Almanac Teams: Twenty-one gun salute (1980- )


Carlton’s Craig Bradley [Source: Author]


This is a team of best players to wear the Number 21 jumper since 1980.


  • Starting 18 will be one player from each club. I have tweaked it after the Number 3 team. Brisbane Bears & 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:          Matthew Buntine (GWS)               Daniel Merrett (Bris)                 Steven Febey (Melb)


CHB:       Ben Long (St.K)                              Leo Barry  (Syd)                          Michael Wilson (PA)


C:             Dyson Heppell (DVC) (Ess)         Craig Bradley (C) (Carl)             Darren Kappler (Fitz)


CHF:       Michael Barlow (Freo)                   Cameron Mooney (Geel)           Shane Tuck (Rich)


FF:          Corey Jones (NM)                           Quinton Lynch (WCE)               Chris Knights (Adel)


Ruck:      Michael Byrne (Haw)                     Mark Williams (VC) (Coll)        Tom Liberatore (WB)


Interchange: Rod Austin (Carl), Michael Mansfield (Geel), Tony Morwood (Syd), Mark Yeates (Geel)


Emergencies: Steve Kolynuik (Foots), Ben McGlynn (Syd), Richie Van Den Berg (Haw) Dean Wallis (Ess)


Coach: Mark Williams


No Gold Coast player in the side.



Games in Number 21 (Years Played)

Matthew Buntine 67 (2012- )

Daniel Merrett 200 (2005-2016)

Steven Febey 258 (1988-2001)

Ben Long 60 (2017- )

Leo Barry 237 (1995-2009)

Michael Wilson 94 (2003-2008)

Dyson Heppell 191 (2011- )

Craig Bradley 375 (1986-2002)

Darren Kappler 87 (1987-1991)

Michael Barlow 126 (2010-2016)

Cameron Mooney 210 (2000-2011)

Shane Tuck 173 (2004-2013)

Corey Jones 157 (2001-2010)

Quinton Lynch 198 (2004-2012)

Chris Knights 96 (2005-2012)

Michael Byrne 68 (1983-1986)

Mark Williams 135 (1981-1986)

Tom Liberatore 172 (2011- )

Rod Austin 216 (1973-1985)

Michael Mansfield 176 (1991-1999)

Tony Morwood 229 (1978-1989)

Mark Yeates 154 (1980-1990)



The Number 21 has reasonable depth in each position, with its strengths being big-bodied midfielders and running players. What the team does lacks is genuine class to go with the workmen-like midfielders that are in the side.



Teams that multiple options were Carlton with Rod Austin and Craig Bradley, Collingwood with Mark Williams, Michael Christian and Sharrod Wellingham, Essendon with Dean Wallis and Dyson Heppell, Geelong had Mark Yeates, Michael Mansfield and Cameron Mooney, Hawthorn had Michael Byrne and Richie Vandenberg, Sydney Tony Morwood, Leo Barry and Ben McGlynn, Western Bulldogs had Steven Kolynuik, Matthew Dent and Tom Liberatore.



The defence does not really contain a recognised CHB, with Leo Barry more known as a full back but I think he could easily play that role. Barry did start as a CHF before being moved to full back and becoming one of the premier defenders in the competition known for his spoiling from behind and also intercept mark like the 2005 Grand Final. Daniel Merrett at Full Back was a fine player who was very strong and was great at spoiling on the last line of defence. Michael Wilson after having just missed the Number 15 team, makes the Number 21 team – he is capable of giving some run or playing a hard lock down role in defence. Matthew Buntine can also play a lockdown role as would Steven Febey who could play on a small forward or provide run. Ben Long is the another on the half back line who has shown in his brief career that he can play back or forward and is capable of providing dash and class. The interchange has Michael Mansfield named on the bench who at his peak was an All Australian defender in a very strong Geelong side. Rod Austin was a super defender and Mark Yeates (also on the bench) is capable of playing in defence as well. Dyson Heppell who could provide some run in defence. There is no real back up tall defender if needed.



Michael Byrne is named first ruck, having started his career at Melbourne he moved to Hawthorn, he also wore Number 50 in his first season and kicked 47 goals. Over his next four years while wearing Number 21 he played more in the ruck, in 1983 he won a flag and came equal fifth in the Brownlow. Cameron Mooney would be the backup ruck, although Quinton Lynch is another possibility. Craig Bradley is named in the centre and with his fitness and ability he would stay there and run through the midfield all day. Mark Williams was a very good ruck rover/HFF at Collingwood who won two Best & Fairests and also kicked 53 goals in one year. Tom Liberatore has been one of the best clearance players in the AFL since his debut and would complement Bradley and Williams well. Darren Kappler was a genuine wing at three clubs, he was another who finished equal fifth in a Brownlow count, this time in 1988 at Fitzroy. Dyson Heppell on the other wing is a very good running player who has mainly played RR/HBF but would still do well there. Other midfield options are Mark Yeates who played a lot on the wing, Shane Tuck and Michael Barlow were big bodied midfielders and Chris Knights could also run through the midfield.



Quinton Lynch is named at FF who was at his peak in West Coast’s grand final making years 2005-2006, in 2006 he kicked 65 goals. At CHF is Cameron Mooney who was two time premiership CHF at Geelong and All Australian in 2007 when he kicked 67 goals. Corey Jones is the third marking forward in the side with his best season total of 46. Chris Knights was a clever forward who could play in the midfield, his best yearly tally was 43 goals. He would be the side’s crumbing forward though probably more small half forward than forward pocket crumber. On the HFF we have Michael Barlow and Shane Tuck who are better known as midfield but could help in the forward line with their big bodies. Barlow kicked 81 goals from 125 games with a best of four goals in a game, while Tuck’s best outing netted just two goals he was always a good mark and very good set shot at goal within 40 metres. Other option up forward are Tony Morwood named on the bench who kicked 397 goals as CHF/HFF with a bag of eight his best. Michael Mansfield in his second year at Geelong spent a bit time up forward and kicked six goals in a half against Collingwood. Daniel Merrett once kicked seven goals in a game and Michael Byrne kicked eight, so there are plenty of alternative tall options. Leo Barry, Ben Long and Mark Williams are others who might go forward if needed.



The interchange consists of probably the next best four available with defender Rod Austin playing the tight defender role, which covers what I think is a weakness in the side. Tony Morwood is the alternative forward and while this area has better coverage in the side he is a hard player to leave out. He left quite an impression when watching the Swans on television every second Sunday in the 1980s. Michael Mansfield is probably the best running defender in the team and deserves to be included as he was very skilful ball user. Mark Yeates grabbed the last spot as I thought he could add some muscle and run and thought he was overall a better footballer than the emergencies. The emergencies that are unlucky are McGlynn and Kolynuik – both could play as small crumbing forwards but were also capable of playing as small defenders. Vandanberg may have being a better Hawks player than Byrne but missed out because of the need for a ruck, while Wallis could be an option on the bench capable of playing as a tall defender or forward but I went with others who I felt more worthy.



Captains in the side are Leo Barry, Dyson Heppell, Craig Bradley and Mark Williams. I went with Craig Bradley as skipper, he led Carlton to the 1999 Grand Final and was long serving vice-captain to Stephen Kernahan. Mark Williams gets the vice-captain nod and Dyson Heppell is DVC.



The unlucky players were Michael Christian & Sharrod Wellingham (Coll), Jared Polec and Aliir Aliir (PA), Brian Taylor (Rich), and Matthew Dent (WB)




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  1. Love these! Love your dedication to them. Mark Yeates would walk into this team, wing, half back, CHB, FB, anywhere.

    Noticing the paint spreading a bit thinner as the numbers get higher. Very much looking forward to your no. 38s team!!

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Great photo of Craig Bradley. No wonder he gave up cricket, no way was all that hair fitting in a cricket cap.

  3. Thanks Matt for kind words. Will need some imagination later on to get some balance as it getting thin in some areas
    Will see it through

    Thanks Luke Bradley’s cricket gets a run next week.

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