Neil Craig: Elite Performer (Part 1)

 

Photos with permission Norwood Football Club and Anthony Walsh

 

Neil Craig 

 

Norwood Football Club (1973-79): 124 games, 109 goals

 

1971 – McCallum Medal (U17s), Norwood U17s Best & Fairest
1972 – Tomkins Medal (U19s), Norwood U19s Best & Fairest
1973 – League debut
1974 – Most Improved Player
1975 – Premiership player
1976 – Outstanding Services Rendered
1977 – Club Champion, most Magarey Medal votes (20), State Representative, Advertiser Team of the Year, Ardath Cup player
1978 – Premiership player
1979 – State Representative

 

Sturt Football Club (1980-86): 134 games, 86 goals

 

1980 – Best and Fairest Runner-up, Advertiser Team of the Year
1981 – Third in Best and Fairest, Advertiser Team of the Year
1984 – Third in Best and Fairest
1985-86 – Club Captain

 

North Adelaide Football Club (1987-90): 61 games, 25 goals

 

South Australia: 11 games, 3 goals
1984 – State Captain

 

Overall (1973-90): 319 games, 220 goals

 

Neil Passmore Craig – elite footballer. Coached Norwood FC from 1991-95, fitness guru at the Crows in their Premiership years 1997-98. Coached the Adelaide FC from 2004-11 then involved in various roles at the Melbourne, Essendon and Carlton football clubs. Currently in a role at the Gold Coast Suns. Neil also had a role with Cycling for Australia at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and Sydney in 2000, and at the moment has a significant involvement with English Rugby.

 

It is an extraordinary life and he has had a massive influence on so many people with huge success and, as in anything, some disappointments along the way. It’s been an incredible journey but back to the beginning.

 

Early life

 

Neil is the son of Kath and Jim, having a sister in Leslie and brothers Gavin, John and Ian. He attended the Maitland Area School and showed a lot of promise as a footballer from a young age. Neil was recruited by Norwood and lived at Carmel Court, the NFC famous boarding house, with other future Legs guns in Michael Taylor, Neil Button, Danny Jenkins, Greg Turbill, the late Jim Thiel, Glen Rosser and many others.

 

Neil was the youngest resident at just 13 years of age and is full of praise for Margaret Butchart (Gil’s mum) who was the house keeper and acted as a second mum to Neil. Similarly, Annie Carman (Phil’s mum) who replaced Margaret as house keeper when the Butcharts bought their own property.

 

John Wynne, the unofficial captain of Carmel Court, was the senior advisor to Neil who fondly remembers 28 giving him a suit. Obviously a tad too big, Neil went and got it altered (would have been a bloody big job) at Syd Gould’s Menswear. Craigy was also given Wynney’s boots to wear in an interesting exercise in itself!

 

Neil has fond memories of Carmel Court – an incredible place to grow up and a massive learning experience in life (if only those walls could speak), as well as attending Norwood High. His parents decided to move off their family farm at Sandilands (on the Yorke Peninsula). They bought a property in Dernancourt, so Neil moved out of Carmel Court.

 

Career at Norwood

 

Photo with permission Norwood Football Club

 

Neil was a dominant junior, winning the McCallum Medal (Under 17s) in 1971 and Tomkins Medal (Under 19s in 1972). He credits his junior coaches Malcolm Smith and Bob Farnham for giving him a solid base to commence his league career, with John Hall also an important influence and educator.

 

Aged 17, he debuted early in 1973 against North Adelaide and remembers the speed of the game being overwhelming and thinking ‘how in the hell will I adapt to this!’ Neil played seven games in 1973 and then 20 in 1974, winning the ‘most improved’ award.

 

Neil credits Robert Oatey for his hard training ideals. I can testify – I scored for Kensington District Cricket Club as a kid and Norwood players, in particular, Phil Carman, Robert Oatey and Neil trained on the top hockey ground next to Parkinson oval and it was incredible how hard they worked. Phil and Neil were ahead of their time being physical fitness nuts and huge respect to the late Robert who used to bust his boiler trying to keep up. A few more players tended to join in when Ross Dillon was playing for the Browns.

 

In 1975, the teenage roving dynamic duo in Greg Turbill and Neil Craig were a vital part of breaking the Legs’ 25 year premiership drought. Neil’s memories are not so much of the celebrations but how emotional the older players and supporters were, some openly crying (I was 12, I remember this lady grabbing my dad and kissing him when the final siren went. Geez, the old man could have starred in the next TV series – batting above your weight!).

 

Photo with permission of Norwood Football Club

 

Neil continued to build in 1976 and then in 1977 he had a fantastic year personally. Amazingly, 1977 was the only time Neil won a club Best and Fairest in his esteemed career. Neil played very well in the Ardath Cup final (a night series involving SANFL, WAFL, and VFA clubs as well as a side from ACT, Queensland and Tasmania ).

 

For mine winning this tournament has been downplayed to some extent. Norwood defeated East Perth in the final who had Ross Glendinning, Phil Kelly, Graham Melrose, Peter Spencer, David Armour etc. It was a high standard final with Norwood prevailing by eight points (Trevor Sapwell’s finest hour).

 

 

Photo with permission of Norwood Football Club

 

Norwood’s centenary year, 1978, resulted in the Legs of course bolting in by one point to win the flag against Sturt (coming from 29 points down at three quarter time). Neil was vital with his elite fitness level shining like a beacon while others struggled with exhaustion (yes, in particular Sturt). He was running on top of the ground when it counted. Neil’s memories of the celebration are just of pure euphoria which continued on for quite a while. It is the playing highlight of his career.

 

 

 

Neil states that Bob Hammond added a hard edge and was important to his career and will always be eternally grateful for being the coach who delivered the two premierships in which he played.

 

Photo with permission of Norwood Football Club

 

The Sturt and North Adelaide years

 

Neil decided to join Sturt in 1980 – he adds it was nothing sinister, just that he had a burning desire to play under Jack Oatey (admitting even then he may have subconsciously been thinking about coaching further down the track). Jack’s ideals of quick hands, attacking running footy, footballing thoughts in general and beliefs matched his.

 

Neil personally was consistent with a runner up in the Best and Fairest in 1980 and third in 1981 and ‘84 at the Double Blues. It was a huge disappointment to miss the 1983 Grand Final with injury and an honour to captain the club in 1985 and ’86. Neil believes that you learn something from every coach not just about the game but life in general – Jack had a large influence not just in football.

 

At the end of 1981, Neil was drafted by Footscray, finding out by opening up the following day’s paper – just a tad different to these days! Neil wasn’t tempted to join the Dogs in that financially it was hardly any different to what he was being paid at Sturt and there was very little difference in the standard in the competitions (something a lot of Victorians in particular just can’t get their heads around). Playing state footy was a chance to test yourself against the Big V anyway.

 

Neil decided to join North Adelaide in 1987, again lured by the chance to play under a coach he admired greatly in Mick Nunan (they had played together in Norwood’s ‘78 flag) with having similar ideals and beliefs on the game. Mick’s hard work ethic certainly mirrored Neil’s beliefs. He enjoyed his time greatly at the Wembley of the North (Chocka Bloch’s name for Prospect Oval) with the highlight making the 1989 Grand Final although, obviously, the bizarre game and result was disappointing.

 

The best

 

Played with: Neil felt that the best player he ever played with was Rick Davies – to kick 153 goals in 1983 basically on one leg was an extraordinary achievement (coincidentally, it’s just gone the fiftieth anniversary of Rick’s league debut. Wow!) Neil points out Greg Turbill was a fantastic player but injuries deprived the footy world from seeing an all-time great.

 

Played against: Neil names Michael Bennett from South Adelaide as his hardest opponent and that Michael tagged him and gave Neil his share of pain. He admired Russell Ebert greatly not only for his brilliant footy but taking the time to socialise and get to know Neil and his opponents as well. Neil loved the big games against Port or Norwood and loved the in-close atmosphere at the Parade and Oxford Terrace.

 

Administrators: Neil names Wally Miller as having a massive influence on his career, right from the moment of recruiting him to the Parade. His guidance and imparting of wisdom has been huge through Neil’s life. The mature discussions between the two, even just in Neil’s decision to join Sturt and is eternally grateful for Wally getting him back to the Parade to coach the Legs in 1991.

 

Neil’s playing career like his coaching career (to be covered in Part 2) is one of high achievement. Mature from a young age with a huge work ethic he was a class running utility who has left a huge mark on SA footy. Neil wanted me to emphasise that he regards Norwood as his home SANFL club. Surely the oversight of Neil not being in the Redlegs’ Hall of Fame will be rectified soon!

 

Tributes

 

Ross Dillon adds:

 

I believe that when I arrived at Norwood in early 1973, Neil had won the Tompkins Medal in 1972. My first and lasting impression was of a quality kid who was always striving for excellence and was absolutely prepared to put in the hard yards to achieve. That attitude has stayed throughout his life.

 

Always honest , always loved to challenge others to be better. From the start, he wanted to be the fittest, Phillip Carman being the one out front. Yes, Neil was one of RO’s prodigies and had a lifetime respect and friendship with him. They had a deep mutual love of football and would talk endlessly about it.

 

Neil was fun to play with and be around at the club. He has proven a terrific Norwood man… even though Sturt and North came into it for a while. He always had a mature head on his shoulders. His subsequent achievements coaching Norwood, Adelaide and Melbourne are proud achievements for that 17 year old kid I first noticed in the King’s College Gym with RO’s pre-season training . Running with Neil and Phil at Victoria Park and at Murray Bridge on a pre-season camp proved to me that the kid was keen and was not going to wait around to make the grade.

 

Turbs started with us in 1974 at that Murray Bridge camp… when new coach Hammo gave us an early indication of his hard work philosophy. What a contrast… the lives of Neil and Turbs. Both captains, leaders and fantastic mates to play with.

 

For Neil to be approached/appointed to assist Eddie Jones in the Rugby World Cup in 2019 for England was hardly a surprise. The kid is quality and those who know him recognise it. I do not see him often (he and his terrific wife, Chris, live in Melbourne) but like JW, Greg Rix, Stan Alves, Dick Clay, Frank Goode, Noel Leary, the friendship sticks like glue.

 

I absolutely admire Neil’s integrity and all that he has achieved. I always enjoyed both the serious and the fun side of the kid. Neil also has a special friendship with Wally. Wally has observed Neil from before my start at Norwood. Neil’s close friendship with both Robert and Wally would have led to some interesting discussions. Mick Nunan was also a strong influencer and an individual who also had a deep understanding of football theory. Mick had very definite views from which Neil learnt plenty.

 

In summary, an amazing record of achievement by the kid from Curramulka. The kid had focus, had serious intent, was respectful and without doubt be one of the all-time success stories of Norwood and the SANFL.

 

John Wynne adds:

 

Neil was very dedicated and committed to the game right from the moment he arrived which was unusual for someone so young. Neil used to wear my boots in for me – perfect back then as they stretched as soon as they came in contact with any wet weather and that you would do anything you could to help a young fella who was so keen.

 

Neil worked as a crowd controlling engineer at Sam’s disco which was upstairs in the Redlegs Club. When the law changed and you had to have a person somewhat trained in fire regulations, Neil went and did that so he was the fire attendant of Sam’s (Sam’s was an institution of the SA night life in the 70s and 80s a lot of people reading this will have plenty of memories of Sam’s disco!).

 

I ruck roved with Neil in the ‘78 flag. I was the second jumper against Rick Davies in the centre square. I would then drift forward and let the young pup strut his stuff and didn’t he do that magnificently.

 

I am delighted with the success that Neil has had in his life. It’s the reward for hard work – a credit to himself and all the best for the future.

 

Neil has been absolutely brilliant to interview – it has been great to listen and learn off. His extraordinary sporting life will be summed up further in Part 2 to follow.

 

Thanks Craigy!

 

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Comments

  1. Craig never works with Wynney or Pinches at Sams Disco I was crowd control and took tickets at top stairs Sams great institution for Disco and Norwood Revenues. ..We lived together Carmel CRT from when he came from York peninsula Silat very Young. Oatey favourite player with Magic Phil Carman…Neil player with Roger in Thirds GF beat Port Adelaide Oval 1 point Kingo player along side Roger I was BOG. Great match. Left Norwood 1974 for Surfers Life with Johns Arnold Classic Golden Breed. O’Neill. #18 jumper R

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You’ve done a terrific job here ‘Book (and Dave B). I first came across Neil Craig at a school holiday Advertiser Coaching Clinic at Adelaide Oval, probably 1972. I don’t think that he had starting shaving yet.

    His playing record is something to be admired. If only he’d coached in the spirit of Jack Oatey.

  3. Campbell says

    A fantastic interview so far! Very keen to read part two of the interview!

  4. Interesting story RB, but then again he looks like a bloke with an interesting story.

    The dig at Victorians regarding Neil getting drafted by Footscray but not coming over is an interesting one!!

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says
  6. Jeff Milton says

    Interesting comment re the Ardath Cup win. The final was an outstanding game of football with the home ground advantage probably the deicer in the end. Was it that year or the previous year that they smashed Carlton by about 20 goals in a national night competition minor round game?

    Remember Neil Craig turning up to some of our school footy trainings being in the heart of the Norwood zone.
    He was always so intense and serious about the game and training properly, even though he was only a teenager at the time. It was either him or Phil Carman that said you should never go anywhere without your footy so that you got used to how it bounced.

  7. Schmaaly says

    Well done Mal we certainly were robbed of seeing one of the best roving pair when Turbs did his knee. Olly played a fair first half in that Ardath game.

  8. Martin Rumsby says

    The talent scout who brought Neil across to Carmel Court, aged just 13, certainly got it right! Neil had an outstanding playing career across three clubs and as a State Captain. One wonders whether his achievements would have been even more highly regarded had he have spent his entire career at The Parade?

  9. Another great profile Malcolm, I can hardly wait for chapter 2. At his best, Which was most of the time, Craigy was fantastic. I remember may fine games he played for the Redlegs, especially the finals in ’78 where he was quite superb. Who could possibly forger the pairing of Turbs (what an excitement machine) and Craigy. I know I was quite devastated when he left Norwood to join Sturt but was really pleased when he returned as Norwood’s coach in ’91. Neil Craig is an icon of Aussie rules footy. Malcolm, I love your ability to educate us about all these wonderful past players.

  10. Michael Aish says

    Thanks Malcolm another great insight into one of Norwoods finest.Looking forward to part two. To be perfectly honest i was bitterly disappointed that Neil left the club at the end of 79. Neil’s achievements stand among the best. I personally learnt plenty when he returned to the club as coach in 1991.As he gathered the players for the first time he said gentlemen its easy to inherit success but building success is what makes you( or something to that affect).Thats exactly what Neil did with the Norwood Football Club and wherever he went.

  11. John Milton says

    Malcolm thank you for providing such wonderful information about Neil Craig of which I was previously unfamiliar. I lived in Adelaide for a couple of years (1986/87) and couldn’t decide if I would barrack for the Redlegs or North Adelaide. As I was living in Thorngate at the time North got the nod. But I do remember one cracker of a game between and Norwood and Port, standing behind the goals at the Parade end of the ground. I’m looking forward to part two.

  12. Michael Dadds says

    Fine work Malcolm, and fond memories of a classic era at the Parade. Neil must’ve debuted for Norwood High 1st 18 soon after arriving at Carmel court – Norwood High legend had it that he was playing 1st 18 in year 8. Can’t wait for part 2!

  13. Michael, I, like you was bitterly disappointed as to the exact reason lft Norwood for Sturt. Numerous rumors were flying around. I well remember talking to Rod Seekamp (he had West Lakes newsagency at that time) but don’t remember his answer. I do remember Neil and Phil Gallagher having little dust ups during Games between Sturt and Norwood – they were good mates off the field. I thought Craigy did a first rate job when he returned to Coach the Legs and was really disappointed when he finished up at the end of ’95.

  14. BILL DRODGE says

    A great article Malcolm. For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, I’ve never been a big Neil Craig Fan. Maybe he’d already departed for Sturt when I’d taken a more in depth interest in the game. But looking at what he has achieved, over a very long career, I’d almost say that no-one would even compare with what he has done.

  15. Quite a footy career. Didn’t realise he had so many achievements. Look forward to Part 2.

  16. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Roger thank you but,Neil worked at,Sams and was indeed the,1st fire officer.Swish thank you and totally agree re,Dave he did a fantastic job a lot of similarities re,Jack imo we will get to that in part,2.
    Campbell thank you.Dips as Swish said most didn’t come most,Vics seriously underestimate how good the Sanfl competition was.Milts it was a great game and yes it was the previous year,Craigy as,28 said was v mature and switched on from a young age I vaguely recall,Neil saying that I think.Schmally v much so I admit I had forgotten to some extent to how well,Olly played that night especially the,1st half.Martin v much so and yes I definitely agree by playing for,3 clubs seems to have slipped under the radar a fraction.Fisho v much so and greatly appreciated.Michael as always v well said.John thank you,Daddsy yes definitely young I will ask,
    Neil.Bill it is certainly a remarkable career and was always going to be,2 partsJan thank you greatly appreciated folks.

  17. Luke Reynolds says

    Outstanding Rulebook. Being a Victorian, knew next to nothing of N.Craig’s playing days. That is a superb career. I know you worked really hard on this piece and it shows, fantastic read. Looking forward to part 2.

  18. Richard Brown says

    Brilliant Malcolm. Neil did some coaching at Hackney High at a footy camp back in the 70s. I can still recall him trying to teach me how to drop the ball on to my boot straight with one hand. His focus on skill execution was fierce.

  19. Peter Myers says

    Another good article Malcolm. I look forward to the second instalment. It’s interesting to see him referred to as “the kid from Curramulka”. My wife Brenda spent several years of her childhood, approximately 1959-1964 living in Curramulka, where her dad, Jack Shanks, worked as the bank manager. She doesn’t remember Neil specifically, but it’s quite possible their paths would have crossed a bit. I used to love watching those Norwood teams in the 70s, and Craigy was a dynamic, exciting player to watch, and it was a big pity he had to leave.

  20. Peter Myers says

    P.S. – I was there that night we won the Ardath Cup in 1977. After not being able to make it to the ‘75 GF, it was great to see Norwood win something in the flesh, and great to see them have success after watching them really struggle through the 60s.

  21. Thanks Malcolm. He was someone I really looked up to when I was a kid. His singular focus to be the best he could comes through in your piece. Well done on a great read. I’m really looking forward to the part on his coaching career.

  22. Frank Butt says

    Malcolm Well done again, I was at Norwood High at the same time as Neil, when we had early morning athletics training no matter how early you were , Neil was there first. He was a very good middle distance runner I think, I was a poor high jumper.

  23. Brett Zorzi says

    Excellent Rulebook. Looking forward to Part 2.

  24. Walter Tarca says

    I sat next to Neil the first year at Norwood High. A quiet country lad was my first recollection. I guess Carmel Court soon fixed that. He was an outstanding junior athlete, sprints, middle distance , long jump … I think he even held a state junior record in 400M for a while. Neil had a unique sort of upright running style ( Phil Carmen called it stiff) but boy was he quick . On the very odd occasion I was in front of him you could actually hear him coming , He used to exhale very forcibly and sounded like a train. Very intimidating. . I can still actually recall his first disposal at league level, a lightening quick handball with his back to goal. It had the commentators waxing lyrical about his future prospects and they were not wrong. A hard worker and natural leader right from his junior days I also was really disappointed that Neil left the club when Balmey arrived. I figured Craigy was all about skills and didn’t see that in Neil Balme. Neil went on to coach the Crows and I think was a superb innovator and strategist and I believe provided many enduring ideas for today’s coaches. Ask Alistair. Neil wore his footy shorts (and high school pants) a touch tight for me ( I was envious at the time) but his contribution and legacy in football, cycling and elite sports training has and will endure. One of the state’s greatest there is no doubt.

  25. Randal Williams says

    Nice writing style and good insights ; I saw Neil Craig play many times, both with Norwood and Sturt, and what sticks in my mind are his ball skills, especially accurate passing by foot and hand, and his ability to run all day–aerobic fitness, I guess. One of the SANFL greats of that period.

  26. Brenton Kemp says

    Fantastic article Malcolm. He was a standout player, and massive contributor to footy in SANFL & AFL. Always wondered the reasoning behind him leaving Norwood. He obviously had a desire to play under different coaches, probably took many influences into his own coaching. I remember going out and listening to his addresses when coaching the Legs, I actually reckon he was a bit ahead of his time with some of his concepts, probably didn’t translate perfectly at the time. Should probably be considered for AFL hall of fame.

  27. Tony Cove says

    Yes, Neil Craig = ultimate ball magnet, clean skills & incredible fitness level. Woulda been a sensation in the modern AFL for those reasons alone. Astonishing career of 300+ games over 17 seasons at 3 SANFL clubs is testament to his hunger for the game. Equally surprising was the fact that just ONE B & F came his way in all that time – maybe a case of clubs just expecting him to perform every week and noticing the more spectacular performers rather than the relentless worker that he was. Whatever people think of his later career as fitness guru and SANFL / AFL Coach (he did polarise opinion!) his career as a player marks him as one of the top 5 SA players NOT to have won the Mag Medal in my opinion.

  28. Tim Hoile says

    Malcolm a great insight into Neil Craig. His work ethic and willingness to move clubs to learn from Jack Oatey and Mike Nunan stand out. Understandable that he regards Norwood as his home club though.

  29. Excellent stuff once again, RB!!
    Thanks for the history lesson re N Craig.

  30. Rob Ball says

    Yep. That captures Neil Craig beautifully. Had a bit to do with him a few years back. He is a thoughtful and inherently good person. A man of his word.

  31. Greg Whittlesea says

    Benchmark in highest level of skill and fitness.lucky enough in his early days at Flinders University being his Guinea Pig in Skin Folds and Muscle Fat ratio Testing… Interesting being submerged in a tank of water for as long as I can… Always passing on his Knowledge to other coaches.and still striving for excellence in all formats of Sport……. Great Man ?.

  32. Good topic here Rulebook. Certainly an interesting read and especially looking forward to part 2. Don’t know how you’re going to keep to under 10,000 words. Great reading everyone’s glowing comments from his playing days.

  33. Michael Rehn says

    An excellent write up as per usual Malcolm,I loved the way Neil Craig played the game, highly skilled, physically powerful and a wonderful football brain. I’m sure Port’s Steven Clifford, a very ordinary footballer at best, went into half time of the 1978 Preliminary Final with a very sore mouth after learning not to niggle and backhand Neil Craig !!! In fact Neil Craig’s recovery from an achilles injury in time for the 1978 Final Series was a key factor in bringing the cup back home that year. He had some great ideas as a coach and was a great teacher who seemed to deliver a confusing message at times. Unfortunately he lost my respect when he forbade black armbands to be worn as a mark of respect for one of our greatest ever, Doug Olds who’d just passed. That, to me was straight out of the Jack Oatey / Michael Nunan book of football eccentricity. Past champions are a key foundation of any club’s fabric and should always be revered. Certainly Neil Craig left a legacy at our club.

  34. Ray Higginbottom says

    Fantastic interview Malcolm.Thoroughly enjoyed his reasoning for moving clubs always looking to better himself.Love Ross Dillon and John Wynne’s input.Look forward to Part 2.

  35. Tod Barabas says

    Neil has a great sense of humour. Have fond memories of his chats with Glen Rosser at the footy club discussing footy and life.

  36. Phillip Smith says

    Great article Malcolm. Dad always used to fondly refer to Neil as two-two. I think that started when he coached him in the U17s in his first years at Norwood and it may have been his number? Not absolutely sure and I wonder if he remembers. Looking forward to the next instalment.

  37. Wynton Heading says

    Thanks Malcolm, looking forward to the second part. The word ‘elite’ is tossed around these days Bur it certainly applies the Neil Craig. It should be a source of considerable pride to the Norwood Football Club that such an illustrious career started in its junior development program back in the seventies
    Cheers

  38. Andrew Underwood says

    Great work Malcolm. Craigy was my first skipper. A true professional and meticulous with his prep. Taught me a lot in my early days, particularly with the little things in the skill area. I still use some of those skill drills to this day when coaching

  39. Simon Trenorden says

    Craigy was years ahead of his time in relation, to athleticism, skill and science to fitness.
    He was an elite athlete and probably still is. A very funny man as well.

  40. John Topperwien says

    Another great read Malcolm, Neil was a very impressive young man, spending time chatting to our lads when they were at Norwood one night.

  41. Brenton Woolford says

    Was an outstanding league footballer and on field leader , elite athlete in his prime and would have been outstanding in the AFL.. Absolute quality human who has given so much wherever he has gone in sport . Had the pleasure of working with him and one of the most outstanding leaders I have seen in my time in any field . Had the ability to command a room and was so giving of his time to the betterment of all of those around him. His level of commitment is unique and one of his enduring qualities amongst many . A great leader and developer of culture , Adelaide Football Club benefited enormously from his leadership and would have achieved great things from being able to turn it into something enduring. Players who were under him achieved great things from working with him and their glowing praise is testament to this leadership. Many similarities as a leader with Clarkson and Adelaide Football Club is the lesser for not being able to continue his legacy.

  42. As someone who was on scholarship for rowing at the SA Sports Institute in the 90s, I distinctly remember Neil Craig’s important contribution to the Sports Science Department there when the involvement of sport scientists and sports physiology in elite Olympic sports, and also AFL, was beginning to be recognised. I believe his role at the Adelaide Crows as the fitness guru/sports physiologist in the late 90s was key factor in their premiership wins. Thanks for the article, Rulebook. I look forward to reading part 2.

  43. Hamish Dillon says

    Good stuff Rulebook! I remember as a kid when obsessed with sanfl footy, when Ross used to run the news agency near footy park. He was working the morning of a game so I got a lift to the game with Neil Craig, who I think was playing for the blues that day against the legs at footy park. I don’t think I’d ever met him before then but what a legend, I wouldn’t have been 10
    years old! I remember him taking me into the blues rooms until Rossco finished work, which at the time I wouldn’t have been that happy with! Hope your going well Rulebook and keep up the good work!

  44. david butler says

    Thanks Rulebook,
    Look forward to Part 2. Like Michael Rehn I enjoyed Neil putting Clifford down in that Prelim Final. If ever anyone deserved it! I think Neil went very close to winning a premiership with he Crows . I remember us being narrowly beaten by a virtuoso and presumably drug charged Ben Cousins in a prelim at footy park when we could have gone all the way, and from memory Roo got himself suspended out of that or another final series where we were really strong. I’d be interested to hear what Neil has to say about those opportunities. By the way I note your mention of David Armour playing against Nwd in the Ardath Cup. What a great player (for Norwood) who I know absolutely nothing about. Any chance of a story about him Malcolm.
    Cheers
    Harry (ex Curramulka primary student )

  45. After reading some of the comments I seem to remember Neil having some sort of problem with the often brilliant forward MARK JONES who finally left for Centrals. What was the story there Malcolm ?

  46. Geoffrey Wilson says

    This is another great article on a truly fascinating character and a brilliant footballer and coach. I to was very disappointed when Neil left Norwood and joined Sturt. I still believe there was more to it than Neil is letting on, but thats his business.I have heard him say that Norwood is his home club, which i think is great. It is staggering what Neil has achieved in his time in football, cycling and rugby. I am very much looking forward to part 2.
    Well done Malcolm, another one for the book.

  47. Fantastic work as always Rulebook. I’m intrigued about Clifford in the ‘78 preliminary final….and also the comments about Ebert

  48. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fisho re Mark Jones he is a could have been a champion but dedication and discipline weren’t exactly his strengths leave it at that plenty of others tried as well
    ( will answer other comments now )

  49. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Luke thank you,Charlie Neil’s work achieved remarkable results.Peter the,Ardath Cup final was a fantastic game.Walter fantastic and v accurate description of Neil’s running style, Neil leaving the legs had nothing to do with,Balmey arriving.Neil was v much the innovator.Randal thank you and v much so.Brenton thank you and yes I am of the same opinion ahead of his time and v much so.Tony agree totally,Neil would dominate in today’s era of football yes certainly around the mark in that regard re players not to win the medal.Tim thank you.Smokie greatly appreciated.Rob thank you and v much so.Greg yes,Neil was certainly the bench mark and that would have been a interesting experience and valuable learning tool and thank you.Raf thank you yes it will be a challenge.Michael Neil returning was vital in 78 and he didn’t put up with,Bombers crap that day we all make mistakes.Ray greatly appreciated yes part 2 will include a couple of other big names thoughts as well.Tod I will cover his sense of humor in part 2 thank you.Phillip thank you I will chase,Neil up in that regard and thank you.Wynton well said.Andrew yes unbelievably meticulous and great to hear thank you.
    Simon couldn’t agree more.John Neil’s genuine interest in others is a fantastic attribute he possesses.
    Brenton superb v v well put.Anna Neil has been a important influence on so many people in so many different areas of sport and life thank you.Hamish aka,Thrasher superb loved that.Harry to use,Griffs line it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain and yes will be covered in part,2 plenty of people I would love to write about unfortunately work gets in the way.Geoff I felt,Neil was extremely honest yes a remarkable career thank you.
    Serge Bomber thought I will intimidate,Neil and he got it returned in spades,Neil was v complimentary of
    Russell not only as a player but as a person and that,Russell was a initiator and firm believer in opposition sides mixing socially after the game thanks folks !

  50. Excellent read Malcolm. Looking forward to part 2. Interesting that he followed the coaches he wanted to play for. Obviously paid dividends for life after footy.

  51. Excellent story, superbly written as usual, looking forward to many more. I have no idea as to why you are not utilized in media, you’re properly too nice. love your stories x

  52. Brian Staker says

    Malcolm great article. Deserved to be a premiership coach and Magarey medalist but both alluded him. Unfortunately things went horribly pear shaped in his final year as Crows coach.

  53. Rick Sarre says

    My wife tells me she was in his class at Norwood High … and he was a bit of a star then too

  54. Andre kulpe says

    Brilliant player and mentor..
    Transformed the game
    Ahead of his time

  55. Graeme Sinclair says

    Sat next to Neil in second year at Norwood High. He was (is) a very clever bloke and funny to go with it.

  56. Steve Arnold says

    I did practical teaching at St Morris primary and the teacher there had been state manager for primary school footy team and was a North supporter. Told North that he had seen the next Barrie Robran but they said they do not recruit 12 yo so he told Norwood. Saw Craigy play at NHS as U13 and he was good enough to play in all conquering senior team.

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