Almanac Footy: The VFL/AFL’s Blunt Team

 

Essendon coach Brad Scott has come out deliberately with his team’s mantra, ‘The Essendon Edge’ in what is an attempt to lift expectations at a proud club that’s lost its way in the last twenty years.

 

Every club has a similar vein in terms of their trademark so it’s not new, just a public declaration that the team will be more aggressive, perhaps back to their glory days of 84/85 when they genuinely were fearsome.

 

Personally I’m not a big fan of this initiative of Scott’s. Actions speak louder than words so I hope for his sake the Bombers of 2024 can deliver on what’s been so boldly proclaimed.

 

When I heard this declaration before the Sydney game, my mind quickly went back to my era of VFL/AFL players who never really needed edge, they were simply blunt in their approach to their respective opposition.

 

They showed little regard or respect to their opponents and if you had the footy within a few metres of these guys, you had every right to be nervous. Physicality was guaranteed and inflicting pain was their only intent.

 

Some were more outwardly scary such as St Kilda’s Robbie Muir whilst others such as Terry Daniher were sneaky. What they all had was little fear and most copped plenty in return.

 

Here’s my team of ‘Blunt’s’.

 

Full Backline –  Jeff Sarau (STK)  Rick Kennedy (WB)  Robbie Muir (STK)

 

Half Backline –  Rod Grinter (Melb)    Terry Daniher (Ess)    John Worsfold (WC)

 

Centreline – Darren Millane (Coll)   Greg Williams (Geel, Syd, Car)    Merv Neagle (Ess & Syd)

 

HF Line – David Rys Jones (Car & Syd)  Roger Merrett (Ess & Bris)  Jim Buckley (Car)

 

FF Line – Leigh Matthews (Haw)  Tony Lockett (STK & Syd) Dermott Brereton (Haw, Syd, Coll)

 

Followers –  Carl Ditterich (STK)  Tony Shaw (Coll)   Tony Liberatore (WB)

 

Interchange –  Matthew Scarlett (Geel)   Ryan Crowley (Fre). Martin Pike (Fitz, Melb, NM, Bris)   Gary Hocking (Geel)  Ron Andrews (Ess)  Neil Balme (Rich)  Barry Hall (STK & Syd)

 

All of these guys had stellar careers despite being hated by the opposition supporters, or perhaps because of that?

 

They couldn’t get away with many of their actions these days but they certainly made their team mates play taller and with a bit more intensity, which is what Brad Scott is hoping for.

 

 

 

More from Ian Wilson can be read Here.

 

 

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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.

Comments

  1. As a big St Kilda supporter myself, growing up in the same era you are referring to, I agree with all your St Kilda player selections in the team, as well as the other players. It’s a shame that St Kilda didn’t have that winning “edge” to beat Essendon or Geelong but I was happy they beat Collingwood. It will help St Kilda that they get Max King back from suspension this week but they need to get more centre clearances to take the next step. Hopefully, Paddy Dow isn’t too far away from playing in the seniors.

    I know St Kilda will be targeting very good midfielders at the end of the year. You mentioned Greg Williams in your article. St Kilda actually went for Greg Williams at the time that Carlton were but Sydney wanted Robert Harvey in return. Imagine how many flags St Kilda could have won with Greg Williams and Robert Harvey playing together or if they’ve taken Chris Judd instead of Luke Ball, or if the zoning areas weren’t changed after they won the 1966 flag.

    I would also add Phil Carman to the team of “Blunt’s”. I was there at Moorabbin when he headbutted the boundary umpire, Graham Carbury, in 1980. while he was playing for Essendon, and was suspended for 20 weeks. I was also at Moorabbin in 1975 when Carman kicked 11 goals for Collingwood and George Young kicked 8 goals for St Kilda in the same match.

  2. Thanks Anon. Totally agree with you especially Carman. Another former saint I could have in the team is Gary Sidebottom. I saw him as a kid in WA and he was very unpredictable. There is a YouTube video of the Saints v Essendon in 1978 where he ran straight through Merv Neagle and knocked him out. He was a very talented player but prone to idiocy. In terms of 2024 we have to keep remembering the age of our kids who will be sensational in a few years. It’s a case of ‘Saints patience’ unfortunately! Cheers mate.

  3. DBalassone says

    Excellent concept and team Ian. It’s amazing how many tough (blunt!) players were also highly skilled. Merv Neagle springs to mind – tough as nails, but also a smooth mover with ball in hand, not to mention others in your team such as Diesel, Lethal, Plugger, Buddha.

    A few others: Gary Ablett Senior was downright scary. Byron Pickett – you didn’t want to get in his path back in the day when the bump was still alive (albeit coming to the end of its days).

  4. I would also add Robert Dipierdomenico to the team, on the wing, perhaps demoting Darren Millane to the interchange bench. Of course, there were many players that would qualify for this team in the era/s beforehand, but like yourself, only grew up watching the players that you have already mentioned in the team of “Blunts”.

    For team balance, I have also made positional changes, as well as agreeing with another suggestion that Byron Pickett and Gary Ablett Sr be added to the starting 18.

    Therefore my team of “Blunts” would be:

    B: Byron Pickett, Mathew Scarlett, Martin Pike
    HB: John Worsfold, Terry Daniher, David Rhys-Jones
    C: Merv Neagle, Greg Williams, Robert Dipierdomenico
    HF: Jim Buckley, Dermott Brereton, Gary Ablett Sr
    F: Leigh Mathews, Tony Lockett, Barry Hall
    R: Carl Ditterich, Gary Hocking, Tony Shaw
    Inter: Tony Liberatore, Darren Millane, Roger Merrett, Ryan Crowley
    Sub: Robert Muir
    Emergencies: Phil Carman, Jeff Sarau, Rick Kennedy, Rod Grinter, Neil Balme, Ron Andrews, Gary Sidebottom

  5. I forgot to mention Glen Archer (NM), Cameron Mooney (NM/Geel), Stan Margo (Coll), Denis Banks (Coll), Bill Duckworth (Ess) and Chris Lewis (WC).

    I have now come up with 2 teams of 18 players of “Blunts”.

    My 1st team of “Blunts” is:

    B: Byron Pickett, Matthew Scarlett, Glen Archer
    HB: John Worsfold, Terry Daniher, David Rhys-Jones
    C: Merv Neagle, Greg Williams, Robert Dipierdomenico
    HF: Chris Lewis, Dermott Brereton, Gary Ablett Sr
    F: Leigh Matthews, Tony Lockett, Barry Hall
    R: Carl Ditterich, Gary Hocking, Tony Shaw
    Captain: Tony Shaw
    Coach: Alastair Clarkson

    My 2nd team of “Blunts” is:

    B: Stan Margo, Bill Duckworth, Rick Kennedy
    HB: Rod Grinter, Ron Andrews, Martin Pike
    C: Robbie Muir, Ryan Crowley, Darren Millane
    HF: Denis Banks, Cameron Mooney, Phil Carman
    F: Chris Lewis, Roger Merrett, Gary Sidebottom
    R: Neil Balme, Jeff Sarau, Jim Buckley
    Captain: Roger Merrett
    Coach: Kevin Sheedy

    These 2 teams of “Blunts” will play a match against each other at Moorabbin, with supporters welcome to barrack for their team from the animal enclosure.
    Entertainment will be provided by the song “Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)”, by Johnny Wakelin.
    Let’s hope for a good game of football, with plenty of fight in both teams.

  6. The team has an understandable St Kilda “edge” so surely there would be a spot for Kevin “Cowboy” Neale.
    Reckon Phil Carman and Robbie Muir were unguided missiles on the football field rather than calculated thugs like most of the others. Extreme examples of “white line fever” with no self control when they felt wronged (rightly or wrongly).
    And I reckon there’s a difference between hard men and thugs. For straight out thugs I don’t reckon you could go past Mad Mal Brown and Port Adelaide’s David Granger (Grave Danger). Both were outstanding players but the game would have been better off without both of them. Cruelled too many ball player’s lives and careers.

  7. Apologies as I left out Tony Liberatore in my 2nd team of “Blunts”, as Chris Lewis was mentioned in both teams. Therefore, Jim Buckley can replace Chris Lewis in the forward pocket in my 2nd team and Tony Liberatore can be the rover in the 2nd team.

    I had previously thought of Kevin “Cowboy” Neale. In his heyday, he was good at both ends of the field, kicking 5 goals in St Kilda’s premiership in 1966, and then becoming a good back man.
    In this case, for team balance, I would put Neale in the back pocket of the 2nd team of “Blunts”, and put Rick Kennedy on the interchange bench for the 1st team.
    I would also put Mal Brown on the interchange bench for the 2nd team. For team balance, David Granger can be put as ruck rover for the 2nd team, and Jeff Sarau can be on the interchange bench for the 1st team, to help Ditterich in the ruck. In the 2nd team, Roger Merrett can help Neil Balme with the ruck duties.

  8. Ian Wilson says

    Thanks so much for the suggestions gents. The weird thing is I had all those names nominated at the start of picking the team! Great minds perhaps? Maybe not! The only one I wasn’t aware of was David Granger and I love that nickname Pete! Browny was a lunatic you’re right. One I left off was the Saints Steven Baker who was a serial pest similar to Libber and The Dominator at Carlton had some serious ‘spice’ when he saw an opportunity to inflict some pain. Brilliant idea Anon! Peter B can confirm this but there was a game at Bassendean Oval between the Swans and South Freo when I think it was Gary Sidebottom’s Dad ran onto the ground and tried to assault Stan Magro! Those were the days! Thanks heaps gents.

  9. Does know one recall ‘Tuddy’? Des Tuddenham was a hard player as befitting the footy played in those times. He was even harder in his time coaching Essendon. He’s certainly some one who would enhance a Blunt team.

    Actually while we’re talking ‘Tuddy’ maybe Jim Wright could get a look in. He allegedly had the ‘better’ of Tuddy in the footy clash at Windy Hill in 1972.

    Maybe Ian, a VFA Blunt team is a worthy consideration . There’s a fair few from the Burrough that would be walk ins.

    Glen!

  10. Yes, I had actually thought of Des Tuddenham, but for some reason, forgot to mention him. Well picked up.

    My amended teams are now:

    1st team of ‘Blunts:

    B: Byron Pickett, Matthew Scarlett, Glen Archer
    HB: John Worsfold, Terry Daniher, David Rhys-Jones
    C: Merv Neagle, Greg Williams, Robert Dipierdomenico
    HF: Des Tuddenham, Dermott Brereton, Gary Ablett Sr
    F: Leigh Matthews, Tony Lockett, Barry Hall
    R: Carl Ditterich, Gary Hocking, Tony Shaw
    Interchange: Chris Lewis, Rick Kennedy
    Co-Captains: Tony Shaw and Des Tuddenham
    Coach: Alastair Clarkson

    2nd team of “Blunts:

    B: Stan Magro, Bill Duckworth, Kevin Neale
    HB: Rod Grinter, Ron Andrews, Martin Pike
    C: Robert Muir, Ryan Crowley, Darren Millane
    HF: Denis Banks, Cameron Mooney, Phil Carman
    F: Jim Buckley, Roger Merrett, Gary Sidebottom
    R: Neil Balme, Steven Baker, Tony Liberatore
    Interchange: David Granger, Mal Brown, Jim Wright (Geel, 20 games 1970-72)
    Captain: Roger Merrett
    Coach: Kevin Sheedy

    The theme song for the 1st “Blunts” team will be “Gonna Fly Now”, (“Theme from Rocky”), by DeEtta West and Nelson Pigford. The Richmond Football Club song will also be used. (“We’ll fight and fight and win”).

    The theme song for the 2nd “Blunts” team will be “Up There Cazaly”, by Mike Brady (“In there and fight”).

    The medal for the winner of the match will be presented by Jason McCartney (Coll/Adel/NM), a real fighter, and a survivor of the 2002 Bali bombing, and remarkably played his last AFL game after that, in 2003. Of course, he was suspended for the 1999 Grand Final after the 1999 Preliminary Final, playing for North Melbourne.

  11. Ian Wilson says

    Thanks Glen. Yes Tuddy was genuinely hard. I had him as coach for a year at Werribee but for all his toughness I don’t think he was an instigator of trouble per say. Never took a backward step though. A VFA team might be on the cards. After the 93 GF I can assure you I could attach a name to every lump and cut on my head! Cheers

  12. DBalassone says

    I remember that game in ’93 Ian. A brutal game of footy. Would love to see some recollections of it, if you ever get a chance.

  13. Daniel Baker says

    Martin Leslie ex Port Adelaide legend and Brisbane Bears number 1 draft pick was very hard. Just ask Dermie about 1988 state game when he tried to headbutt Leslie who responded with 5-6 punches to Derms scone and struggled to get a kick after that.

  14. Mark Yeates, from Geelong, got even with Dermott Brereton in the 1989 Grand Final, where Brereton suffered a bruised kidney and internal bleeding.

    Therefore, I shall add both Martin Leslie and Mark Yeates to the half back flanks of my 2nd “Blunts” team, replacing Rod Grinter and Martin Pike. Grinter can be added to the interchange bench of my 1st team of “Blunts” and Pike can be added to the interchange bench of my 2nd team of “Blunts”. I have dropped Jim Wright from my 2nd team of “Blunts”, so there’s now 3 players each on the interchange change bench for both teams of “Blunts”.

  15. Ian Wilson says

    Thanks gents. DB the 1993 GF is on YouTube as is the Prelim v Springvale which was a great game that came down to the last kick of the game. Daniel and Anon you’re dead right about Martin Leslie. A very uncompromising defender worthy of that team . Much appreciated.

  16. I forgot to mention Wayne Carey, Mick Martyn, Danny Frawley and Jonathan Brown. They were all tough, hard players and you wouldn’t want to get in their way on the football field.

    My amended 1st team of “Blunts” is:

    B: Byron Pickett, Matthew Scarlett, Glen Archer
    HB: John Worsfold, Terry Daniher, David Rhys Jones
    C: Merv Neagle, Greg Williams, Robert Dipierdomenico
    HF: Gary Ablett Sr, Wayne Carey, Des Tuddenham
    F: Leigh Matthews, Tony Lockett, Jonathan Brown
    R: Carl Ditterich, Gary Hocking, Tony Shaw
    Interchange: Barry Hall, Dermott Brereton, Chris Lewis, Jeff Sarau
    Leadership team: Tony Shaw, Des Tuddenham, Jonathan Brown, Wayne Carey
    Coach: Alastair Clarkson

    My amended 2nd team of “Blunts” is:

    B: Stan Magro, Mick Martyn, Kevin Neale
    HB: Martin Pike, Martin Leslie, Mark Yeates
    C: Robert Muir, Ryan Crowley, Darren Millane
    HF: Denis Banks, Cameron Mooney, Phil Carman
    F: Jim Buckley, Roger Merrett, Gary Sidebottom
    R: Neil Balme, Steven Baker, Tony Liberatore
    Interchange: Ron Andrews, Rick Kennedy, Bill Duckworth, Danny Frawley
    Sub: David Granger
    Emergency: Mal Brown
    Co-Captains: Roger Merrett, Danny Frawley
    Coach: Kevin Sheedy

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