Almanac Teams: Pick and Mix…Twenty-six (1980- )



Footscray’s Danny Del-Re [Source: Author]


This is a team of best players to wear the Number 26 jumper since 1980.


  • Starting 18 will be one player from each club. I have tweaked it after the Number 3 team. Brisbane Bears and Brisbane Lions will be one club, with Fitzroy, Gold Coast and GWS competing for the last two spots in the starting 18.
  • Teams will try to be as balanced as possible but if a number has several rucks as its best player an alternative will be picked. I will explain my selections below the team
  • Players may appear under multiple numbers, for example Eddie Betts number 18 and 19



Stats are based on their time in that number.



I also have two teams per number, one is a best of and the other is based on players picked for different obscure/unusual reasons like cameos, unknown brothers, fathers, known for other reasons.




FB:          Ben Johnson (Coll)                      Brian Leys (Rich)                    Mark Thompson  (VC) (Ess)


CHB:      Mark Bickley (C) (Adel)              David Rhys-Jones (Carl)       Joel MacDonald (Bris)


C:            Gavin Brown (DVC) (Coll)          Liam Shiels (Haw)                  Nick Dal Santo (St.K)


CHF:       Matthew Shaw (GCS)                  Jason Ball (WCE)                   Clive Waterhouse (Freo)


FF:         Peter Burgoyne (PA)                     Tom Hawkins (Geel)              Danny Del-Re (Foots)


Ruck:    Jonathan Giles (GWS)                  Luke Parker (Syd)                    Peter Bell (NM)


Interchange: Rodney Eade (Haw/Bris), Cale Hooker (Ess), Barry Stoneham (Geel), Steven Wright (Syd)


Emergencies: Sam Butler (WCE), Richard Douglas (Adel), Chris Heffernan (Ess), Saverio Rocca (NM)


Coach: Mark Thompson


No players from Melbourne or Fitzroy, two from Collingwood.



Games in Number 26 (Years Played)

Ben Johnson 221 (2001-2013)

Brian Leys 93 (1989-1994)

Mark Thompson 202 (1983-1996)

Mark Bickley 272 (1991-2003)

David Rhys-Jones 106 (1985-1992)

Joel MacDonald 80 (2004-2009)

Gavin Brown 254 (1987-2000)

Liam Shiels 242 (2009- )

Nick Dal Santo 260 (2002-2013)

Matthew Shaw 102 (2011-2017)

Jason Ball 101 (1994-1999)

Clive Waterhouse 106 (1996-2004)

Peter Burgoyne 45 (1997-1999)

Tom Hawkins 302 (2007- )

Danny Del-Re 62 (1990-1994)

Jonathon Giles 51 (2012-2014)

Luke Parker 235 (2011- )

Peter Bell 123 (1996-2000)

Rodney Eade 229 at Hawthorn (1978-1987) 30 at Brisbane (1988-1990)

Cale Hooker 219 (2008-2021)

Barry Stoneham 235 (1987-2000)

Steven Wright 246 (1979-1992)



The Number 26 side (unlike Number 25) is a side with more balance in terms of talls and smalls, forwards and defenders. The strength of the side is the midfield and while the defence looks weaker in the starting 18 due to my criteria, it does have back up for this weakness on the bench with Hooker and Stoneham both capable of playing as tall defenders. Melbourne did not really have a suitable Number 26 and no player had played 50 games, options were Luke Williams (47) and Sam Weideman (49). With this I omitted Melbourne and added another Collingwood player.



Clubs with multiple options were Adelaide with Mark Bickley and Richard Douglas, Collingwood with Ray Byrne, Gavin Brown and Ben Johnson, Essendon with Mark Thompson, Chris Heffernan and Cale Hooker, Geelong with Barry Stoneham and Tom Hawkins, Hawthorn with Rodney Eade and Liam Shiels, North Melbourne with Peter Bell and Saverio Rocca, Sydney with Steven Wright and Luke Parker and West Coast with Jason Ball and Sam Butler.



As I mentioned earlier, defence is probably the side’s weakness and that is mostly based on FB and CHB. Brian Leys is named at FB and started his career well there in 1988. Leys showed ability to even play tagging roles on tall mobile players like Jim Stynes and Paul Roos, however his form dipped and he was delisted aged 25. David Rhys-Jones at CHB played majority of his football on the wing at 187cm, however he is best known for his Norm Smith Medal winning performance at CHB while playing on Dermott Brereton. Joel MacDonald is in the side as the third tall defender who could play the intercepting marking role or lock down role. With Cale Hooker and Barry Stoneham on the bench there are taller players available to play FB/CHB. The three small defenders include two premiership captains in Thompson and Bickley and another premiership defender in Ben Johnson. Thompson and Johnson can both play the lock down small back pocket, while all three (and especially Bickley and Johnson) are able to play as running/linking/rebounding defender. Other players that can play in defence are Hooker and Stoneham as mentioned earlier while Liam Shiels, Matthew Shaw, Gavin Brown and Rodney Eade have all played on the half back line.



I think the midfield is the strength of the side, especially the wings. Gavin Brown and Nick Dal Santo are both multiple All Australians on the wing and recognised as two of the finest to ever play in their respective eras. Jon Giles is the first ruck who had three years at GWS starting his career aged 24 and was the first Giants player to reach 50 games. Liam Shiels is named in the centre and has been a great player for Hawthorn during their threepeat years and beyond; he is capable of playing an attacking role, a lockdown onballer or off half back. Luke Parker came second in the 2016 Brownlow and has being one of the best and arguably most underrated midfielders in the last ten years. Peter Bell as first rover was picked from his North Melbourne stint where he started as a goal kicking forward pocket who had stints on the ball, and ended up being a prime onballer for North Melbourne winning a Best & Fairest and All Australian selection prior to returning to Fremantle. Other midfield options are Jason Ball and Barry Stoneham in the ruck, Rodney Eade on a wing, Steven Wright as a rover and Ben Johnson/Mark Bickley capable of playing on ball.



The FF is Tom Hawkins who won the Coleman in 2020 and has been Geelong’s leading goalkicker ten times. At CHF is Jason Ball who, while some may think is a better ruck from his Sydney days, was a very good CHF at start of his career especially in 1995 where he kicked 46 goals. Danny Del-Re is in side as a goal kicking forward pocket who can play FF. Del-Re kicked 70 goals in 1992 including eight in a losing final against Geelong. Clive Waterhouse is another goal kicking forward with his best being 53 goals in 2000 and seven goals in a game. Matt Shaw is more of a defender but I have put him in as defensive forward while Peter Burgoyne wore 26 in his first three years before moving to Number 7. Burgoyne kicked 33 goals from 45 games in his first three years as HFF/wing and did kick 41 goals in 2002. Other forward options are Barry Stoneham and Cale Hooker as tall forwards, Steven Wright and Peter Bell as small forwards and Gavin Brown who played in the 1990 premiership year as a FF.



On the interchange I have the next best four available which include Cale Hooker and Barry Stoneham who can help with weaknesses as tall defenders and in the ruck. Steven Wright helps with a weakness as small rover or goal kicking forward pocket. Rodney Eade gives depth as running wing/HBF. All four players played over 200 games. Richard Douglas is probably the most unlucky player of the emergencies.



There are five captains in the side with two of them being premiership skippers. Mark Bickley as a two time premiership captain gets the nod ahead of Mark Thompson and Gavin Brown as deputy. Other options were Luke Parker and Barry Stoneham.



The unlucky players were Ray Byrne (Coll), Kepler Bradley (Freo), Riley Bonner (PA), Anthony Miles (Rich), Kain Taylor (St.K)





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  1. Geez, a dozen or more very handy types here, Rodney…I must admit I’m a little surprised at how strong a side it is for a “higher” number.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Very exciting forward line with Del-Re & Waterhouse in the same team!

    He often gets overlooked in discussion but Gavin Brown is as good a player as any to play for Collingwood in the modern era.

  3. Thanks Jarrod for your help and kind words.

    Luke Gavin Brown was a champion in that era, Clive and Danny up forward be plenty of excitement or nothing. Not much in between

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