Almanac Teams: Twenty-three skidoo (1980- )



Fitzroy’s Larry Donohue [Source: Author]



A team of more obscure/lesser known players to wear the Number 23 jumper since 1980.



Here’s my second team of players to wear the Number 23, 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:           Kevin Caton (WCE)                      Glenn Bartlett (WCE)                   Ben McKay (NM)


CHB:       Matthew Nicks (Syd)                    Gerard McCarthy (Fitz)                Trevor Poole (Rich)


C:             Justin Crawford (Syd/Haw)       Alistair Clarkson (NM/Melb)       Paul Meldrum (Carl)


CHF:       Rene Kink (Ess/St.K)                   Nathan Ablett (Geel)                      Neville Shaw (Coll)


FF:           Charlie Dixon (GCS)                    Larry Donohue (Geel)                    Laurence Schache (Bris)


Ruck:       Simon Crawshay (Haw)              Shane Clayton (NM)                       Ray Shaw (Coll)


Interchange: Shane Fell (Syd), Stephen Jurica (Rich), Michael Martin (Foots), Orren Stephenson (Geel)


No players from Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, GWS or Port Adelaide.



Games in Number 23 (Years played)

Kevin Caton 8 (1990)

Glenn Bartlett 4 (1987)

Ben McKay 31 (2017- )

Matthew Nicks 169 (1997-2005)

Gerard McCarthy 75 (1978-1982)

Trevor Poole 99 (1984-1989)

Justin Crawford 17 at Sydney (1995-1996) 29 at Hawthorn (1997-1998)

Alistair Clarkson 85 at North Melbourne (1988-1995) 41 at Melbourne (1996-1997)

Paul Meldrum 152 (1982-1992)

Rene Kink 20 at Essendon (1983-1985) 7 at St Kilda (1986)

Nathan Ablett 32 (2005-2007)

Neville Shaw 23 (1985-1986)

Charlie Dixon 65 (2011-2015)

Larry Donohue 105 (1973-1980)

Laurence Schache 29 (1991-1992)

Simon Crawshay 19 (1994-1996)

Shane Clayton 99 (1999-2004)

Ray Shaw 146 (1974-1981)

Shane Fell 15 (1990)

Stephen Jurica 18 (1995-1997)

Michael Martin 48 (1995-1999)

Orren Stephenson 8 (2012)



Kevin Caton – Caton had three years in the AFL at three clubs in three states, starting with West Coast at 1988 then to Fitzroy and then to Brisbane; he totalled 18 games for 18 goals over this stint. Caton was recruited from Swan Districts which was coached by John Todd. On an interview with Coodabeen Champions this year Caton said he was dating Todd’s daughter at the time and post-1987 had decided to go to the SANFL to have a break from John. Todd then got appointed coach at Woodville, Kevin was subsequently recruited to West Coast, then Todd was appointed coach by the Eagles! Caton was injured for a lot of the start of 1988 but debuted in Round 18, where he kicked a goal and broke his thumb. He was then delisted and picked by Fitzroy in the preseason draft then delisted again before being picked up by Brisbane. In his debut for Brisbane against Richmond he kicked 4.5 in a 10-goal win, then followed up with 3.1 two weeks later before he returned to Perth at end of the year after his partner was suffering from homesickness. Caton was described by Guru Bob when at Fitzroy as being a lookalike for lead singer of Fine Young Cannibals, Roland Gift.



Glenn Bartlett – Bartlett played four games for West Coast in 1987 for zero goals. He debuted in Round 2 aged 22 but never played two games in a row. Bartlett won Best Clubman in 1987 but was delisted at the end of the year. He returned to East Perth and won the WAFL leading goal kicker in 1990 with 69. Bartlett became an industrial relations lawyer in 1996 in Perth for leading law firm Clayton Utz and relocated to Melbourne in 2009. In 2013 he joined the Melbourne Board and was appointed president of Melbourne until he resigned early 2021.



Ben McKay – Ben is the twin brother of 2021 Coleman Medallist Harry. Harry was drafted with Pick 10 while Ben was drafted by North Melbourne with Pick 21 in 2015. Ben has taken longer to develop than Harry and made his debut in the last round of 2017. Ben didn’t play any games in 2018 and just three in 2019, whereas Harry played every game in 2019 as a key defender coming sixth in the Best & Fairest. Ben has yet to play against Harry. In a much anticipated clash where they were likely to play on each other in Round 19 of 2021, Harry was a late withdrawal the morning of the match.



Matthew Nicks – Nicks was selected with Pick 21 in the 1994 Draft, recruited from West Adelaide. Nicks debuted in 1996 and played six of the first nine games that season. Nicks became a regular in the Sydney side from 1997-2004; he played at least 18 games each season. Nicks was 187cm tall and was a mobile player who could take a strong mark and play wing, half back or forward. Over his 175 games, Nicks kicked 125 goals with his best season being 28 goals in a year and his best haul six. Nicks suffered a stress fracture in his leg in Round 10 of 2005, which turned out to be his last game which meant he did not play in the 2005 Premiership. Nicks coached for a few years in Sydney amateur leagues before he joined Port Adelaide as an assistant coach in 2011-2018. Nicks then joined GWS as an assistant in 2019 before being named as Adelaide’s coach in 2020.



Gerard McCarthy – McCarthy was a key position player able to play at both ends who debuted for Hawthorn in 1972. McCarthy played 75 games for Hawthorn from 1972-1977 but was dropped for Leon Rice in the 1975 Grand Final and in 1976 was dropped after Round 22. Despite having played 17 games including a preliminary final in 1977, McCarthy was traded to Fitzroy just prior to 1978 for Terry Wallace who was zoned to Fitzroy residentially. Wallace was considered to be the steak knives in the deal. McCarthy was 26 at the time only missed two games in his first two years at Fitzroy and played 75 games at Fitzroy from 1978-1982 before he retired. Wallace played every game including a premiership in 1978. Whether Gerard would have played in the 1978 Grand Final is another thing as they had plenty of tall depth; he may have being competing with another McCarthy – Michael – for the last spot named on the bench.



Trevor Poole – Trevor was recruited from one of the great clubs in country football in Tempy Goya Patchewollock – or TGP. TGP played in the Northern Mallee league and was a merger of Tempy, Goya (now known as Speed) and Patchewollock football teams. Trevor was from the town of Speed (population 78 in 2016), where his dad Frank owned the garage/petrol station. The sign when you drive into Speed says ‘Welcome to Speed, Please slow down’. I only know this as my mum was raised near Speed and we used to visit and stay up there once a year as kids, though we never saw a footy match there. Being a Tigers supporter I followed Poole’s career closely. Poole debuted in 1984 and played nine games for 10 goals, which included two bags of three. In 1985 Poole moved to CHB and won the Best & Fairest that year and played for Victoria in 1986. Poole played 99 games for Richmond, mainly in defence, but was capable of playing forward and kicked five goals in a match once. Poole had a falling out with Coach Kevin Bartlett and was traded to Geelong in 1990 where he played 53 games in four seasons, mainly on a wing, including the 1992 Grand Final. TGP merged with Ouyen Rovers at end of 1996 season to become Ouyen United in the Mallee League. The league disbanded in 2015, so the side joined the Sunraysia League and were premiers in 2016 and 2018.



Justin Crawford – Justin is Shane’s younger brother by 2.5 years and was recruited to Sydney in 1994 as a NSW Zone selection along with Leo Barry. Crawford wore Number 23 at both Swans and Hawks. Crawford played 10 games in 1995, which included the last eight of the season where he earned a rising star nomination after a 26 disposal and two-goal game against Fitzroy. In 1996 Crawford played just seven games including a qualifying final. Crawford was traded to Hawthorn where he joined his brother for 29 games in two seasons before he retired aged 21 after 46 games for 32 goals.



Alistair Clarkson – Clarkson debuted in 1987 aged 19 wearing Number 57. As mentioned in the Number 22 side Clarkson was involved in an incident with Carlton’s Ian Aitken in the Battle of Britain match in London 1987, where he king hit Aitken, the incident led to plenty of fights on the ground. Clarkson had nine years at North Melbourne, his best year was 1988 where he played 19 games for 34 goals. In 1989 onwards Clarkson was in and out of the side with his best year being 14 games and he failed to play finals for North Melbourne 1993-1995. Clarkson was traded to a struggling Melbourne side in 1996 and played every game that year and 19 games in 1997 before he retired; he finished runner up in the Best & Fairest in 1996. Clarkson was a runner for Melbourne in 1998, assistant coach at St Kilda in 1999, Werribee 2000, Central District 2001-2002 and assistant coach at Port Adelaide 2003-2004. Clarkson was considered a surprise choice of coach at Hawthorn 2005 but rebuilt the club to its glory days of the 1980s, the Hawks won a flag in 2008 in his fourth year and then three in a row between 2013-2015. Clarkson finished up at Hawthorn at the end of 2021.



Paul Meldrum – Meldrum was born in England and was known by his nickname ‘Molly’. The story is that Meldrum walked into Carlton and asked for a game. The Blueseum website says officially he asked Shane O’Sullivan for a trial in 1981 for the 1982 preseason, to which O’Sullivan advised he would mail out an invitation. O’Sullivan had forgotten to mail the invitation and Meldrum was still waiting by January 1982 and Meldrum walked in again and asked for a chance, to which an embarrassed O’Sullivan advised he had forgotten and advised him to come to down for training, but if he struggled he would not be on Carlton’s list; bear in mind at the time Carlton were reigning premiers. Meldrum impressed at training and then the following intra-club practice match where he got 30 possessions. Meldrum made the Carlton list and debuted in Round 15 with 21 disposals and a haul of 0.4 but was dropped after Round 16, he played two games for the year. Meldrum played six games in 1983 but from 1984 he was a regular in the side and played for Victoria in 1986 and 1987. Meldrum was not invited to 1987 Brownlow and shot to an early lead with four best on grounds from Rounds 2 to 5 and then another three votes in Round 8 to take him to 15 votes. He finished equal third, five votes behind the winners Lockett and Platten. Meldrum also played in a premiership in 1987.



Rene Kink – Kink debuted for Collingwood in 1973 aged 16 in Round 19 and kicked two goals. After failing to get a disposal in Rounds 21 and 22, Kink was dropped for the finals, however with Ross Dunne injured in the semi final Kink was recalled for the preliminary final and adapted well – he kicked three goals. From 1975 Kink was a regular in the Collingwood side, he peaked in Collingwood’s 1979-1981 Grand Final teams with 1979 his best with 54 goals. Kink though struggled with injuries and form in 1982 and played just five games. After eight games until Round 9 in 1983, Kink was swapped to Essendon. He made his Essendon debut in Round 18 and played the last nine games including all finals. Kink had an immediate impact at Essendon, he kicked six goals in his second game against eventual premiers Hawthorn in a 46 point win, then five goals the next week against Melbourne and four goals the following week at Geelong. In 1983 Kink played in his sixth Grand Final – still without a win. When Essendon won in 1984 Kink did not play a game and in 1985 when Essendon won again he played 11 games, the last being Round 19. Kink was traded to St Kilda in 1986 where injuries forced him to just seven games and he retired aged 29 with 181 games and 280 goals. Kink is another player that had a great nickname courtesy of Lou Richards: ‘The Incredible Hulk’, he also played the role of Tank O’Donoghue in the movie ‘The Club’. Rene’s younger brother Adrian also played for Collingwood’s reserves.



Nathan Ablett – Nathan is 18 months younger than his superstar brother Gary but took a lot of convincing to play for Geelong. Ablett did not play TAC  Cup football and was just happy to play with Modewarre with his mates. Ablett decided to give the AFL a go and was drafted father son in 2004. Nathan was a different player to Gary; he was also 195cm as opposed to Gary’s 182cm. He made his debut and played four total games in 2005, he kicked four goals in his second game against West Coast. Ablett played seven games in 2006 but in 2007 everything clicked and he ran out 21 times for 34 goals including three goals in Geelong’s huge premiership win. That was enough for Nathan who did not like the limelight and retired. Nathan would move to Gold Coast in 2009 and made the Suns’ inaugural list, he wore Number 55 in two games.



Neville Shaw – Neville was four years younger than Tony and 10 years younger than Ray, he was same height at 175cm as Ray and 5cm taller than Tony. Neville never played with Ray who retired after 1981 but did play with Tony. I read on Wikipedia that Neville was born in Manchester in the UK – I’m unsure if this is correct as there is no mention of this for Ray and Tony. Their father was a champion VFA player and it seems somewhat surprising. Neville debuted in 1984 in Number 51 and played 20 games including all three finals. Neville was small forward changing rover and kicked 18 goals with his best game 27 disposals. Neville played 15 games in 1985 and eight in 1986 before he tore his ACL and did not play another game in the VFL/AFL aged 21. Both Tony and Ray described Neville as the most talented player of the family.



Charlie Dixon – Dixon was an inaugural Gold Coast Suns player who was recruited from Cairns. Dixon played at FF in Gold Coast’s first game and kicked their first ever AFL goal. In his first years he spent time in defence, he played 22 games for 10 goals in his first two years. 2015 was his best year at Gold Coast; he kicked 41 goals and also won the Marcus Ashcroft medal. Dixon left for Port Adelaide in 2016 where he has been an All Australian and three time leading goal kicker.



Larry Donohue – In 1976 league goal kicking was in transition with the retirement of Doug Wade and Peter McKenna, Peter Hudson in Tasmania (though he returned in 1977) and Alex Jesaulenko playing elsewhere on the ground; it was also before Kelvin Templeton, Michael Roach and Bernie Quinlan became prominent full forwards. Larry Donohue was the leading goal kicker in 1976 with 105 goals from 24 games with a best haul of 9.6 against South Melbourne. Donohue debuted in 1973 for six games and five goals. Before the start of 1976 season he had played just 22 games for 36 goals, so his 1976 seemed a surprise considering he was only 21. Donohue remained in good form, he kicked 63 goals in 1977 and 95 goals in 1978. 1979 netted 27 goals from 11 games and he played just four games in 1980 before he retired aged 25 due to a shoulder injury. Larry signed up for Fitzroy and even had a footy card made of him, but did not play another game. Sadly his career was over at young age of 25 after 105 games and 339 goals. His son Adam was on Geelong’s list from 2007-2008 but did not play a game. Donohue was the long-time Winchelsea pub owner, which had a sign advising to have an ale with the man who kicked a ton.



Laurence Schache – Schache was born in Hopetoun, not too far away from Trevor Poole’s town Speed, and played U19s at Essendon. He was playing in the SANFL with West Torrens when he was drafted with Pick 1 in the 1990 mid-year draft. Schache joined Brisbane as a key forward in 1991 aged 23 and in his first year played 17 games for 47 goals which won him Brisbane’s goal kicking, his best bag was six goals against Adelaide. In 1992 Schache played just 12 games for 17 goals and was delisted at the end of the year. Schache returned to Woodville West Torrens and played in a premiership before a knee injury in 1994 forced him into early retirement. Laurence son Josh was drafted by Brisbane with Pick 2 in the 2015 National draft and after two years at Brisbane he requested a trade back to Victoria to play for the Western Bulldogs. Sadly Laurence never saw his son play; he passed away in 2002 from amyloidosis aged 34.



Simon Crawshay – Crawshay was drafted by Hawthorn in 1991 with Pick 22. In 1994 Crawshay was given the great Number 23 after Dermott Brereton moved to the Sydney. Crawshay debuted in Round 1 of 1994, he played first ruck for the first five rounds and made nine appearances for the year. Crawshay played nine more games in 1995 and just one in 1996 before he was delisted from Hawthorn with 19 games and two goals to his name. Crawshay won the Gardiner Medal in 1995 before a shift to play with South Adelaide. Simon’s brother is David who represented Australia at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics in rowing, he won gold in 2008 in the double sculls.



Shane Clayton – Shane was drafted by Fitzroy with Pick 16 in the 1995 draft. Shane showed a lot of promise in his first year and played 13 games from his debut in Round 6. Clayton was be one of eight Fitzroy players selected by Brisbane to join them in the merger but played only five games in two years at Brisbane. After being delisted from Brisbane, Clayton was then drafted by North Melbourne with Pick 90 in the 1998 Draft. After he struggled to get a game in the bottom side in 1998,  Clayton played all 25 games for North Melbourne in 1999 and was a premiership player at end of the year. He also played every game in 2000 and was a regular from 2001-2003 but played only one game in 2004 before he was delisted aged 25 after 117 games. Shane’s father Ian Clayton was an AFL umpire in 1980s for 106 games and famously paid the free kick against Dermott Brereton when he kissed Bill Duckworth.



Ray Shaw – Shaw started his career at Collingwood in 1974 aged 19 and played 21 games for the year. Shaw was a mainstay as first rover at Collingwood and played in both Grand Finals in 1977 and was elected captain in 1979. However after two losing Grand Final campaigns in a row, Shaw was replaced by Peter Moore as captain in 1981. Injuries restricted Shaw to only 11 games in 1981 and aged 27 Shaw was told his services were no longer required after 146 games and 200 goals. Shaw returned to Preston as captain-coach and won premierships in 1983-1984. Ray played with his brother Tony but not Neville. Ray’s sons Rhyce and Heath both played for Collingwood with Rhyce winning a premiership at Sydney and Heath at Collingwood.



Shane Fell – Fell was a high leaping FF for Sydney in 1990, recruited from Glenorchy having spent time at Geelong previously. He was 22 when he debuted in Round 1 where he kicked five goals in a five-point win against Carlton at Princes Park. Fell’s best game netted six goals against Geelong in Round 8. However the goals dried up and Fell kicked only seven goals in his last seven games and after 15 games for 30 goals was delisted as Warwick Capper was returning to Sydney. Fell was drafted by Richmond in the 1991 mid-season draft but did not join the Tigers.



Stephen Jurica – Jurica was drafted in 1993 and debuted for Richmond in 1995 as a tall forward with Matthew Richardson and Stuart Edwards out injured at the time. Jurica was a big frame for an 18 year old, very strong and hard to move around. Jurica made his debut in Round 11 of 1995 but was noticed most against Carlton in his fourth game in a clash between first and second on the ladder. While Carlton won by five goals, it was Jurica who stood out with four of his own against Stephen Silvagni. The next week in one of the games of the year on a Friday night Jurica kicked five against Essendon in a match that was a draw. Jurica’s other big match was against ‘Mr Pinchy’ Craig Kelly where he kicked 4.4. Jurica only played five games in the next two years and was delisted after 18 games and 25 goals. Jurica spent some time at Hawthorn in their reserves and now serves on the AFL tribunal.



Michael Martin – Martin was recruited from Hobart with Pick 14 in the 1994 draft. Martin shared his name with ‘Mick’ Martyn, North Melbourne’s FB and was told on draft day that if he ever came across him to watch out. Martin made his debut in 1995 and played three games for the year, but his best season was 1998 where he played all 24 games including both finals. He only played seven games in 1999 before being traded to Brisbane where he played 10 games of the first 12 in 2000 but suffered an osteitis pubis injury and did not play another game.



Orren Stephenson – With Brad Ottens and Mark Blake retired after 2011, Geelong had just Trent West as a recognised ruck and the inexperienced Dawson Simpson. With Pick 78 Geelong drafted Orren Stephenson from North Ballarat VFL side who at 29 years was the oldest first time draftee in AFL history. Stephenson debuted in Round 1 and played eight games for the year before he was delisted as Geelong drafted Hamish McIntosh. Stephenson went on to be rookie listed by Richmond where he played seven games in two years, giving him 15 games in total.



Forgotten Number 23s are Peter McIntyre (Adel), Adam Hartlett (Carl), Peter Adams (Coll), Peter Cransberg (Ess), Daniel Foster (Geel), Warren Dean (Melb), Chris Groom (NM), Matthew Bode (PA), Rod Oborne (Rich), Spencer White (St.K), Colin Hounsell (Syd), Brendan Fewstar (WCE), Russell Tweeddale (Foots)




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