Almanac Teams: Any Kicks? 26 (1980- )



North Melbourne’s John Murphy [Source: Author]



A team of more obscure/lesser known players to wear the Number 26 jumper since 1980.



Here’s my second team of players to wear the Number 26, mostly from 1980 onwards but I have made exceptions, such as Glynn Hewitt in the 19 team.



It is a light-hearted team based on cult figures, forgotten/lesser known players or stats/cameos associated with them, players known for other deeds, sons, fathers & brothers and forgotten players.


My criteria, similar to my previous efforts was:


  • Attempt to include one player per club
  • I have tried to create as balanced side as possible but this was not a priority



Stats are based on their time in that number.





FB:            Craig Bolton (Bris)                     Peter Melesso (WCE)             Peter Caven (Syd)


CHB:        Mark Bickley (Adel)                   Jack Hawkins (Geel)              Stuart Glascott (Bris)


C:              Rodney Eade (Haw/Bris)         John Riley (Foots)                   John Murphy (NM)


CHF:        Kevin Ablett (Geel)                     Billy Gowers (WB)                  Zephaniah Skinner (WB)


FF:           Danny Del-Re (Foots)                Saverio Rocca (NM)                Clive Waterhouse (Freo)


Ruck:      Alex Ishchenko (WCE/NM)       Jay Viney (Melb)                      Chris Heffernan (Ess)


Interchange: Darren Harris (NM), Steven Newman (Fitz), Robert Shaw (Ess), Warren Stanlake (Foots)


No players from Carlton, Collingwood, Port Adelaide, Richmond, St Kilda, Gold Coast or GWS.



Games in Number 26 (Years played)

Craig Bolton 29 (2000-2002)

Peter Melesso 6 (1989-1990)

Peter Caven 18 (1994-1995)

Mark Bickley 272 (1991-2003)

Jack Hawkins 182 (1973-1981)

Stuart Glascott 4 (1987)

Rodney Eade 229 at Hawthorn (1976-1987)  30 at Brisbane (1988-1990)

John Riley 1 (1984)

John Murphy 9 (1979-1980)

Kevin Ablett 2 (1985)

Billy Gowers 33 (2018-2020)

Zephaniah Skinner 8 (2011-2012)

Danny Del-Re 62 (1990-1994)

Saverio Rocca 101 (2001-2007)

Clive Waterhouse 106 (1996-2004)

Alex Ishchenko 30 at West Coast (1987-1988) 70 at North Melbourne (1992-1995)

Jay Viney 23 (1988-1991)

Chris Heffernan 97 (1997-2002)

Darren Harris 51 (1986-1991)

Steven Newman 1 (1988)

Robert Shaw 51 (1974-1981)

Warren Stanlake 1 (1981)



Craig Bolton – Bolton was drafted by Brisbane in 1998 from Eastlake, ACT and made his debut in 2000. He played 15 games which included a personal best haul of three goals in his sixth game. Bolton played in Brisbane’s two final appearances of 2000; he gathered 22 disposals in the Elimination Final. Over the next two years Bolton struggled for opportunities in the all-conquering Brisbane premiership sides of 2001-2002 – he played just 14 games in those years with Mal Michael and Martin Pike added to the Lions’ backline. Bolton was drafted by Sydney with Pick 3 in the 2003 Preseason Draft. He went on to play 170 games for the Swans between 2003-2010 and was a premiership player in 2005, All Australian in 2006 & 2009 and co-captain 2008-2010.



Peter Melesso – Melesso debuted in 1981 with South Melbourne aged 19 in the last game of the season. Melesso moved to St Kilda in 1983 where he played seven games in three seasons. In 1986 Melesso moved to Western Australia and played in the 1987 and 1989 premierships for Claremont. Melesso was then drafted by West Coast in 1988 with Pick 108 and after four years since his last VFL game Melesso aged 27 was selected in Round 3 1989. Melesso played four games in a row in 1990 from Rounds 17-20 but could not hold his spot for the finals. This was Melesso’s last game; during the off season he started a battle with lymphatic cancer (which he fortunately won).



Peter Caven – Caven started his career at Fitzroy in 1991 and played eight games. In his second year Caven played 22 games and finished equal third in their Best & Fairest. After only nine games in 1993 Caven signed with Sydney as an uncontracted player for the 1994 season. Caven played 18 games in two seasons for the Swans before he was delisted. Caven’s time at Sydney is best remembered for being knocked out by St Kilda’s Tony Lockett in Round 7. Lockett received an eight week suspension and Caven did not return until Round 21. In 1995 Caven was joined at Sydney by Lockett, but Caven was traded at the end of the year. Caven joined Adelaide in 1996 and appeared in 82 games until 2000. Caven’s time at Adelaide included two premierships, during one of which he famous beat his opponent: Wayne Carey.



Mark Bickley – Bickley was an inaugural Crow and made his debut in Round 4 of 1991 aged 21. From then on Bickley was a regular player and was made a member of the leadership group by 1993. His career at Adelaide peaked when he became captain and led them to the 1997-1998 flags. Adelaide could have won another in 1993 when they led eventual premiers Essendon by six goals at half time in the penultimate match of the season. During Graham Cornes’s address to the players just before running back out the Adelaide players and coach were distracted by a terrible smell which was said to have come from one Mark Bickley. The bomb from Bickley was described as one of the worst smells ever; arguably it had an impact on the second half. Bickley also coached the club to three wins from six games in 2011 after Neil Craig resigned.



Jack Hawkins – Jack Hawkins is the father of current Geelong star Tom. ‘Jumpin Jack’ was a very good player in his own right; 182 games from 1973-1981 before he retired due to a knee injury to go back to the family farm at Finley aged 27. Hawkins was known for his leap – hence the nickname – and was good enough to play for Victoria at CHB. His brothers Michael and Robb also played: two games for Michael in 1973 and three for Robb in 1984.



Stuart Glascott – Stuart is the younger brother of Carlton’s premiership wing David, with four years between the two. Stuart played U19s and Reserves for Carlton from 1983-1985. In 1986 Glascott joined Southport and was added to the Brisbane Bears’ list in 1987. He played the last four games of 1987 with his highest disposal total in his first game (15). Glascott did not play any games in 1988 and was delisted at the end of the season.



Rodney Eade – ‘Rocket’ Eade started his career in 1976 aged 18. Recruited from Glenorchy, Tasmania, he inherited the Number 26 from another famous Tasmanian – Peter Hudson. Eade played 229 games with Hawthorn until 1987 and was a member of the 1976 (his ninth game), 1978, 1983 and 1986 premiership sides. Eade joined the Brisbane Bears in 1988 aged 30 to add experience to the second year side and again wore Number 26. Eade played 30 games between 1988-1990 and in 1991 retired mid-year; he was then appointed coach of the Bears’ Reserves, who won the premiership the same year. Eade joined North Melbourne as Reserves coach under Denis Pagan and coached them to a premiership in 1995. In 1996 Eade was appointed senior coach of Sydney and took them to a Grand Final against his former team North Melbourne in the same year. He coached the Swans for 152 games from 1996-2002 and made the finals every year bar 2000 & 2002. Eade was next appointed coach of the Western Bulldogs from 2005-2011 over 162 games; he got them to Preliminary Finals in 2008-2010. His most recent coaching stint was at Gold Coast from 2015-2017, but they did not make any finals. Eade has coached in three states and at each club he was replaced before the end of the season. Eade is also famous for an audio piece giving his thoughts on Bulldogs ruck Will Minson.



John Riley – Riley was a big recruit from North Adelaide to Footscray aged 25. Riley played in the opening round of 1984 season and had eight disposals. This turned out to be his only game as he had not being granted a clearance from North Adelaide and they were successful in getting a Supreme Court injunction to prevent him from playing any more games at Footscray. Riley played 250 games for North Adelaide between 1977-1990 including the 1987 Premiership. Since retiring Riley has worked as a successful defence scientist in Australia, USA and Canada.



John Murphy – Murphy started his career at Fitzroy, where he played 214 games from 1967-1977, won five Best & Fairests and was named captain from 1973-1977. After an internal dispute at Fitzroy, Murphy moved to South Melbourne aged 28 and played 23 games in red and white between 1978-1979. Murphy played his last game for South Melbourne in Round 9 of that year and moved to North Melbourne mid-season. He made his debut there in Round 12 in Number 26. Murphy played six games in 1979 with the sixth game being Murphy’s first finals appearance in game 243 of his career. Murphy had 16 disposals and kicked one goal in qualifying final win against Collingwood. Murphy was dropped the next week and in 1980 he played only three games.  John’s son Marc qualified as a Father-Son pick for Brisbane but declined the opportunity and went as Pick 1 in the draft to Carlton where he played 300 games and captained the club.



Kevin Ablett – Kevin is the middle Ablett brother between Geoff and Gary. The same height as Gary (185cm) he debuted for Hawthorn in 1977 aged 19 and played a total of 15 games – his most games in a season. Kevin played in all three finals, kicked two goals in the Qualifying Final and gathered 23 disposals in the Preliminary Final. He played 12 games in 1979 and four in 1980 but did not play any more between 1981-1983. In 1984 Kevin joined older brother Geoff at Richmond, but only played five games. In 1985 Kevin then joined Gary at Geelong. Then aged 27 he only played two games – though both were with Gary. Kevin played a total of 33 games, his son Luke played 133 for Sydney from 2002-2009, including the 2005 Premiership.



Billy Gowers – Billy is the son of Andrew who played 89 games for Hawthorn (including the 1991 Premiership) and 51 for Brisbane. Billy did not qualify for Father-Son and was picked up in the 2015 Rookie Draft by Carlton but did not play a game there in two years. Gowers joined the Bulldogs’ VFL side in 2017 and in 2018 was added to their rookie list. In 2018 Gowers debuted in Round 1 and played 20 games, kicked 26 goals, his best game netted three goals. This total was good enough to win the Western Bulldogs’ goalkicking. In 2019 Gowers struggled and played just 10 games for 13 goals and in 2020 played three more games but did not kick a goal. He was delisted at the end of the year.



Zephaniah Skinner – Skinner was drafted with Pick 88 in the 2010 Draft by the Western Bulldogs from Nightcliff in the NT via Noonkanbah in remote WA – 380km east of Broome. Skinner was a cult figure perhaps due to his name, his rat’s tail and/or his amazing vertical leap. Sadly we did not see much of this as he played just one game in 2011 and seven in 2012 for five goals. The Bulldogs were keen to keep Skinner but coming from remote WA, he struggled with the Melbourne lifestyle/homesickness and returned back to WA at end of 2012.



Danny Del-Re – Del-Re was drafted by Footscray in the 1990 Preseason Draft from Williamstown aged 22 and soon developed a cult following. Del-Re played 14 games and kicked 21 goals in his first year. After a disappointing 1991 season Del-Re had a great 1992, he played 22 games and kicked 70 goals, his best hauls were seven goals in a 107 point win against Melbourne and then eight goals in the Qualifying Final loss to Geelong. He only had nine kicks for the day and scored 8.1. In 1993 Del-Re started the year strong; 16 goals in the first four games including six against Essendon the same day Scott West also kicked six. Del-Re lost form towards the end of the year; he made 14 more appearances for 36 goals. 1994 was a struggle – three games for one goal and Del-re was delisted. In 1995 Danny played for South Adelaide and kicked 90 goals.



Saverio Rocca – Rocca had a fantastic career at Collingwood in the Number 36 jumper. Rocca started his career in 1992 and played 156 games for 514 goals with his best season 1995 with 93 goals and a Best & Fairest. Rocca kicked over 10 goals five times at Collingwood. Rocca fell out of favour at Collingwood under Mick Malthouse and played only 12 games for 27 goals in 2000. Rocca was delisted by Collingwood at the end of the season and was drafted by North Melbourne with Pick 30 in the draft aged only 27. Rocca had six seasons at North Melbourne and was a regular each year except for his last. Rocca played 101 games for 234 goals, led the goal kicking three times with his best season 2002 with 50 goals and best haul eight goals against Richmond in 2004. A memorable incident was the Elimination Final in 2005 where Rocca’s wife gave birth to their second child that day and he had to get a police escort from the hospital to the ground to make the game in time. Rocca finished with 257 games for 748 goals and after his AFL career finished he moved to the USA to play in the NFL as a punter for Philadelphia from 2007-2010 and Washington from 2011-2013.



Clive Waterhouse – Waterhouse was a cult figure for Fremantle who was an explosive forward that was taken at Pick 1 in the 1995 draft from Port Adelaide aged 21. Waterhouse debuted in Round 3, 1996 and played 11 games for nine goals including four goals in Fitzroy’s last ever match in Round 22. Waterhouse’s form peaked between 1998-2000 where he kicked 30 goals in 1998 and won Fremantle’s leading goal kicker, 42 in 1999 and 53 goals in 2000 (also leading goalkicker). His best game was in Round 21, 2000 against West Coast; he kicked seven goals. In 2001 he suffered a broken collarbone and then did his ACL in the 2002 preseason, he played no games that year. Waterhouse struggled to recapture his form and his last season was 2004 – he played just 21 games from 2001-2004, but in total played 106 games for 178 goals.



Alex Ishchenko – Ishchenko was an inaugural West Coast Eagles player, playing in their first ever game against Richmond in 1987 aged 22. Ishchenko played 18 games while sharing ruck duties with Laurie Keene. Ishchenko played 12 games in 1989 but none after Round 14 as he fell out of favour with Coach John Todd. He was then traded to the Brisbane Bears in 1989, where he was joined by teammates Mark Zanotti, John Gastev and Paul Peos. Ishchenko wore Number 9 at Brisbane and was a regular from 1989-1990 but fell out of favour in 1991; he played in their Reserves premiership and was delisted at seasons end. In 1992 Ishchenko was picked up with Pick 7 in 1992 Preseason Draft by North Melbourne and was given Number 26. Ishchenko played his best footy at North Melbourne, sharing ruck duties with Corey McKernan and Matthew Capuano and played in the 1993 and 1994 finals campaigns. After nine games in 1995 Ishchenko retired aged 31 to become ruck coach. Ishchenko played 142 games in total.



Jay Viney – Jay is almost three years younger than brother Todd and was drafted with Pick 63 in the 1987 Draft. Jay debuted in Round 18, 1988 and played three games but was dropped for Melbourne’s 1988 finals campaign. He played nine games in 1990, including Rounds 18-22, but was once again dropped for the finals and ended up winning Melbourne Reserves Best & Fairest. In 1991 Viney played his first game in Round 13 and appeared in the last 11 games of the Home & Away season. Despite 20 disposals in the last game, he was dropped for Melbourne’s 1991 finals campaign and unfortunately delisted at the end of the season. Viney moved back to the SANFL and captained Sturt in 1993-1994 and North Adelaide in 1997-1998.



Chris Heffernan – Heffernan was drafted with Pick 2 in the 1996 Draft by Essendon from Terang. He debuted in 1997 and played three games for the year but from 1998 onwards he was regular player and was one of Essendon’s best in their 2000 Grand Final victory. However after a dip in form in 2002 and with Essendon’s salary cap problems, Heffernan was offloaded to Melbourne for a first round selection. Heffernan’s trade to Melbourne bought about a new clause by the AFLPA that meant a player could not be traded within 12 months of signing a contract. During the 2002 season Heffernan had signed a three year deal to stay at Essendon. At Melbourne Heffernan wore Number 1 and played 47 games in three seasons. Heffernan though struggled to reach same heights and missed the 2004 Finals due to suspension and after just nine games in 2005 he was delisted. He was then redrafted by Essendon in the 2006 Preseason Draft and played a further 26 games in two seasons. Heffernan became Essendon runner for a year and in 2011 joined the Essendon board.



Darren Harris – Harris joined North Melbourne in 1986 from South Adelaide and at 193cm was capable of playing ruck or key forward/defence. Harris was in and out of the side, his best years were 1987 and 1988 when he played 15 games and kicked five goals in a 1988 game against Hawthorn. His younger brother Brenton played two games in 1988, one of those they played together…Brenton’s career was plagued by injuries though. Darren was delisted after the 1991 season with 51 games and 28 goals to his name. Darren’s daughter Meg represented Australia at the Tokyo Olympics where she won gold in the 4×100 freestyle relay and also swam heats for the 4×200 freestyle relay.



Steven Newman – Newman played just the one game for Fitzroy as a 198cm ruck. His debut came against Essendon at Waverley in Round 12, 1988 in what was a weird match. Fitzroy did not kick a goal in the first quarter while Essendon kicked 4.6.30 to lead by 27 points. Fitzroy kicked five goals in the second quarter and two goals in the second half to beat Essendon 7.9.51 to 4.9.33. Essendon kicked just three points after quarter time. Newman spent most of the match on the bench and failed to rack up a disposal; in 1989 he went to North Adelaide.



Robert Shaw – Shaw started his career at Essendon, recruited from Sandy Bay aged 19. Shaw struggled for regular games and played 51 games eight seasons with 1979 the only year he played more than 10 games. Shaw was recognised early for having a great football brain and after retiring at end of 1982, he was opposition analyst for Essendon in 1983, captain-coach for Clarence 1984-1985 (where he won a premiership) and then assistant coach at Essendon 1986-1988 and Fitzroy 1989-1990. In 1989 he coached Fitzroy’s Reserves to a premiership. In 1991 Shaw was appointed Fitzroy coach and did a fantastic job considering the playing list and facilities he had available to him due to Fitzroy’s financial situation. His record at Fitzroy was 28 wins from 86 games with best seasons in 1992 (nine wins) and 1993 (10 wins). An opportunity became available at Adelaide in 1995 with a better list, facilities and security but Adelaide under achieved under Shaw and the players did not gel with him – they won 17 games from 44. After Shaw was sacked he returned to Essendon from 1999-2005 as an assistant coach and joined Mark Harvey at Fremantle from 2005-2008 as General Manager. Shaw is the uncle of former Australian test captain Tim Paine.



Warren Stanlake – Stanlake was 189cm and recruited to Footscray from Lavington. Stanlake made his debut in Round 2 against Collingwood named at CHF. He had eight kicks, two marks, two handballs, kicked 0.1 and did not play another game. He is best known though as father of Australian one day cricketer Billy Stanlake.



Forgotten Number 26s are Danny Noonan (Bris), Stephen O’Reilly (Carl), Allen Eade (Coll), Des Herbert (Fitz), Jason Laycock (Ess), Matthew McCarthy (Geel), David Loats (Haw), Joe Rugolo and Greg Doyle (Melb), Darryl Henderson (NM), Derek Murray (PA), Ezra Poyas (Rich), Darryl Cunningham (St.K), Simon Feast (Syd), Tim Walsh (WB)




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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Rodney, your forgotten 26’s brought up a name I thought had the future in his hands at Essendon, Jason Laycock. He played some terrific games, showed a lot of potential then for whatever reason faded away. Unfortunately, we never saw the best of him.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Crows parted way with Musashi soon after the 93 Prelim.

  3. He did look promising Colin, I think he was ahead of Hille & Ryder at one stage. The way ruckman get traded, surprised he never got a second club.

    That move worked well 4 years later Swish

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