General footy writing: The top ten stepladders

By Paul Daffey

1. Garry Lyon

The former Melbourne captain is to be commended for his habit of getting in front. But such are the pitfalls of this noble practice that it made him the ideal stepladder for some towering marks from spring-heeled teammates. In 1995, Lyon got into the spirit of the construction work going on at the Gabba when he provided the scaffolding for Sean Smith’s leap into the skies against Brisbane. In 1998, he provided a solid foundation for Jeff Farmer’s attempt to leap over tall buildings against Richmond at the MCG.

2. Graeme Jenkin

Poor Jerker. After 127 games for Collingwood and another 22 for Essendon, his main claim to fame is that he was the stepladder for Jezza during the 1970 grand final. While his unfortunate mistake was planting his big frame underneath the Carlton great during the match widely regarded as the best of the century, his other mistake was inspiring Mike Williamson to yell his immortal phrase, “Jesaulenko, you beauty”, at a crucial stage in the game. Jerker gained his revenge in a later game. With Jezza standing on the mark, he booted a drop kick straight into Jezza’s groin, causing great discomfort in the forward pocket. As Williamson would say, “Jerker, you beauty!”

3. Peter Walker

Another player to provide ballast at a crucial stage of a thrilling grand final was Geelong’s Peter Walker. In the 1967 grand final, with Richmond needing something special to pull off its first premiership in 24 years, Walker stepped into the path of Royce Hart, who took the screamer that inspired the Tigers towards victory.

4. Kelvin Moore

The Hawk full-back was caught underneath two of the most famous marks in football. In 1979, he was stranded on earth while Richmond full-forward Michael Roach soared over him at the MCG. In the 1978 grand final, Moore had North Melbourne spearhead Phil “Snake” Baker leap over them during Baker’s animated opening salvo. The Roo spearhead kicked four goals in the first half and finished with six for the game. A year later, he was out of Arden Street. Moore, meanwhile, went on to play 300 games for Hawthorn, giving him a clear victory in the game of Snake and Ladder.

5. Gary Pert

Speaking of snakes, Gary Pert must have felt like he were about to be strangled when Gary Ablett wrapped his thighs around him at the peak of his flight at the MCG in 1994. Ablett finally managed to bring the ball to earth but doubts remain whether he controlled the ball.

7. Chris Langford

While Pert’s steadfastness was admirable, nothing compares to the resilience shown by Langford under Warwick Capper at the SCG in 1987. Langford stood firm while Capper hung around for several lifetimes before having the grace to grab the ball and fall to earth. Langford could only stand on the mark and stick out his perfect jaw, marvelling at the creature before him.

8. Gavin Crosisca

While no one likes being a stepladder, surely there is no greater disgrace than being a stepladder for a half-forward flanker with long sleeves, as was the case when Crosisca enabled Brett Allison to pluck the ball from the first tier of the Ponsford Stand in 1991.

9. Maurie Sheahan

In 1934, when Bob Pratt asked a South Melbourne official why he had failed to win the best-and-fairest despite kicking 150 goals, he was told that he was spectacular, but not very effective. Imagine how effective Richmond full-back Maurie Sheahan must have felt after Pratt had take his famous speccy over him.

10. Jack Hamilton

The former Collingwood full-back achieved the stepladder’s classic swan-dive pose when Richmond flyer Jack O’Rourke took a speccy over him at Punt Road in 1950. Hamilton later fully became the league’s chief commissioner and was renowned for his wry humour. It would have been a trait he summoned after getting to his feet at Punt Road and becoming earmarked as one of the game’s great stepladders.


Great top ten, but I’ve got one small point, which no doubt others have pointed out. Warwick Capper’s mark over Chris Langford was at Waverley in the 1987 qualifying final. The Swans got thumped by 99 points, but Capper got four goals and took his speccy. The dugout in the background of the photo is a bit of a clue, as they never existed at the SCG.

Tim Drew, Flemington

Further to your ten best stepladders, Warwick Capper used Chris Langford as a stepladder at Waverley, not the SCG.  Apart from that, my favourite stepladder was Ricky Quade, who accommodated Trevor Barker on a regular basis. On one ocassion at the Lake Oval, Barker got up on Quade’s shoulders, had time to do his hair for the cameras, and then take one of the greatest grabs I’ve ever seen.

David Rooke, Fairfield

Geelong’s Billy Ryan took a “staircase to heaven” mark in the first quarter of the 1968 first semi-final at the MCG. Trouble is, it’s hard to define who should take the credit as his stepladder. Memory recalls St Kilda’s Brian Sierakowski and Ian Stewart being in the mix.

Rob Parsons, Mount Macedon

My nomination is St Kilda defender Ian Synman, who in the 1968 first semi-final provided Geelong’s Bill Ryan with a lift to take the greatest mark ever. It is the only mark I have seen where one player is standing another’s shoulder.

Peter Roache, Berwick

You’ve missed out on a pearler: Ricky Quade, the former South Melbourne captain, was like a helipad at the Lakeside Oval. Of those who put boot studs in his scone, the main culprits were Trevor Barker, in front of the South Melbourne members’ stand in the late 1970s, and Keith Greig, on the outer wing, also in the late 1970s. Although he was captain, Quade certainly wasn’t our best player. He led from underneath!

Brian McInerney, Murrumbeena

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in The Sunday Age on 15 May 2004


  1. johnharms says


    Richard Champion.


  2. Did Sean Smith jump on him?

  3. Surely Warren Tredrea is worth a mention for his Chappie assist in the 2007 GF. Look no further than the cover of the 2007 Almanac for confirmation.

  4. Fair point, Burkie. Great mark. Great cover!

  5. johnharms says


    They all jumped on him. Especially Tony Modra, Kouta, G. Ablett et al


  6. Peter Walker says

    Interesting that about no. 3. Regards Billy Walker’s bro

  7. Peter Walker says

    No 4 Kelvin Moore can’t take all the credit. If you look closer you will see Ian Paton under some of his hangers. In fact Ian was under some of the greatest, inc the Michael Roach screamer.

    Ian will tell you that after one of his 1978 GF marks, Baker took the piss out of The General, & as quick as a flash The Gen replied with “Have a look @ the Scoreboard”. Unfortunately @ the time Snake Baker had just put North ahead ;)

    P.S I have thrown my Richmond 2009 membership out with the rubbish. Regards Peter Walker, Launceston

  8. pauldaffey says

    Hi Peter, my main memory of the 2008 Almanac launch in Launceston is you asking again and again whether Richmond would make the finals. I said yes, but I also tipped Essendon to win the wooden spoon and Mick Malthouse to become a contestant on a reality cooking show. We would have been better off pressing The General to regale us with witticisms like his retort to Snake Baker. Brilliant.

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