Missing out on a flag

G’day Knackers,

I need your ideas.

Some of you would be aware that I’m in the final throes of completing my Master of Journalism at Queensland University of Technology.  During the course of my studies, I’ve managed to spend most of my time talking and writing about footy.  I’m currently preparing for my major project, which will be the production (and hopefully publication) of a series of short stories or magazine features about former Aussie Rules players and their reflections on ‘missing out’ on the ultimate prize in Australian football – an AFL Premiership.

The goal is to profile former players, thinking about the larger disappointment of an elite sports career which can be as equally compelling, if told in an engaging fashion, as the triumph and joys of playing the game at the highest level.

My long list of players includes the following:

1993 Grand Final – Derek Kickett (Essendon): Having played every match of the 1993 season, Kickett was a shock omission from the Essendon side to take on Carlton in the ’93 Grand Final.  The ‘Baby Bombers’ were victorious but Kickett subsequently walked out on the club, finishing his career with Sydney (where he played in the losing 1996 Grand Final side).

1996 Grand Final – John Longmire (North Melbourne): One of North Melbourne’s favourite sons missed the 1996 Grand Final through injury.  He was later seen in tears as his teammates received their premiership medallions.  He went on to play in North’s 1999 premiership side before tasting  further success as the Swans’ 2012 Premiership coach.

1997 Grand Final – Tony Modra (Adelaide): The high-flying Adelaide forward won the Coleman Medal in the 1997 season, and was also selected in the AFL All-Australian team. However, a knee injury sustained during the preliminary final caused Modra to miss the Crows first Premiership when they defeated St Kilda in the Grand Final.  After returning from the injury in 1998 Modra failed to regain form and was not considered for the Grand Final, which the Crows won. He was thus one of the few leading Adelaide players who did not receive a premiership medallion in either of the club’s Premiership years of 1997 and 1998.

2001, ’02 and ’03 Grand Finals – Richard Champion (Brisbane): A dependable defender, ‘Champs’ retired the year before Brisbane’s golden era from 2001 to 2003 when they won three Premierships in a row.  Champion didn’t just miss out on a Grand Final or Premiership.  He missed out on a Premiership era!

2004 Grand Final – Matthew Primus (Port Adelaide): The Port captain missed the first ever non-Victorian Grand Final due to persistent injury.  He played no part in Port’s only premiership-winning year to date.

2010 Grand Final – Leon Davis (Collingwood): Davis played in the ‘first’ Grand Final against St Kilda but had little influence on the drawn match.  He was dropped for the replay the following week which Collingwood won convincingly.  In 2011, in one of his best seasons, Davis played in the losing Grand Final against Geelong.  He subsequently left the Club and never played in the AFL again.

There would obviously be others, including big names like Gary Ablett Senior and Tony Lockett or Paul Kelly.

Any suggestions to add to this list are most welcome.


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    Ron McKeown who was left out of the Collingwood 1990 team.

  2. Mark Blake (2007) Got one in 2009.

  3. Sasha

    A couple of oldies:

    Neville Crowe missed Richmond’s 1967 Premiership after a decade at the club and captaincy. He was suspended in the Second Semi Final for striking John Nicholls although replays clearly show that Nicholls should have been suspended for “simulation”.

    St Kilda star Carl Ditterich and Ross Oakley (a “good ordinary” player and later AFL CEO) were notable absentees from the Saints 1966 Premiership through suspension and injury respectively.

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    Jason McCartney missed North’s ’99 flag after getting a suspension from the prelim. His spot was taken by a young Cam Mooney, who didn’t trouble the statistician, then joined the Cats in the off-season.

  5. Andrew Weiss says

    Here are a couple that come to mind.

    Tony Modra missed the Adelaide Crows back to back flags.

    Derek Kickett played most of the season for Essendon before being dropped before the grand final (I think the year was 1993).

    Nick Stevens might be an interesting one as well. Nick quite playing for the Power after the 2003 season to join Carlton in contreversial circumstances. In 2004 the Power went on to win the flag.

  6. Sasha – one of the sad stories relates to this year. McGlynn missed the Hawks 2008 team and then pulled a hammy to miss the Swans 2012 flag.

  7. 2008 Dips? I can’t remember that Grand Final.

  8. Skip, Cam Mooney troubled everyone and everything after that. Wonderful player.

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Hey Sasha, interesting stuff. I wrote a piece on this topic 2 years ago on this site. Feel free to peruse and good luck. https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/the-loneliest-footballers/

  10. Thanks Phil, that’s fantastic. Can’t believe I hadn’t thought of Nathan Buckley! As a Hawthorn man I feel for Ritchie Vandenberg too.

    Dips, McGlynn is a tragic case indeed. I hope he somehow gets back to Hawthorn for a flag :-)

    Stainless – Ross the Boss! Great call.

    Jason McCartney and Nick Stevens both good calls too.

    I’m really keen on to know how Modra feels about 1997/98. Tragic.

    Ron McKeown is a good one and Neville Crowe – the bloke who used to flog that synthetic weatherboard. Classic!

  11. Pamela Sherpa says

    Phil Carman missed out on a possible flag through suspension- a flag many believe the Pies would have won with him.

  12. Thanks Pamela, fabulous!

  13. DBalassone says

    This will sound mean, but just a sidenote on the Tony Modra hardluck story of 97 and 98.

    I believe that the injury he sustained in the ’97 Prelim, indirectly led to Adelaide winning the flag that year – because it meant that Blighty had to swing the mercurial Darren Jarman to full forward. If memory serves, Jarman kicked 3 second half goals in that game and the Crows came from behind to pinch the win. In the Grand Final a week later, we all know what happened with Jarman kicking 5 last quarter goals as the Crows ran over the Saints. If Modra had of not got injured in the Prelim, I doubt the Crows would have got up. The whole forward structure would have been different. Modra did win the Coleman that year, but only with 80 odd goals – but it was a bit like Jack winning this year – he was not a matchwinner (like he was in perhaps ’93).

    Of course in ’98, Jarman did the job again & booted 5 in the Big Dance.

  14. Jarman. Good player. The type who appeared to have the effect of slowing down everyone around him when he had the ball. I like that theory…plausible.

  15. DBalassone says

    A few more for you: Presti, Tarrant, Alan Richardson.

  16. Daryl Sharpen says

    Did they mention the late Denis Collins? I’ve never forgotten his omission mainly because I was close at hand at Punt Rd at the time. He missed the 1980 premiership after failing to meet the witch doctor (Rudi Webster) prior to the match. All was set for him and Harry Hopman (non-playing Captain – Bruce Monteath) to warm the bench in the ‘big one’. Big Tone (Tony Jewell) filled the spot with Freamey and as they say: The rest is history.

  17. Captain Blood played over 300 games for The Tigers but in only 1premiership side. I have limited access to the Internet where I am at the moment Sasha, but it might be worth looking up.

  18. Captain Blood. Did he play for South Melbourne Wrapster?

  19. On the other side of the coin Sasha, who was the bloke in the early 20th century who played in only one game but that was a winning grand final?

  20. Nathan Buckley is the big story I reckon. Drafted to Brisbane as a teen with the world at his feet. Left at the first opportunity to “play finals”. Played in two losing GFs against the team he left.


  21. Matthew Cummins says


    Des English played in Carlton’s losing 1986 Grand Final side and was diagnosed with leukemia at the end of the season and missed out on the 1987 premiership.

    Peter Motley also played in the 1986 side but didn’t play in 1987 after a horrific injury in a car crash before the 1987 season ended his career

    Both were tragic in their own right but Motley’s in particular was as he was just starting what was going to be a very promising VFL/AFL career

    Both were tragic in their own right but Motley in particular

  22. Matthew Cummins says

    Correction Mott’s accident happened after round 6 in 1987

  23. Skip of Skipton says

    Des English played in both the 81/82 flag winning Carlton teams. He was a very good back pocket.

    Peter Motley was a gun, and part of the big coup Carlton pulled off before the draft and salary cap came into effect. Kernahan, Bradley, Naley, Dorotich, Dennis etc. The car crash that ended his career I remember well. Terrible.

  24. Coach Leigh Matthews tested Alan Richardson’s fitness a couple of days before the 1990 Grand Final. In the process he re-damaged Richardson’s shoulder. Richardson would certainly have played in Collingwood’s premiership side had he been fit. The Pies did not play in another grand final while Richardson was at the club.

    Peter Moore played in several of Collingwood’s lost Grand Finals during the period 1977-81. The VFL at the time awarded medals to members of the losing side. Moore decided he had received one loser’s medal too many and threw his away on receipt. The VFL abandoned the idea of loser’s medals. Peter Moore had won one Brownlow medal and was to win another when he moved to Melbourne. Other players in losing grand final sides who may have gone through their entire careers without winning medals might have appreciated the medal Moore threw away

  25. On the subject of Collingwood 77-81, I think a major part of your project Sasha should be a section detailing this period, and in particularly the 5 or 6 scarred players who played in these 5 unsuccessful grand finals. I can think of Rene Kink, Peter Moore, Billy Picken, Ricky Barham and Ray Shaw off the top of my head. There may be more. Rene Kink, of course, then went to Essendon in ’83 and played in another losing grand final, before being injured in the ’84 win and not quite in their best 20 for the ’85 win.

    You could also look at Geelong’s 4 GF losses in 89-95 and the likes of Ablett, Couch, Bairstow, Hocking, Brownless, etc.

  26. WOW! you have been given a wealth of info by your readers. That is all so very interesting and will make for a great Major project success. Good luck with it Sash,
    xoxo Mum.

  27. Thank you everyone for your suggestions.

    Rene Kink, Peter Moore and Alan Richardson are stand-out suggestions. Maybe I’ll contact the Collingwood Football Club and ask them if they’d like a special Magpies Edition! :-)

    So too is Peter Motley, such a sad story. Thanks Matt.

    Thanks everyone, you’ve all been a great help and I appreciate it.

    Cheers, Sasha

  28. Dennis Gedling says

    Chris Tarrant would be one wouldn’t he? Played in 02 and 03 and then went West to play with the Dockers. Missed out on 2010 and then played in the 2011 losing GF side for the Pies.

  29. Yes, Tarrant would be a good inclusion. (The Collingwood theme is strong). Cheers

  30. DBalassone says

    Just to prove we’re not too Collingwood-centric in this thread, I thought of one more on the way home from work ……Bernie Evans missed Carlton’s ’87 flag through suspension – although ironicially his replacement was Fraser Murphy who had missed the ’86 grand final through suspension.

  31. Just to prove we’re not too VFL-centric here. My boyhood hero Derek Chadwick played in East Perth’s losing WAFL Grand Finals of 1960, 1961, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1971. Injury caught up with him and he retired half way through the 1972 season…. East Perth went on to win the premiership.
    Chaddy also played Shieffield Shield cricket for WA and went on a couple of Australian 2nd 11 tours of NZ.

  32. Barkly St End says

    It has been really interesting reading the comments and remembering players past.

    Some hilarious suggestions, including Fabulous Phil Carman! (pies would have won if he was there!) Not sure if that falls into the thesis.

    The Nathan Buckley story should be used as a motivator for all those number one draftees getting drafted to hopeless clubs – you just never know!!

  33. I would love to see something on the other way around – players in the right place at the right time; in the Premiership side after one or more disappointments or barely played another game, etc.

    Happy to kick it off with Peter Welsh (Richmond 1980) who I think was in Hawthorn’s losing GF team in 1975 and towards end of 1980 on bench of the seconds.

  34. Rod Lester Smith played in the 84 and 85 Hawthorn Grand Final sides and missed out on premierships either side in 83 and 86. Me and my sister had a big soft spot for him as he was the delegated Hawthorn rep for visiting schools. It seemed like he was at our primary school every three months conducting another footy clinic.

  35. Thanks Jim, I didn’t know that. Rod Lester-Smith was number 6 from memory. Very good player.

  36. Jaymie Graham 2006 WCE. Played every game except the GF

  37. What about Matthew (Maxy) Kennedy of the Lions. Last game, 2001 Prelim v Richmond. Dropped for the GF to allow room for Lynch returning from suspension. A great servant of the club left out of the big one, inconsolable on the day apparently.

  38. Jason Cloke was an integral star on the half back line of the 2002 Collingwood team. Suspended in the PF.
    Anthony Rocca was one of the great CHF’s in 2003 before he let his elbow do the talking in the PF and missed the GF through suspension. To fill the void, Mick Malthouse played Jason Cloke out of position at CHF. It was never going to work. After the game, MM unfairly said, ‘Cloke played better last year’. Of course, ‘last year’ Cloke had been suspended.

  39. Peter Fuller says

    You expressed your curiousity about How Tony Modra felt about his missing ’97 (injury) and 1998 (omission) in one of your comments on the thread. He is guest this week on Mike Sheahan’s Open Mike on Fox Footy. I saw it last night, but it’s repeated a few times through the week. He seemed reconciled to his fate and didn’t express ill-will towards Blighty. Perhaps he was just being diplomatic, rather than expressing his true feelings, as he now has some (minor) official role with the Crows, but he did seem fairly forthcoming and responsive to a variety of questions which Sheahan put to him.
    At the time, he demonstrated his reaction by his departure for Fremantle for the 199 season.

  40. One name say it all Peter Crimmins played in the losing 75 Hawthorn team passed 3 days after Hawthorn won in 1976 of cancer

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