Blighty You Legend

The footy meedja tried to generate some debate about who would be the next inductee as an AFL Legend.  I shook my head.  Pleeeease.  Malcolm Blight by the length of the Flemington straight.

As a player he was leagues above any current day footballer.  Most like the younger Fyfe before he broke his leg and Ross Lyon decided to sacrifice him as a midfield battering ram.  Quick and skilful like Dangerfield but a much better mark and kick.  When his midfield legs started to go in late career, Blight transformed himself into a 100+ a season goal kicker in both the VFL and SANFL.  Could any current player even approach that range of talents?

The other candidates?  Carey was tougher and more consistent.  But he was nowhere near the renaissance man of Blight’s diverse achievements on and off the field – midfield Magarey and Brownlow medallist; ace goal kicker; legendary coach; insightful commentator – not to mention generous human being.

Ablett Snr – the only one who could surpass Blight for talent and brilliance.  But team player?  The idiot savant of the AFL.

Blighty was always a thinker; a master movitator; a wild eyed genius of a player and a coach.

“Some coaches see things as they are and say why; Malcolm saw things that never were and asked why not?”  Shane Ellen a dominating Grand Final full forward?  Yeah we all saw that one coming.

A fire always seemed burn inside Malcolm Blight.  A competitive fire.  Not the raging bushfire of a Leigh Matthews that scorched the earth around Barrie Robran and Neville Bruns and anyone else that got in his way.

Blight’s was a red-hot coal that always glowed hotter and longer.  That kept renewing itself and refused to die.  I can never recall a callous on-field act despite all the provocation.  He never put out anyone else’s fire – he just burned brighter.

Looking for sporting comparisons I settled on Adelaide western suburbs contemporary David Hookes.  Blight the suburban Mozart of the pigskin.  Hookes the Beethoven of bat and ball.

Both made the difficult look easy, but their refusal to conform could make hard work of the simple.  Both hard men but generous men.  Always wanting to see if they could beat the next kid; the next opponent; win the next contest.  Take the next speccie; baulk the next tackler; and dob the next one from the boundary.

Life was an endless game.  A never ending series of challenges and puzzles to be mastered.  Life as a game – but you play for keeps.

I always thought the mark of the man was returning to captain coach his home club – perpetual cellar dwellers the Woodville Woodpeckers (is there a worse team name in sport?) – at the end of his VFL career.  He could have taken money to play or coach anywhere.  But values like loyalty; respect and paying your dues were more important in his eyes.

Malcolm Blight was my footy hero as a young man growing up.  He played for the team next door that no-one wanted to watch, but everybody wanted to watch Blighty.  As I faltered in life, he continued to grow and achieve.  His coaching triumphs at Adelaide after the multiple disappointments at Geelong said something to me about resilience and not giving up. He remained a beacon in my later years that I continued to find inspiration from.

Men wanted to be like him.  Women wanted to be with him.

One last note of thanks to Malcolm Blight.  The day that idiot Rod Butterss sacked him as coach of St Kilda (after the club had previously sacked another idol of mine in Stan Alves) was the day I typed an email to the Avenging Eagle forever forsaking all things associated with that bunch of clueless losers.

Thanks, Malcolm.  Your fire has illuminated a lot of lives, on and off the field.

 

 

Comments

  1. Rulebook says:

    Superb PB Malcolm Blight was a magnificent player eccentric as a coach his 1st thing as Crows Coach teaching the players how to tie there shoelaces re footy boots up correctly as a Crows player said to me once if you could ignore,Blight’s individual blastings he was the best ever teacher of the game.The ladder night in the change rooms is part of Crows folklore where they reckon it took even the paint years to recover

  2. Warren Tapner says:

    Blighty was a forthright and entertaining television commentator, too. I still miss him – and Robbie Walls.

  3. Paul Young says:

    Pretty much spot on Peter. Well said – Blighty is a true legend and it’s wonderful he’s been recognised as such.

    I was one of the 148,000 at Princes Park in 1976 for Carlton v North. I was ready to go home at the 20min mark of the last quarter when Carlton were 3 goals up. A Carlton player ran into an open goal and missed – would have put the Blues 4 goals up in time on.

    Blight then kicked two goals – one a right foot checkside from the pocket in front of the social club and another about 40m out on a slight angle. North were 1 point down when Blight led out and took a mark low to the ground, then the siren went. I was on the opposite wing and lamented the fact that he just seemed too far out to make the distance. I will never forget the way he put the ball in the air as if to say “This Is The Moment” an then shaped his hands around the ball for a barrel.

    As he let go with an alomighty Blighty special and it soared through the air, it was one of the most extraordinary uplifting moments of my life. I jumped the fence and ran towards the players. The jubilation on normally subdued professionals like Cable and Schimma was fantastic.

    I’ll never forget how delighted I was on the bus back to Moonee Ponds. Amazing. It was in stark contrast 12 months later on the train ride home from Arden Street. I stood in the pouring rain all afternoon before watching Blighty get pushed in the back on the siren as is he kicked scraped through for a point to level the scores against Hawthorn. The ground was under water from the incessant heavy rain and Blighty sprayed the re-taken kick out on the full. Shattering. I was cold, soaked to my skin and slushed my way back to North Melbourne station. At least the water trickling down my face covered for the tears. But I never blamed Blighty – he’d won us a lot more games than he lost….

  4. Luke Reynolds says:

    Loved the comparison to DW Hookes. Both great men. Though Blight more successful in his sport.
    What a career. Always enjoy hearing about his different coaching methods. Seems apt he coached Ablett Snr for so long. Two geniuses. So close to glory.
    Glad M.Blight got his coaching reward in 1997 & 1998.
    Fantastic piece Peter.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Great stuff PB. One of my favourite players as a kid. Continued to reinvent himself as player and coach. Deserved a flag at Geelong – their football was exhilarating. I really liked him as a special comments man too, no airs and graces with Blighty. He didn’t give a ‘frog’s fat tossbag… ‘

  6. PB – you have stolen my thunder. Well and truly.
    But I am happy for you to have done so upon reading this.

    Blight’s career at North coincided with the period in my life when I was keenest on attending North matches. I didn’t miss too many.

    Malcolm Blight was nothing less than a superstar. A talented genius of the game.
    Possibly second only to Tiger Crosswell on my list of favourite players.

  7. Earl O'Neill says:

    Great piece, Peter, I always liked Mad Mal and his approach to football. After the ’98 GF he ran onto the field and leaped on the players shoulders. His commentary was priceless.
    But a Legend ahead of Mad Sheeds? That’s a tough call, likely his playing brilliance got him over the line.

  8. PB, yup, Blightly all the way, I tipped this I say to myself, I think I spotted him as the next Legend even pre Plugger.

    But what a brilliant comp with Hookesy, great get there.

    Sean

  9. I would have plumped for Sheeds who is the great Australian atheist socialist jesus according to some mug at the Guardian online.

    But I love Bllighty, especially the coach. It’s perfect practice that makes perfect. (reminds me of my mate being coached hockey by Brian Booth, don’t watch the ball, watch a spot on the ball…)

    A sensational contribution to the game. To think richmond could have had him but had Danny Frawley instead. Oh well…

    this is a great tribute, PB, especially love this para:

    “Blight’s was a red-hot coal that always glowed hotter and longer. That kept renewing itself and refused to die. I can never recall a callous on-field act despite all the provocation. He never put out anyone else’s fire – he just burned brighter.”

  10. E.regnans says:

    Love it PB.
    “Making the difficult look easy.”

    I have no reliable memory for details of M Blight.
    More of a feeling; a feeling of chance, of “what if,” of speculation.
    Of an adventurous spirit and a willingness to have a crack.

    Likewise for D Hookes.

    Lighting a path for the pedestrian rest.
    Thanks

  11. Dave Brown says:

    Yep, Blight 20 times the player Sheedy was and his equal as a coach (remembering legend status takes only those two things into account, not contribution to the game in other capacities). And, as he likes to remind people, was also All Australian full back to go with every other accolade. That St Kilda burnt through Alves and Blight, two of the best men in our great game, in that period is an indictment on the board (who would not give the coaches the control they needed to do their job properly) and the presence of someone there who fancied himself for the coaching job. Now, make Ken Farmer a legend and I shall be a happy man.

  12. There’s a kaleidoscope of Blight images and stories, some true and some doubtless apocryphal.

    As a coach there’s been much said of his methods and I’m sure some were inappropriate, but my favourite, and I hope it’s correct, is that he’d often carry on him a note which simply said, “Never forget how hard it is to play this game.”

    I fondly remember when Blight returned to Woodville and steered them to the finals for the first time in ages, and the excitement that many felt for the Peckers who at that time became the second team for many.

    Superb tribute PB.

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I went to a neutral game at Adelaide Oval in the mid-80s just to see him one last time, South v Woodville maybe.

    Larger than life, and knew just how to fix the Crows (temporarily)

    Well done PB

  14. DBalassone says:

    Great tribute PB. If ever anyone deserves the status of legend, it is Blighty – in every sense. Love all the anecdotes, but especially the one where his first task at Adelaide is to sack McDermott, McGuiness and A. Jarman…making him incredibly unpopular (they lose to new boys on the block Port as well) and then they go and win the next 2 flags.

    Growing up, he used to live a few doors down from us in Doncaster East. I knocked on his door one Halloween and he was very apologetic not to have any candy (it was the end of ’82 and the Blight’s were preparing to move back to Adelaide), so he went back to the kitchen to look for something for us and returned with a bag of peanuts.

  15. Malcolm Blight is one of the best players i ever saw . Like two other greats in my life time, GOD and Peter Daicos,Blight could do the nigh on impossible on a regular basis. Like that pair he was very human, with the last kick miss against Hawthorn in 1977 and mixing up the points and goals at the G against Richmond examples of that.

    His highlights include the match @ Western Oval V Footscray, a few days after resigning a s captain coach in which he booted 11 goals to take the Ros to a win. A fine statement. That final goal at Princess Park to win the round 10, 1976 encounter, seriously will we ever know how far it went. 55, 60, 70, 80, how ever far ,it was a pearler.

    As a then Geelong supporter i sat through those 3 losing GF’s, not to mention the pair of night GF’s they lost. I also saw a team play some of the best football ever played at the elite level. To return to Adelaide, discard some cherished deadwood, before snaring two flags was due credit for his innovative approach to this great game.

    Glen!

  16. Peter Warrington says:

    it’s no reflection on Blighty that those Cats didn’t win a flag, they ran into a deadset juggernaut in the Hawks, and the grinding of the Eagles as they took the game sideways into a more regimented era.

    and it’s possible that it’s only because of Blight that they were bale to go that far. yes they had God. but Hawthorn had talent everywhere. No offence to Messrs Bos, Cameron, Hamilton, Schulze etc, but I have watched that game more than 20 times and I still couldn’t tell you from Martha and or Arfur.

    vs Ayres, Brereton, the Bucking genius, Collins, Condon, Curran, Dear, Dipper, Dunstall, Kennedy, Langford, Mew, Morrissey, Platten, Proiitchard and the inestimable Tucky, they were up against it.

    it’s often forgotten that Essendon thumped them by 12 goals in the first final, but Blighty inspired them to kick 22, 24 and 21 in the next 3 games. (they kicked 23 and 20 in rds 21 and 22 as well!)

  17. Peter Warrington says:

    And this is not the place to defend Sheeds. he was no Blight, but he is a serially underrated footballer, very clever and canny, best on ground in two winning GFs, and a near thing in the 76 Brownlow. 20 times is a bit unfair…

  18. Dennis Gedling says:

    Great stuff Peter. He did it all with a pack a day smoking habit too.

  19. Yes, agree with everything you say. Just one of the great characters. Does not matter how many times I see THAT GOAL, it seems to go higher and longer than anything ever before. The comparison with Hookes is good too and I too wish he was still on commentary, but think he yearns for a little more privacy, something he could not get in Adelaide.

  20. John Butler says:

    Fantastic, PB.

    Blighty represents all things creative in the football soul. He is one of the great lateral and original thinkers in the game.

    Well played.

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