Most Valuable Finals Players of the Past 40 Years

My ideal full-time job would be picking teams like this. With the finals starting tonight, I thought about what players I’d seen make the biggest impact in September. These are the blokes I’d like to run out against Geelong or Hawthorn tonight if my family’s life were on the line.

Chances are I’ve overlooked another full team. But I have strong rationales for all players picked, even Billy Duckworth.


FB –     W.Harmes, C.Langford, B.Duckworth

HB –     B.Doull, P.Knights, G. Archer

C-         M. Long, J.Hird, R. DiPierdomenico

HF –     G. Ablett (snr), D.Brereton, W. Johnston

FF –     L.Matthews, J.Dunstall, K. Bartlett


R-        S. Madden

RR-      J. Akermanis

R-        P.Matera


pine: W. Carey, G. Ablett (jnr), D.Jarman, N.Balme


Coach: Allan Jeans



  1. Grant Fraser says

    Hawks on every line on the ground, and on the pine (I assume Jarman, D. was nominated for his foolhardy play on in the forward pocket in the ’91 Grand Final).


  2. Hard to disagree with any of those, Paul. My foggy memory recalls me having doubts about S Madden from ’79-’83 but that he proved himself in ’84-’85.

    Duckworth’s famous just-before-halftime tackle in ’84 is a stand-out Grand Final-turning moment for me.

    When I first saw this piece, I made a point of not looking a writing down as many names as I could think of that would fit the bill. Came up with many similarities.

    I reckon I would have had Clark Keating in there as a back-up ruckman.

    Other possibles: M Voss, John Nicholls, Luke Hodge, Gary Ayres, Darrell Baldock, Cowboy Neale (especially in the ’66 finals series), Bredon Goddard, Paul Chapman.

  3. Grant, I just wish that was the only reason D Jarman was nominated. Still recovering from the trauma of ’97.

  4. And Paul, regarding the “ideal full-time job” scenario, I’d be happy to join you. Surely there’s an annual government grant we could tap into?

  5. Oops, just realised Baldock and Cowboy (at least in ’66) are outside the set parameters. Sorry.

    “The jury will disregard the last statement.”

  6. Streaker – H. D’Amico

  7. Jared Newton says

    Get Sticks Kernahan on the field and SOS I believed kept your forward pocket goaless in 95. Not to mention the heroics of Kouta in that 99 Prelim… Diesel was pretty good snagging 5 from the middle in 95 too.

    I’m not being biased, I know I’m right! ;)

  8. Good one Budge. In terms of profound long-lasting effect on a team (i.e. Richmond), it is hard to go past H. D’Amico. In fact I wrote about it on this site many moons ago:

  9. Paul Mitchell says

    Really couldn’t include any Saints. I also took into account success. Therefore, no Pies or Dogs. Clark Keating is a super call – and I’d never noticed that about his name before, the Superman/Batman link. Clark Kent (alter ego for the caped one), Michael Keaton who played Batman. Wonderfully tenous link, but a super finals competitor

  10. Alovesupreme says

    It’s difficult to argue against Paul’s inclusions, but I’d want consideration for that remarkably consistent North side of the 70s. Stephen Icke had a magnificent finals series in 1977, the year in which North played a record (?) 27 matches in total.

    I also recall seeing an article just before the 1978 Grand Final which noted the two players who had played every finals match for the Kangas, 1974-78. Some may recall that they played every Saturday of each of those five finals series, which meant that their two flags came after a defeat earlier in the finals series. The two players in question were Crazy Horse Cowton (who probably isn’t worth a run in the best of team, other than as a noteworthy durable) and the great Wayne Schimmelbusch. Since Schimma was still performing (superbly) when the Kangas were in finals in ’83 and ’85, I think he’d be worth a spot in the squad.

  11. Andrew Macleod would need to get a mention surely.

  12. Great side. Don’t know how he has fared for the Blues in recent years, but CJudd in the 2005 losing GF was one of the greatest individual games I have seen. Eagles were awful, but CJudd almost single handedly dragged them to within a few points of the Swans.

  13. I cannot agree Paul and would be interested in your detailed reasons. Some obvious omissions are Royce Hart, Brent Crosswell, Ian Stewart, Wayne Schimmelbusch, Barry Cable, Keith Greig, Gary Ayres, Leon Baker, Dean Kemp, Andrew McLeod, Shaun Rehn, Michael Voss, Simon Black, Sean Hart, Clark Keating, Chris Judd and Brett Kirk.

  14. B Ottens?

  15. One bloke who was finals specialists, at two clubs was the ‘Tiger’, Brent Croswell. Is there no spot left for him ?

  16. I actually think you should include great Finals performers in losing teams. In all those lost Grand Finals for the Pies between 1977 and 1981 Billy Picken stood tall. Even in the shellacking against Richmond in 1980 Billy stood alone against the Tiger tide. That is why I rate him higher than the Pies two Brownlow medalistst of the 70s (Thompson and Moore). I don’t care how many flags the Hawks won or how brilliant Knights was. Billy Picken would always have been my first choice for centre half back in a big game in the late seventies and early eighties.

  17. The key word I had in mind was value. And I think consistent finals performance and success in them is important. Therefore ablett snr was lucky in a sense. I was also looking for game breaking, explosive matchwinners. Lions of 01, 02 etc were a great, even team – but I would want akka above voss et al with the game in the balance. Some big names missed out, but I wonder if the next 22 would beat mine?

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