigh Newton – a handy if slow-moving ruckman. Good overhead, awkward kicking action. Injured his back shortly after this season and never played again (he remained on our list in 1998). Worked at MFC for a number of years afterwards in footy department and media roles.

    Todd McHardy – quick half-forward who struggled with knee problems. I’m fairly sure he followed his mum’s lead and went on to work as a fitness trainer.

  10. David Lloyd says

    Stephen Tingay was a great player, another one whose career wa ruined by injury, along with Gary Lyon, Schwartz and Sean Charles. There are a lot of good players on that list, they played in the GF three years later

  11. Shane Woewodin went on to win a Brownlow. Former North Melbourne fringe player, Alistair Clarkson, went on to coach Hawthorn to four premierships. Of course Shaun Smith took one of the marks of the ages, with Jim Stynes being immortalised for his brave fight for life.

    Gerry, apart from Jim Stynes,who is no longer with us?


  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Dips – Jakovich remains a man of mystery

    Chris – thanks for that very thorough insight

    David – Ingerson, Nicholson, S Febey, Yze, Woewodin, A McDonald, Schwarz, Robertson, Neitz, Farmer, Leoncelli, Grgic were those 2000 GF’ers

    Glen! – thanks

  13. Sorry Glen, i confused Dean Irving with Rhett Baynes for some strange reason, maybe due to the fact that they were both blonde ruckmen from WA.

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