Crio’s Question: Talent spotting

We all love to claim being first to spot a talent – it’s part of being a sporting genius!
It is why people take feature doubles and is, I am told, a key component in Dreamteam success.
My old man backed Galilee when it won its maiden at Gawler. He then stayed “on board” throughout its decorated career, which included the Sydney, Caulfield and Melbourne Cups (and Toorak Handicap) in the one year…and he may have mentioned his coup once or twice subsequently over the ensuing half-century!
But we don’t always get it right. My Western Bulldogs have sought in vain for a big forward for decades. I declared Sam Phillipou the saviour when he arrived. He wasn’t!
In Almanacker Barry Nicholls’ “Cricket Dreaming” (Ch.6) he admits that his “hero was Wally Edwards, even before he was picked for Australia…because he was different”
It can be a risk “going the early crow”. What’s your strike rate?


  1. Not so long ago (early 2000s) Geelong supporters hailed Matthew “The Great” McCarthy as our full forward savior. Unfortunately he couldn’t kick !!

    My most recent best call was Viewed before the Melb Cup 2008, but I went a bit early on saying James Kelly (Geelong) would win a brownlow, and way too early in saying Brad Ottens was a fairy (when he was at Richmond).

  2. pauldaffey says


    A few years ago I went to an intra-club practice match at Moorabbin and saw David Armitage put his head down, grab the ball and drag the pack along with him until he could get his handball. At the time he was 18 and a recently arrived first-round draft pick. I said he’d play every game for the year. Three years later, he’s still struggling for a game.

    Also about three years ago I saw Port and Collingwood play a practice match at Princes Park. I saw Matt Thomas put his head down, withstand the blows of an oncoming Magpie and try to put his hands on the ball. What struck me was his absolute fearlessness. There was not a jot of hesitation in his decision to go for the ball, even with oncoming traffic. The Collingwood player looked a bit shaken by the experience.

    I remarked to the anonymous bloke next to me (a Port fan) that that bloke in the No.32 jumper might just become the toughest player in the comp. Later I found out that No.32 was Thomas. I also found out that his original club was Old Melburnians – not exactly a breeding ground for ruggedness. My intrigue was fuelled.

    Both Armitage and Thomas have since struggled but I still watch to see whether they look likely to fulfil my predictions of tough, long-terms careers. It’s hard to tell with Armitage, but I notice that Port Adelaide play Thomas whenever he is fit. This year it’s been most of the time. I’ll keep watching.

  3. Watch out for a (15 yo) blood nut called James Walker in Swan Districts development squad. 12 years in Canberra, then Tassy now WA. Has only been playing footy for about 2 years. Don’t say you weren’t told.

    Phantom Wells

  4. A few of my early calls for future superstar status were:
    Gavin Wanganeen (correct)
    Light Fantastic (incorrect)
    Angus Monfries (incorrect)
    Sunline (correct)

    I’m sure there are many more failures that I have erased from the memory bank- Crio will prompt me.

  5. pauldaffey says

    I saw Byron Schammer get BOG against Richmond when he was a young bloke. I thought, “Gee, he should develop into a great little player.” Can’t even get a game!

    In the early ’90s, I thought Stephen Oliver would kick 1000 goals for Carlton and bump John Coleman off his perch. He played 13 games.

  6. Andrew Fithall says

    Damian Houlihan is the answer to Collingwood’s goal kicking – MISS

    I saw Alex McDonald as a junior playing under my brother-in-law at Ballarat YCW. Subsequently number one draft pick but didn’t really play to those high expectations – Close, but no cigar

    A quote from my pre-season submission to Footy Almanac: “I am watching closely Michael Barlow who has been rookie listed by Fremantle”…”If the opportunity arises and Michael gets a game, I would be interested in doing that game, wherever it is played and whomever against.” – HIT

  7. Danielle says

    Crio, as weird as you will find my take on this it’s true.
    My uncle pointed out to me that every player i label as good-looking turns out to be a true talent.
    Some of my past examples are
    Bryce Gibbs
    Shaun Higgins
    Tom Hawkins
    the list goes on.
    If this theory is indeed correct, then Collingwood rookie Josh Thomas (a real stunner) is going to be the next Nathan Buckley.


  8. John Butler says

    In Carlton’s dark days, I thought Karl Norman offered some hope. But then he became good mates with Laurie Angwin (who was another wasted talent).

  9. Djarindjin Jerker says

    After another dismal season of unfulfilled potential, round 1 of 1989 saw an emergence of a superstar that the Bulldogs supporters were looking for. The Greek adonis, John Georgiadis, saw an 8 goal debut followed up by a handy 5 in round 3. At last, finally we had a consistent goal kicker that we could restructure our team around and surge us towards finals glory. Once again, typically, I went the early crow, but as was often the case, I trudged out of Whitten oval dejected and slightly bitter that I had yelled Eureka at this bit of fool’s gold….

  10. Chalkdog says

    As a Bulldog where do we start? On a positive note I can recall seeing a very young Brad Johnson running round in a very high number at the G in the early 90’s. We did declare him future captain material on only a handful of games.
    On the contrary I can go back to Shane Loveless, Phil Bradmore, Bill Berry, Terry de Konning, Angelo Petraglia, Zeno Tzatzaris and many others who have arrived out west & promised to take us to the promised land. Current player Ryan Hargraves old man deserves a mention though. In my memory Steve came across from the west with a huge reputation, did his knee, kept us waiting in the outer for about 2 seasons, then went home without playing a senior game. We’ll never know!

  11. I think I sgreed with Rocky Rohde’s appointment!

  12. Budge re #2, and more relevant to big calls…
    Do you remember a Moonee Valley Cup declaration?

    For myself, I remember seeing Kevin Pietersen when he started. I think my grave judgement was something like “If he makes runs, I’ll make a comeback.”

  13. Ian Syson says

    When Mitchell Langerak was warming up for his first game on loan at South Melbourne I was impressed already. Five minutes into the game I was moved to utter the words: “He’ll play for Australia for a long time.” Let’s wait and see.

    I saw Boony take Queensland apart at the Gabba and knew he’d become a great.

    I must have forgotten the silly calls.

  14. Tim Ivins says

    As a kid living in Adelaide I used to attend the shield a lot. I saw a teenaged Ricky Ponting score 300 but by then everyone had jumped on the bandwagon. I also got up the nerve to ask a tall, angular man covered in piercings with long hair running down his back for an autograph. That man was one Dizzy Gillespie who was a deadset champion to a 10 year old boy and who in my eyes became destined for a baggy green, solely because he was nice to me.

  15. It’s all in the timing, Tim, as they say. My son was lucky enough to get Warney’s signature early on. I, like you, grew up with the Shield on the Southern Mound, but was more likely to meet Ashley Woodcock than destiny!

  16. Andrew Starkie says

    When Aaron Edwards first arrived at Arden Street after shaking the tail of the boys in blue in Perth, I said he was going to be a gun. The answer to all of our prayers.

    I was so wrong. He can’t read the play and doesn’t know where to lead.

    I can’t wait until Drew Petrie returns and we can drop him again. Unfortunately, he’s getting a kick at the moment, so the coach has to keep picking him.

    I saw him at the tennis a few summers ago walking around with his shirt off. Sure, he has bumps in all the right places, but, pleeaasse. The tennis? Come on.

    While on the tennis, I declared a while back that The Gooch, that tall, gangly redhead was going to be our next Davis Cup star. Now I can’t even remember his real name.

    And like all Victorian cricket fans, I said Hodgy would be the next Ponting/Bradman/Waugh. Oh well.

  17. Crio (re #12), I do have recollections of 1990 Moonee Valley Cup and declaring after Kingston Rule won that no winner of the Moonee Valley Cup could win the Melbourne Cup (to that point the previous horse to do so was in 1953). Needless to say, Kingston Rule came out and won the big one in race record time!
    I feel partly justified in that no horse has since won the double.

  18. Chalkdog re #10, Steven Hargrave (Ryan’s dad) actually made it on the the field for two senior games in ’82. Round 4 against Melbourne and the following week against the Saints, which is I think when he did his knee.

    Interestingly, the Melbourne game was one of only three wins the Dogs chalked up (pardon the pun) that year. And all three of them have relevance to this discussion:

    Round 4 v Melbourne: the Dogs got up by a whisker thanks to a late goal by debutant Gary Walpole. He arrived at the same time as “Super” MacPherson and looked the goods. But he managed only 11 more games.

    Round 13 v Hawthorn: this was an amazing match. Footscray had been monstered by Hawthorn in Round 3 at Waverley Park, to the tune of 143 points. Things appeared to have improved only marginally by 3/4 time in the return match at Western Oval. Trailing by near on 6 goals at the last change, the Dogs ran riot in the last quarter, kicking 8.3 to 0.3 and won by a comfortable 15 points. Star of the day was a bloke caled Ross Christensen who, in his 2nd game, kicked 5. He turned up on World of Sport the next day, behaving like a rabbit in a spotlight and the panel barely got a word out of him. He was given the 3 votes (by Sam Newman if my memory is correct) even though his 5 goals came from something like just 6 possessions. Another great white hope, he played only 8 more games for Footscray before sneaking a couple in for the Cats in ’83.

    Round 16 v Geelong: What a beautiful day this was. A sunny (almost warm) July afternoon. “Pieman” Beasley kicked a dozen and the Dogs kicked 10 in the last (to the Barkly Street end, where I was standing) to win in a canter. A young bloke called Ian Rickman made his debut that day. I don’t remember him doing anything in that match but I saw enough good stuff (including a 6-goal day out at Arden St a couple of years later) over his remaining games for me to declare that he should have gone on to far greater heights. Alas, after 10 more games, he (by his own admission) developed an over-inflated view of his achievements and told the club where to go. Another wasted talent.

  19. I also took a strong set against mares winning the Melbourne Cup for a long time. Between 1960, when Hi Jinx won at 50/1 and 1987, only the champion Light Fingers had managed the feat. In the 127 years to 1987 only 6 mares (and 3 fillies) had been successful in the Cup. Since 1987, the race has been won 7 times by mares (Empire Rose, Let’s Elope, Jezabeel, Ethereal and Makybe Diva (3)). Other than Jezabeel, the others were much bigger and stronger types than the traditional mare (e.g. Light Fingers).
    I no longer pot the mares come Cup time as results now indicate that they are no longer disadvantaged. Newer “vitamins” must have something to do with this.

  20. Gigs,

    Did Gary Walpole have a big moustache? I know Ian Rickman did.

    Was Ross Christensen a member of the family that has thrown up Geelong’s recent draft choice, Young Christensen?

  21. Andrew,

    I reckon Aaron Edwards has the strongest hands in the league. Doesn’t mean he’s the best player, but he’s got the strongest grip.

    I love watching him mark the ball. It’s like a vice. He just doesn’t do it often enough.

    I reckon Kosi also has magnificent hands. But no confidence.

    While on this topic, I rate midfielders who show strong hands in the contest mark situation (sorry, Dennis) as the most natural footballers. Jimmy Bartel and Dane Swan are fantastic marks.

  22. Daff,

    Re #20, Gary Walpole was very fresh-faced. He went to my school (Chisholm / St.John’s College, Braybrook) after Footscray picked him up. From my memory he would have been lucky to grow even a small moustache back then. But the more I think about it, I think he actually did manage to get a little one going at one point.

    Regarding Young (Allen) Christensen, he’s actually the nephew of the other two Christensens to play for Geelong, Marty and Daniel. Ross was not related.

    Ross was a good bloke. He played a couple of seasons of cricket with us at Albion. It was probably Wagon (aka Rob “this is your captain speaking” Groenewegen, aka Robert “Siren-gate” Groenewegen) who brought him down to the club.

  23. Back to where this started,

    Robert Groenewegen is now in Launceston.

    His son (about 18) is playing in the State league. Is it possible for him get drafted to the Dogs under the father son rule Crio?

  24. The Wagon played just 79 games so our father/son looks limited to the sons of Steve Wallis and Libba next season. But it would be great to promote Cal Ward to #6 to let Wagon’s boy run around in the #14.

  25. Further,

    I was watching a DVD of Cats highlights (prior to the recent years) and looked at the last quarter of the qual final where Billy Brownless kicked the winning goal after the siren.

    I did notice there was a skinny little ‘chicken legs’ fella with a top knot, almost basin cut, hair do named Brad Johnson running around in a number thirty something.

    Still playing (required at least) so Rocket said in today’s Age.

  26. Further,

    I was watching a DVD of Cats highlights (prior to the recent years) and looked at the last quarter of the qual. final where Billy Brownless kicked the winning goal after the siren.

    I did notice there was a skinny little ‘chicken legs’ fella with a top knot, almost basin cut, hair do named Brad Johnson running around in a number thirty something.

    Still playing (required at least) so Rocket said in today’s Age.

  27. I called Matt Hayden a certainty for the Baggy Green after a few for QLD.

    However, even after training with the Brisbane Lions, (a small liberty, but technically true; they did their pre-season at the Red Lions grounds as the Gabba was unavailable and before the purchase of the Cooparoo complex), didn’t notice anything special about Voss, Akermanis, Lappin et al.

    I do recall making a mental note that Brad Scott was pretty hard at the ball when he was competing in a training drill, (almost ripped Voss’ head off). Later that pre-season he was involved in someone (Leppitsch?) getting a broken collarbone/shoulder. And thought Simon Black would make a go of it, based on seeing him arrive at the airport with a surfboard, when the other draftees had boogie boards. Surfboard; hard. Boogie board; soft. Conclusively proven. I think Des Headland was the boogie board boy!

    Not much of a talent spotter/crowing type really…

  28. Gus,
    I marked Hayden as a hometown hero/flat track bully and didn’t think he would make it. Naturally, i had Herbie Elliott as the long-term opener (until that clown Mark Waugh wrecked him). Statistically Hayden became a great, but, as we do, a little part of me still thinks he lucked in on the right era when attacks and pitches were receptive!
    A footballer who I never rated was pretty boy Modra with his one-trick…admittedly it was standing on someone’s shoulders several times a day. His absence from their flags proved something, though I’m unsure what as he was certainly better than Shane bloody Ellen. Late in his career Modra visited the Western Oval as a Docker on a god-forsaken day. I watch him make lead after lead and be ignored. He chased. He tried. His teammates wanted none of him but he belatedly won my respect.

  29. haiku bob says

    Dane Swan is a dud!

    Never forget when I returned to Melbourne in 2005. Hadn’t seen a game of footy in years, and in total desperation went to a pre-season training session. The players were doing a very simple kicking drill. MM was standing at one end. All the players had to do was kick it to him and jog back to the end of the line. Swanny kicked it over MM’s head….twice. MM stood there, shaking his head, while Swanny jogged back to the other players. A deathly quiet descended over the Gosch’s paddock as another one of our draft picks looked destined for our growing list of DAFT picks. “Swanny is a dud,” I said to myself as I meandered home. He still can’t kick, but I love him.

  30. I pinpointed Mark LeCras as a star a couple of years ago, after I bought him in my dream-team for a cheap price and he started to kick 3 a game. Also Littorio, after it’s run in a mile race at Flemington in 2007 or so.
    And Budge, you certainly were (and i think still are) a huge fan of Monfries.

  31. Yes Tom I’m still a fan but he’ll never reach the lofty heights I had envisaged. He is, however, as good as Darren Bewick and Gavin Wanganeen……at milking a free if someone behind him breaths- gets more head highs than anyone.

  32. Chalkdog says

    Thank you for adding the The Moose Christensen & The Wagon to my Bulldogs Talented List. I had forgotten all about them. Saw Chops Rickman at a Williamstown game last year. He definitely produced down there after he left the Dogs. That school connection you mention lead to the famous Herald Shield GF win by StJs over Mazenod after the boys from the Brook took care of Assumption in the Semi. Were you at that one Gigs? Goalkickers & votes if you have them.

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