Creating an Aura from a Season: 1994

Much to my begrudging acceptance, Jon Cryer’s Duckie character in John Hughes’ Pretty In Pink resonated with me.

A 16 year-old pseudo-intellectual slightly out-of-step with his contemporaries, watching in disgust as his wheels spin in the mud, attempting to be noticed “for all the right reasons”. All while Andrew McCarthy’s Blane effortlessly and belligerently added notches to his belt.

On reflection, the stumbling enthusiasm of Duckie to music and social inclusion (disclaimer: the similarity continues here) was a theme that for me also applied to the 1994 AFL Season.

1994 — the year of an embarrassing 16th birthday, the first gig without parents (*polishes apple on shirt* Beastie Boys & Helmet at Festival Hall), the “L” plates, the first clichéd relationship.1.

As a fairly devoted consumer and former amateur (very amateur) player of Aussie Rules, the tumultuous personal events of 1994 coincided with my first real obsession and awareness of the game. Until then, basketball was my first, second and third choice.  Copping the Krusty Burger teen employee growth spurt earlier than my peers, combined with a relatively timid physicality made basketball a natural fit.

But before too long those peers caught up – some even started shaving. – And to my surprise, being able to reel off Dale Ellis’s 1988 free throw percentage or Charles Barkley’s 1992 rebound average didn’t impress the judges.2 It turned out having a vertical leap taller than a Milo tin mattered more than a Bird-esque dedication to free throw practice.

A morning recess on the court featuring yet another rubbish Bill Laimbeer impersonation had me wandering for another physical outlet by lunchtime.  The Aussie guys from central casting were having the time-honoured kick-to-kick on the oval.  Mustering the best Duckie bravado I could summon, I hung off the edge of the pack like the proverbial “receiver”.  I had no idea of kick-to-kick etiquette, but I figured the one mark I took authorised me to kick it back from whence it came.  As the story clichés continue, even James Manson would’ve apologised for the first effort.

Yet, a fuse was lit.  Ours was not a traditional Aussie Rules house but, with my brother already playing at an under-age level, we quickly made up ground.  I was given a Hawthorn beanie and scarf for my third birthday and although I remembered several of the Hawks’ finals of the 80s and early 90s, the acute awareness of weekly team machinations and playing styles kicked in.

Ironically, this was also the time of Hawthorn’s comparative decline as a powerhouse for the next decade; best exemplified by the Round 3 127-point belting by the ascendant North Melbourne over a Hawks side containing 11 Premiership players (with the notable exception of Jason Dunstall).

Regardless, I started consuming all I could in regard to the game, especially grand finals, State of Origins, and finals to educate myself. Figuring it was a way to improve my skills, I began mimicking the kicking actions of whoever was the most impressive on video.

As is my wont – is it a twisted form of Duckie’s empathy? – it was the “enigmatic” players and teams of the modern era that piqued my interest.  The players brimming with potential and demonstrably unique attributes but, in my opinion, never quite reached that upper echelon: North Melbourne’s Adrian McAdam, Adelaide’s Andrew Jarman, Geelong’s John Barnes.

The enigma of interstate players, once consigned to State of Origin games, now had a platform of Sunday afternoon TV in Melbourne. In fact there’s probably a direct correlation and causation of my blossoming procrastination skills with the “I’ll just watch one more quarter, then I’ll do that essay”.

One more quarter of the exquisite left boot of Mark Bayes trying to repel opposition sorties into the Swans backline.

One more quarter of the Eagles backline, led by Jakovich, dismantling the confidence of teams in 25 degree Perth winters.

One more quarter of a gradually emerging Brisbane Bears (soon to be Lions) team beginning to understand what the caper was about.

One more quarter of trying to understand when Greg Anderson and Wayne Weideman were required back in the remand centre due to those mullets.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that every team also had at least one exceptional key position forward, with most team playing styles requiring them kicking bags of goals for success.

The enigmas weren’t confined to the interstate sides though. While I was watching and hoping Hawthorn’s last premiership players would regain their 1991 form (and hello to Paul Dear and Stephen Lawrence), the Victorian teams seemed to have players capable of anything on their day: and none more so than Melbourne.

The 1994 Melbourne side was not their last good side (they did make the Grand Final in 2000 and have had sporadic finals appearances since 1994), but they were the most talented Melbourne team I saw.  They were the ultimate footballing enigmas of 1994.  Capable of beating eventual grand finalist Geelong in a 42 goal shoot-out, but much like Geelong, North Melbourne and Carlton, lacked the crucial final piece of resolve that the hardened West Coast Eagles possessed.

When fit and in sync (operative words here), Melbourne had such an array of gifted forwards in Allen Jakovich, Garry Lyon, David Schwarz and Sean Charles that they had the luxury of playing a young David Neitz at centre-half back. They also had a midfield lead by the indefatigable Jim Stynes, the underrated (appreciated) Kevin Dyson and Glenn Lovett, and the player that probably exemplified their season, State-of-Origin- selected goal-kicking wingman Stephen Tingay.  However, Schwarz’s knee and Jakovich’s volatile personality prevented the potential of 1994 to be realised.

It felt that it was a season of “what ifs?” for most of the league, not just Melbourne, which was evident from the close matches of the first week of the finals.

Would the nomadic genius of Greg Williams ever win a flag?

Could the imposing duo of Carey & McKernan take North Melbourne further?

Could the Swans and Saints do something to spur their fortunes? Was Richmond’s rise to ninth a portent of the future?

The enigma of possibilities for teams and players sticks in my mind.  Pondering, like a daydreaming 16 year-old Duckie, what the landscape would have looked like if those enigmatic talented-also-nearly-stay-healthy sides got their act together.



Declaration: I despise Two And A Half Men.


1 Disclaimer: Apparently I wasn’t the only 16 year-old male to have an unrequited one-way relationship. I know, this is big news.

2 Ibid


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Welcome to the Almanac Geordie.

    As you predicted, Duckie Carey took the Kangas a bit further.

    And the blonde mullets of Cornes, Anderson and The Weed had seen better days by then.

  2. ‘Blaine? His name’s Blaine? That’s not a name… that’s… that’s an appliance!!!’ One of my favourites of the John Hughes 80s teen angst oeuvre.

    The look of disgust on Diesel’s face when he was snubbed for Brownlow votes in the final round of the 1993 home and away season, thus handing G Wanganeen Charlie, and the Dons trouncing Carlton in the 1993 Grand Final was enough to sustain this Essendon fan during our annus horribilis of 1994.

  3. The People's Elbow says

    Geordie McDuck – the reference to 80s cult films reminds me, where was the ‘In Memorium’ for Harold Ramis at the Oscars… awful, awful oversight.

    Anyway, my denial of that year borders on David Irving-level delusion, 1994? Didn’t happen.

    SB. Fk off.

  4. Ramis was covered in last year’s coverage. iirc.

    By rights, I reckon the following sides could lay claim to “deserving” flags in the 90s:
    – St Kilda 1991, 1997
    – Carlton 1993, 1994
    – WB 1992, 1997, 1998
    – West Coast 1990, 1991, 1996 (pre-Jakovich knee injury)
    – Essendon 1999 *spits*
    – Hawthorn 1990
    – Melbourne 1990, 1998
    – NM 1998

    I guess that’s I was leading to. Gwyneth Paltrow getting her head stuck in a train door, etc

  5. The People's Elbow says

    Oh… okay. But I’m still angry at the Academy .

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Great debut Geordie,
    The only good thing about Pretty in Pink for me was that it introduced me to the Psychedelic Furs. 1994 had some amazing finishes: Plugger just monstering Peter Caven and Sydney in the last quarter at the SCG; Great goalkicking feats; Playing positions like rovers and wingmen still existed. Unfortunately Club 10 also surfaced along with Ricky Nixon.
    My favourite moment is this:
    I’m sure Carlton recruited Mick McGaune based solely on this effort. Cheers

  7. There should be more Almanac pieces with an ‘Ibid’ footnote. The other thing I remember 1994 for is striking the fatal blow for State of Origin football. Despite the SA v Vic game being a cracker of a match the Crows blame it (they had 10 in the SA side) for ruining their season. The next year (the Ted Whitten game) SA neglected to pack a forward line and the concept was effectively dead.

  8. Great debut Geordie. Melbourne in 1994 and again in 2000. Particularly 2000 given we had them at 3Qtr. For some reason I have more memories of games during 1993 and 1995 but only the finals loss to Melbourne in 1994.

  9. Excellent reminder, Dave. Rehn, Ricciuto and Ben Hart were the standout AFC players that year. D Jarman tore VIC apart at the MCG. That issue exemplified the old SANFL strangle hold and having only one Adelaide side. Funny that with WCE winning flags they never had a problem with State of Origin (please correct though!).

  10. The People's Elbow says

    No Phil, we recruited Mick McGuane because we were (and to a large extent still are) run by idiots.

  11. Geordie

    Loving the 90s name checking.

    Laimbeer, Lawrence, Krusty, J Manson and Bayes. Now that’s a starting 5! (Laimbeer would hit then, Lawrence heal them)

    Chuck in the Beastie Boys and John Hughes movies and welcome to the Almanac my friend!


  12. Surely John Hughes inhabits that darker place, the 1980s. Unless you mean John Hughes of Skipper Mitsubishi in Perth.

  13. I don’t think WA played State of Origin in 1994, Geordie, which was the proverbial straw for the SANFL/Crows. Before the SA v Vic game in 1994 both West Coast and the Crows were 4/2. After that game West Coast went 12/4 and the Crows went 5/11.

    BTW, forgot to congratulate you on the Laimbeer reference. The face mask years were my favourite.

  14. 94 end of an era for me. Grade 12. Lockett leaves St Kilda. All over, really.

  15. Tuck, Plugger chasing that pig on the SCG was symbolic in so many ways*.

    *2, maybe 3

  16. I was still a very active Geelong supporter back in 1994. A not so good start to the sesaon, a dreadful Grand Final day , but some great matches in the second half of the season. The three finals victories, Footscray, Carlton, North Melbourne were all classic games. Other highlights were ‘Gazzas’ mark over Gary Pert @ the G early in the sesaon, ‘Gazzas’ torpedo goal from near the centre against Fitzroy at Princses Park late in the season, the victory over Richmond in the final home and away game, costing the Tigers a final berth. These are some memories of that long ago season.


  17. Mickey Randall says

    Welcome Geordie.

    That’s a fun read.

    Stephen Tingay went well didn’t he? I imagine his nightclub form was tidy too.

    Thanks for that.

  18. The People's Elbow says

    And to think, Geo, in two short years your world would be turned upside-down again when Matchbox Twenty released their debut album, ‘Yourself or Someone Like You’,

  19. G’day Geordie,

    Welcome to the Almanac. Your writing is interesting even if I have no knowledge of games in 1994 because I have been following footy only for four or five years (I am Japanese and live in japan at present).

    One thing that impresses me about the 1994 Season is that Billy Brownless kicked a goal after the siren so that Geelong won over Footscray in the final series. It was a close game, I heard…



  20. Thanks Yoshi! Very kind.

    Who’d have thought Mr Elbow that we’d be teetering at the precipice of Bush’s “Glycerine”, Alanis’ ‘Jagged Little Pill’, and the rest of Eddie Vedder’s AOR hell-spawn.

  21. Great piece Geordie. I also supported a flailing hawthorn team through 1994 in one of the most schizophrenic seasons in our history. After winning the first round (against st kilda I think?), then absolutely obliterated in the following three rounds, before somehow turning it around to win the next four in a row, including west coast in west coast. Then swinging like a pendulum for the entire season before eventually being beaten by north melbourne at waverly park in the first final to ever go into extra time. And then missing the finals the following year, and not quite knowing how to process such an event after having made the finals every year in my living memory. But I digress… Bizarrely, my first ever gig without parents was also Beastie Boys supported by helmet at festival hall, when i was fourteen. I wasn’t overly familiar with helmet, but the noise was so loud it was like a pneumatic drill being rammed into my ear drum until it pierced my brain. By the third song, I ran to the toilet and stuffed toilet paper into my ears, where I was engulfed in a plume of second hand marijuana smoke, that left me residually stoned for about three days. My ears rang after the gig for the next week, but i never told mum in case I wasn’t allowed back to another gig.

  22. GeordieM says

    Thanks Declan. I was at the Helmet/BB show too. Blew my impressionable mind, as did Rollins Band that same year.

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