Almanac Teams: A Team of Injury Plagued Stars

Scanlens card of the Bombers player (and later Fitzroy/Adelaide coach) Robert Shaw – Shaw underwent nine operations over an eight-year career.


Darcy Moore went down again in the Pies’ terrific win against the Eagles last Friday night.


Nic Nat and Jamie Elliott, two of the games most exciting talents, are working their way back after a wretched run of luck with injuries. I hope we see the best of them, injury-free, from now on.


It got me thinking about a team of genuinely talented players that have been desperately unlucky because injury kept interfering in their career.


One could probably get a 22 just from Collingwood when you throw in names like: John Greening, Chris Dalkin, Graeme Teasdale, Mark Orval, Alan Edwards, Graeme Atkins, Jamie Elliott, Darcy Moore….but I don’t want to depress myself.


The great Neale Daniher and nephew Joe have been afflicted, while Terry, Anthony and Chris Daniher rarely battled serious injury. Luck? Fate?


Neale Daniher is still fighting against the odds with his wonderful work in raising awareness for MND. He would be an inspiration as coach of this team.


How good could some of these names have been?


Almanackers, here is your chance to nominate an injury riddled star from Australian Football. Nominations outside the VFL/AFL always welcome and encouraged.


B: Robert Shaw (Ess) Jon Ballantyne (Foots/Coll) Jack Trengrove (Melb/Port)


HB: Guy Rigoni (Melb) Robert Groenewegen (Foots) Peter Melesso (Syd/StK/WCE)


C: John Greening (Coll) Brendan McCormack (Fitz/Bris) Chris Dalkin (Coll)


HF: Rod Owen (StK) Allan Edwards (Rich/Coll/Foots) Daniel Menzel (Gee/Syd)


F: Peter Sartori (Carl/Fitz) Ashley Hansen (WCE) Peter Jonas (Nth)


Ruck: Damian Bourke (Geel/Bris) Austin Wonaemirri (Melb) Graeme Atkins (Nth/Coll)


Inter: Anthony Morabito (Freo) Max Bailey (Haw) Scott Gumbleton (Ess) Kepler Bradley (Ess/Freo)


Coach: Neale Daniher (Melb)


Entertainment: Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams


About Phillip Dimitriadis

Carer/Teacher/Writer. Author of Fandemic: Travels in Footy Mythology. World view influenced by Johnny Cash, Krishnamurti, Larry David, Toni Morrison and Billy Picken.


  1. Bruce Lindner had a propensity for breaking down. 6 games in his debut year of 1985,then knee problems ; out for the season.

    He started 1988 in a blaze of glory, with 5 goals in the opener against the Weagles,followed by 96 against North Melbourne in R 2. Next week the Dee’s @ the G. He tears his hamstring in the opening few minutes, not back until R 10.

    Peter Doyle, Damian Drum, were two other injury plagued Cats.


  2. Rulebook says

    Phil the best player I have seen,Barrie Robran is a must re a state game v the Vic’s at the scg from a questionable incident by Leigh Mathews.Bruce Lindsay would have been a superstar.
    From Norwood Greg Turbill was considered the equal of John Platten as a junior,John Clarke powerful running half back and the late great,Jim Thiel a strong tough,CHB,CHF all thru knee injuries

  3. DBalassone says

    Lee Walker (knee), touted as better than Glen Jakovich, only played 16 games and was in the system for about six years.
    Sean Rusling (shoulder), 17 games in 5 seasons at the Pies. Was on fire in the 2007 finals series.
    Alex Johnson (knee), missed 6 seasons of footy, but at least he played in a flag. I think he did his knee 3 or 4 times.
    Trivia question: I wonder which AFL player has done the most ACs? Michael Long, Sean Rehn, Matt Scharenberg, Daniel Menzel and Neale Daniher all spring to mind

  4. Rulebook, how could forget Gentleman John Wynne. Granted he played numerous games for the Redlegs but we were never able to see his best for continued leg injuries. When first arriving in SA he hoped this would be a starting point for him to proceed to Victoria but injuries had other ideas. A classic case was when, I believe, he was reported in the ’80 grand final.

    He didn’t bother to attend his hearing and so the tribunal postponed the hearing for a week. However, once again old 28 didn’t bother to attend but sent a letter explaining that he had lost respect for the umpiring fraternity as they never ever gave him any protection so could take a running jump (rude letter following).

    Incensed, the tribunal promptly handed down a 10 match suspension. Wynney however wasn’t bothered as he knew he needed a knee operation and wouldn’t be available for some time into the next season. As it turned out he missed 12 matches.

    Like Turbill it was truly amazing that 28 was able to conquer pain for so long and become a true legend at Norwood.

  5. Jarrod_L says

    Mark Coughlan could have been anything, but two ACLs and an earlier bout of the dreaded OP meant he never reached his full potential. Loved that the team got up against North in his comeback game, very emotional for all supporters who attended.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    As soon as I saw the email for this piece Phil, I went “Peter Jonas”. Great idea mate.

    Shane Edwards’ father Greg copped a career-ending eye injury in a trial game and received the grand total of $15k as compensation, when playing for Centrals in the early 80s, after being the first Doggie to kick the ton the season before.

  7. george smith says

    Richard Michalzyck. The phrase oft injured was certainly an apt term for Richard. One of Barassi’s interstate superstars at North Melbourne, from East Perth. Richard was the cream on the North cake, but played 24 games in 3 years, 73 to 75. Could play anywhere, but usually in the sick bay. Cruel Alf Brown suggested in the Herald that if Richard had been a horse…

    At Collingwood, the legendary Chris “Skills” Dalkin could have been anything, but was always injured. The 1983 opening game against Melbourne featured the Magpies most injured for possibly the only time together – Chris Dalkin, Mark Weidemann and Alan Edwards. While Melbourne featured the much injured ex Magpie Peter Moore.

  8. Shane John Backx says

    Eric Leech took 10 years to play 79 games at Richmond, 70-79

  9. Richard Michalzyck.

    Chris Dalkin.

    Eric Leech.

    I haven’t heard those names for many moons.

    Where else apart from the Almanac will you encounter them?


  10. West Torrens, Richmond and Norwood forward Neville Roberts has to come into consideration. I don’t know how he went at Richmond but on returning to West Torrens, he always seemed injury prone. At one stage he wore a type of head gear which earned him the nickname of “Rocky” (the boxer played by Stallone in the Rocky films). His coach, Lindsay Head never knew when his star player would be available.

    When it was mooted Roberts wanted to transfer to Norwood and play under his old friend Neil Balme, several Norwood people are reputed to have said a condition would be that Torrens supplied a stretcher along with Roberts to seal the deal.

    And yes, Rocky did continue with injury problems, he still played plenty of terrific games for the ‘Legs, especially teeming up with Michael Aish. Roberts was a truly magnificent Norwood man but who knows what he would have achieved had he not been hampered throughout his career.

    Interestingly, three great Redlegs around the same time, Roberts, Turbill and Thiele were not able to live up to their true potential. All were very exciting players.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Courtney Johns (Ess)

    Dick Michalzyck makes a surprise appearance here (from his brief time in Adelaide):

  12. By putting on my thinking cap, I’ve come up with another Norwood champ, namely Rod Seekamp whose career was sadly cut short by persistent leg injuries. Seekamp began as a promising half forward under Coach Robert Oatey. Then, for some reason known only to himself, Oatey played Seekers at half back when he immediately shone. When Bob Hammond arrived to coach the Legs, he continued with Seekamp at half back for a short time before moving him to the pivot.

    What an inspired move this turned out to be as Rodney excelled here. In point of fact, many good judges agreed Port’s Russell Ebert and Seekamp were the League’s best centremen. After the ’75 grand final win Michael Taylor heaped praise on Seekamp but next year Seekamp began to have leg problems. Unfortunately he missed the whole ’78 season including the memorable 1 point win over Sturt.

    By then I was friendly with him and he supplied me with a bottle of the club’s special premiership port wine and I well remember him telling me e was hopeful of making his return to the side in’79. However, it was not to be for he only managed 3 further games and was forced into early retirement.

    At his top he was truly magnificent and I know Rulebook , try as he might, Couldn’t fit Rod Seekamp into his top Norwood side. He’d certainly be in my side.

  13. Rick Kane says

    Dear Sir Lord Bogan

    You have Peter Sartori listed as playing for some VFL team and another. Yet he played more games for Swan Districts than the games he played for those mug VFL sides combined. Including two premierships. And what’s a 6’4″ ruckman doing playing forward pocket!

    Yours grumpily

    Other than that, another top notch list.


  14. Stainless says

    Intriguing topic, Phil. At what point do you draw the line about unfulfilled potential?
    Surely John Coleman must be top of this list?? We think of him as the GOAT but he played less than 100 games before injury finished his career.
    Peter Hudson is probably a less extreme example as he still made a comeback from his knee injury, but he was probably never the same.
    Then there are stars who endured long careers despite injury. No-one would dispute that Richo had an outstanding footy career, but he missed probably the best part of three seasons worth of games through a whole range of injuries. What might he have achieved if he’d been less injury-prone?
    Jack Dyer injured his knee early in his career but played on with severe limitations on his ability to twist and turn. How good (and less violent) might he have been if he hadn’t been forced to run in straight lines?
    There are happier examples of injury-prone players who have managed to battle through the injuries and eventually achieve their potential with a clear run of fitness. David Astbury and Dylan Grimes spring to my parochial mind. I’m sure there are others.
    And while I appreciate that this is meant to be a light-hearted exercise, we shouldn’t forget the tragic examples of players whose careers were ended by on-field and off-field trauma. We should never take our health and fitness for granted.

  15. If we expand this team to include those who suffered from injury other than the purely physical, then surely Tom Boyd would be at the top of the list. What a tragedy that he was lost to the game at such a young age.

  16. Did anyone mention Western Bulldogs premiership player Clay Smith?
    Gone from the top level at 25. Very sad.

  17. A couple of names which elicit a sigh from Geelong supporters are Paul Lynch and Matthew Egan. Both top players who never really had a chance due to early career-ending injuries. Cost Egan a Premiership medallion in 2007. Jason Snell and Grant Tanner also worthy of mention.

    Hopefully Nakia Cockatoo isn’t headed down the same path. Fingers crossed.

    Cheers, Burkie

  18. Dave Nadel says

    Phil, At the risk of being controversial and sounding like an Angry Old Man; John Greening does not belong on this list. He was not “desperately unlucky because injury kept interfering with his career.” He was the victim of a deliberate on-field assault which (despite a brief attempted come-back) effectively ended his career. He was king hit and put in a coma by a blow from a thug when the ball was at the other end of the ground. The thug should have been banned from the game for life. Instead he got 12 weeks and played for many years. St Kilda, to their shame, gave the thug life membership.

    To describe what happened to John Greening as “desperately unlucky because injury kept interfering with his career.” is like saying that John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s career was interrupted by some bad luck in Dallas.

    In my opinion, John Greeniing was Collingwood’s best player between the retirement of Bob Rose and the emergence of Peter Daicos!

  19. Eric Leech was a good player.

    Well said Dave, I was at Greening’s return game, pretty sure he was best afield, silky skills.

  20. Onya Stainless. John Coleman tops the list followed by my nomination John Todd who only played 132 games for South Fremantle in 12 seasons from 1955-1966. Some extracts from his bio :
    “Few players have exploded onto the football scene as sensationally as did John Todd in 1955 when, as a seventeen year old, he not only represented the state and won South Fremantle’s fairest and best award, he became the youngest ever winner of the Sandover Medal. South Australian legend Bob Quinn, after witnessing Todd’s debut at interstate level against South Australia, ventured the opinion that the youngster “was the most complete footballer for his age that he had seen”¹.

    Todd sustained a serious knee injury against East Perth in round 7 1956. The road to recovery was long and hard, but after several aborted comeback attempts he finally returned to something approaching his best late in the 1958 season, a year which saw him again receive the red and whites’ premier individual award. Injuries continued to beset Todd for most of the remaining half a dozen seasons of his career (he stood out of football completely in 1965). In 1961, however, he enjoyed a comparatively injury free run, and 3 of his 13 interstate appearances for WA were at that year’s Brisbane carnival, from which the sandgropers emerged victorious. Todd’s excellent form during the carnival, in which he played mostly on the wing, was rewarded with All Australian selection. He rounded off the season in gratifying fashion by winning his third South Fremantle fairest and best award.

    But for injury, John Todd would surely have achieved much more as a player, and indeed might even have managed to fulfill his childhood ambition of becoming “the greatest footballer ever”. Nevertheless, he accomplished more in 132 league games than many players do in twice that number, and his accomplishments did not end when he retired as a player.”

  21. I wonder what kind of player Peter Daicos would have been without the groin injiuries early in his career, the ACL in 1985 when in his prime, the stress fractures in his feet in 1987 (he looked finished).

    Dakes managed to adapt his game and performed incredible feats over his ‘second coming’ from ‘88-‘92 but he’d lost a fair bit of pace and agility.

    Great article idea Phil.

  22. E.regnans says

    P Dimitriadis.
    “What if..?”
    The great unknown.
    For all of us.
    Terrific idea for a side.

    I wonder about a side of the luckiest players to have played.

  23. Rabid Dog says

    My first thought was Peter Jonas. Did a clavicle early in 83, then broke his tibia, missed a LOT, nly to suffer a fracture int he same spot shortly after his return.
    Coleman must play FF. A legend on less than 100 games.
    Lee Walker? 4 ACL repairs. Apparently, could’ve been anything.
    Not sure on Greening though – certainly worthy – however, wasn’t a behind the play incideT
    Greg Edwards CDFC lost the sight in an eye the year after kicking >100 goals.
    Prez started in a blaze of glroy, then never seemed to have enough games in a row – he still had flashes of brilliance though – some of his antics at Adelaide were huge.

  24. Phil Hill says

    Probably a bit off the point but Fitzroy had two seasons where we would always win when Garry Wilson was missing, usually through thuggery.

    Boyd, our last captain only had two (nearly ) full seasons and he played for Victorian both times. A mid-fielder who used to ‘rest’ as a key forward. Jarryd Malloy, who retired at 28 because he needed multiple operations and he was sick of them, but the most important was Laurie Serafini who did a back at 25 and never really played again. His injury cost us the 1983 flag.

  25. Peter Fuller says

    Peter B has drawn attention to John Todd and provided the detail for his nomination. That was a name that occurred to me when I saw the header. I’d offer three others, Neil Sasche, Peter Motley and Geoff Southby. I’d argue that although he had a productive career, Southby was never quite the same player after the 1973 GF remembering that he was Carlton’s B & F as a first year player in a premiership year with some pretty hot talent in the team. Mots seemed to be equivalent to Craig Bradley prior to the road crash which ended his football career.
    I also concur with Dave Nadel’s “edit” re John Greening.

  26. I am surprised that Harley Bennell has not had a mention.

  27. Hmm Phil and Smokie. The “there but for the grace of god” self-destruct Best Ever? Cousins, Millane, Carey, Bennell, Gibbs, Beams. Could be some controversial selections and interesting back stories in that. There is a divide between those destroyed by success and ego who flew too close to the sun – the rise and fall stories – and those who never quite made it – the almost fall stories. Those stories were never told in the old days – just rumoured in pubs.

  28. Barry Stoneham was another Geelong player whose career was hampered by injuries.

    Top notch centre half forward, could pinch hit in the ruck, who could also hold down a key defensive . In the first week of the 1991 finals Tony Lockett was on fire against an undermanned Geelong defence. Stoneham was swung on to him, Billy Brownless kicked 8, Geelong won by 7 points.

    He broke his leg in late 1994, not returning to the senior ranks until 1996. His commitment could never be faulted,but he wasn’t the player of yore. Still gave another 5 serviceable seasons,though never reached the heights he’d once scaled.


  29. Dave Brown says

    Trent Hentschel possibly the Crows name with a career most ruined by injury. Was never right again after doing a knee in a Showdown.

    A increasing number of players (while not necessarily stars) are finishing their careers early due to the ongoing effects of concussion: Justin Clarke at Brisbane, Scott Stevens and Sam Shaw at Adelaide, and I wonder how much longer Paddy McCartin will want this to be part of his life.

  30. Rick Kane says

    Ah, Phil Hill, respectfully, Serafini injury didn’t cost Fitzroy the 1983 flag. If I could put it more cleanly for you, his injury cost Fitzroy a real shot at the premiership.

    #justdoingmyjob #onlyalittleskininthegame


  31. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Terrific responses folks and great nominations. The game can be merciless to many.
    In response to the Greening inclusion, I was thinking more along the lines of the psychological impact after the king hit. It must have taken a toll.

    As Smokie points out, Tom Boyd and many others falling to the scourge of mental illness and addiction ought to be acknowledged. Mitch Clark comes to mind along with Chris Yarran,

    John Coleman definitely should be at FF. 537 goals in 98 games against some tough, rule-bending defenders. Incredible.
    Thanks for your contributions Knackers. Always appreciated. Cheers

  32. Steven Cadee says

    Thanks Phil when Garry Buddah Hocking was at Port Adelaide he described a player (can’t recall who) as being ridiculed by injury. I thought Laurie Keene could have been anything prior to his foot injury.

  33. Phil, terrific idea. Thanks.

    Matthew Egan (mentioned above) is the first Geelong player I thought of. And Barry Stoneham.

    Great to see Chris ‘Skills’ Dalkin recognised. Superb all-round sportsman and just a ripper bloke. He is a big Almanac reader now living in Tassie. He and his brother Dominator come to our Tassie events (please note lunch in Hobart at the Ball and Chain on Aug 23 is coming up – let me know if you’re keen). Brett ‘Dominator’ Dalkin tells me he is always in Almanac debt – which means he doesn’t have time to keep up with all of the articles. He has always been a fine sportsman himself. He once played for Queensland in an interstate match (footy). PLayed on Jezza in Brisbane. Dominator is ‘Kedronsappa’ in our footy tipping comp – and led early on this season. In fact he was in the top 20 of the whole competition (600,000 in it) for a few weeks. But he probably tipped his Blueboys too often.

    Brad Boyd is another interesting nom. What a player. Had he stayed fit the Lions would have won five flags. I’m not joking.

    Thanks Phil. And the comments are very interesting.

  34. Another that comes to mind is Josh Francou – must have held his knees together with duct tape by the end of his career…

  35. Not sure why Billy McCormack is in this team, my recollection of him is being overweight and unfit rather than injured, what a wasted talent he was …..

  36. John Butler says

    Peter Motley for mine.

    There’s a couple on the current Carlton list that could do with a bit of luck, too.

  37. John Butler says

    And no Robert Rose?

    Could apply to cricket as well as footy.

    But maybe I’m dragging the mood down a bit.

  38. Probably wouldn’t be in the team but I recall Jamie Lawson, an indigenous player for the Swans in the early 90’s, who was forced to retire in 1994 after breaking his leg and developing compartment syndrome.. He was 22 at the time. He was heralded as being a future star.

  39. Scott Elliott says

    Hi to all

    Here’s a few I can recall and some current ones (apologies for bias towards South Melbourne/Sydney players)-

    -Max James (South Melbourne late 1970’s/early 1980’s) and his son Heath who also played at the Swans in the late 90’s to early 2000’s
    -Ronnie Andrews (Essendon)- did he hurt his neck badly in motorbike accident just as the Bombers were putting a decent team together in late 1970’s/early 1980’s?
    -Sam Naismith (Sydney Swans)- he impressed me in the 2017 final series and I thought he’d be the answer to our ruck dilemmas since Mike Pyke retired and the big Mummy jumped ship but has been cruelled by knee injuries since.
    -David Young (South Melbourne late 1970’s/early 1980’s)
    – Alex Johnston (Sydney)- ‘Nuff said!
    – Stewie Gull (South Melbourne)
    – Jason Snell (Geelong)- seeing the footage of the ankle injury still leaves me feeling crook!)
    – Paul Lynch (Geelong)- Hammies!


  40. Stewie Gull, being a former TV Ringside pugilist, managed to injure a few Essendon players in a match at the Lake Oval back in the 70’s when they got a bit playful, Ronnie Andrews being one of them from memory

  41. George Wood Appeared to have a big career in front of him at Norwood in the fifties. George was the minister (just out of Bible College) for our local church. After his first game he really looked the goods but the following week at church, he was a sorry sight, black and blue all over and walking with a limp.

    And so, after 2 games, George Wood pulled the plug and concentrated on his ministry. I well remember him organizing popular Bible Cricket matches at the church. Anyway, it wasn’t long before he was of to America where, I believe, he had a successful ministry. Who knows how good he could have become had he decided to continue on with his footy.

  42. Has anyone mentioned Norwood’s Damien Nygaard. A certain Neil Kerley’s elbow virtually ended this brilliant player’s career. Kerley is reputed as saying “None makes me look stupid and gets away with it”. Tom Warhurst senior was the only footy commentator game enough to say on air that it was one of the most cowardly thing he had ever seen.

    Many spectators were amazed that a furious crowd didn’t rush oto the oval to confront Kerley. On the sports show Coach Bob Oatey, instead of speaking out against Kerley’s action, surprised and said it would have been a disgrace had the crowd charged onto the oval.

    For quite a while Nygaard toyed with the idea of bringing criminal assault charges against Kerley but eventually decided against it, thinking kerley would have to love with it for the rest of his life.

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