The Crumbers

What do Eddie Betts, Lou Richards and Steve Johnson have in common?


They are all members of an exclusive club: crumbers who have kicked more than 50 goals in a season.  They are a much-maligned breed, who may kick five goals one week only to be held goalless the next.  While the big marking forward relies on precise delivery to gain possession, the opportunist has to make the most of limited chances: crumbing off the pack when the big men fly, snapping over the shoulder amid heavy traffic, sharking from the opposition ruckman at a stoppage.


With the magician Eddie Betts currently sitting on 65 goals (with possibly four more games up his sleeve for 2016), he is joyfully piecing together one of the greatest seasons by a crumber for many years.


Most Goals in Season by a Crumber

Player Goals Year
Peter Daicos 97 1990
Leigh Matthews 91 1977
Kevin Bartlett 84 1980
Gerard Healy 77 1982
Peter Daicos 76 1981
Jeff Farmer 76 2000
Peter Daicos 75 1991
Leigh Matthews 71 1976
Leigh Matthews 71 1978
Adrian McAdam 68 1993
Leigh Matthews 68 1975
Eddie Betts 65* 2016

I think we are all up to speed with Eddie’s outrageous goals from the past few years.  Whether it be 50 metre left foot torps from the boundary or long range checksides on the run, he is rapidly putting together a collection that rivals any crumber.  Inspired by Eddie, I thought it was an opportune time to take a look at some of the other luminaries of the crumbing fraternity.


Peter Daicos

My infatuation with Daics is well known so I will begrudgingly refrain from discussing his feats on this occasion, but I can direct you here if you feel the urge.


Leigh Matthews

Lethal’s 91 goals as a rover/forward-pocket in 1977 must rank as one of the greatest individual seasons of all time – a feat that is even more incredible when you consider that Peter Hudson kicked 110 goals that year.  Matthews booted more than 50 goals on eight occasions, although in 1982-84 he was used more as a conventional full-forward (albeit a short one at 178 centimetres).  Built like a tank, he was an exceptional mark for his size and a deadly snapshot for goal.  He twice booted 11 goals in a game.  Perhaps his most memorable goal was during an exhibition game at the Gabba in 1981 when he seemed to evade the entire Essendon defence before threading the eye of the needle.


Kevin Bartlett

Towards the end of his illustrious career, ‘Hungry’ thrived in a specialist forward- pocket role.  His 84 goals in the premiership year of 1980 included a staggering 23 from three finals.  His seven majors in the Grand Final earned him the Norm Smith Medal; the most memorable of these came in the final quarter when he turned Stan Magro inside out on the boundary before steadying and executing a bullet-like drop punt that split the middle.  That season he fed beautifully off key forwards Michael Roach and David Cloke.  Whenever Clokey took a mark, Barlett seemed to be streaming past demanding a handball.


Gerard Healy

He is more remembered as a classy ruck rover who won a Brownlow with the Swans, but early in his career he played as a specialist half-forward flanker for the Demons.  His eight goals in the final round of 1982 propelled him to the top of Melbourne’s goal kicking, nudging out Mark Jackson’s by one goal (much to Jacko’s disgust).


Jeff Farmer

A lightning quick forward who could also take a screamer.  He sizzled in the season of 2000, booting 76 goals including a bag of eight in the Preliminary Final.  Earlier that season ‘the Wizard’ also booted nine goals in a half against Collingwood.  He never quite matched those feats once he crossed to Fremantle, but it was no surprise that his 55 goals in 2006 coincided with Fremantle’s top four finish.


Adrian McAdam

A highly skilled forward with a deceptive change of pace, he was equally at home in the air or on the ground.  He burst upon the scene in 1993 with 23 goals in his first three games, including ten goals in his second.  An amazing feat when you consider he was sharing the forward line with Wayne Carey and John Longmire.  He booted a further nine goals against Collingwood in just his sixth game which effectively ended the career of close-checking backman Michael Gayfer.  With that season’s implementation of the third umpire, Denis Pagan had cleverly left McAdam one-out with Gayfer in the goalsquare – a tactic which exposed Gayfer’s rule-bending tendencies.  After a form slump, a broken jaw, and an ill-fated comeback attempt with Collingwood, McAdam returned to the Northern Territory.


Stephen Milne

Dependable and deadly around the big sticks, Milne achieved the mark on six occasions with a best of 61 goals in 2005 – the year in which he snagged 11 goals against the Lions in Round 22.  His record of 524 goals from 275 games make him just about the most consistent small forward of the past quarter century.


Others Crumbers who have kicked 50 or more goals in a season

1990-2016: Paul Hudson x 4, E. Betts x 4, S. Johnson x 3, Phil Matera x 3, M. Le Cras x 2, L. Breust x 2, N. Brown x 2, P. Medhurst x 2, D. Bewick, R. Burns, D. Jarman, L. Power, S. Dew, B. Ebert, D. Motlop, J. Porplyzia, A Walker, L. Thomas, C. Wingard, T. Dickson

1970-1989: M. Conlan x 3 , G. Buckenara x 2, W. Johnston, P. Bosustow, K. Judge, L. Bamblett, M. Turner, B. Hardie, S. Jackson, P. Bedford, B. Monteath, K. Sheldon.

Pre 1970: D. Fothergill x 5, A. Pannam, L. Richards, A. Ruthven, B. Hutchison, B. Skilton.


Des Fothergill, the Collingwood rover/half-forward deserves a mention.  The 1940 Brownlow medallist booted more than 50 goals on five occasions (he only played six full seasons).  In the 40s and 50s it was common practice for rovers to rest in the forward line.  Hence, many champion rovers achieved the 50-goal mark e.g. Lou Richards, Allan Ruthven, Bill Hutchison and Bobby Skilton.

In more recent times the achievements of Micky Conlan, Phil Matera and Paul Hudson are noteworthy.  Fitzroy muscleman Conlan once booted 10 goals in a game and achieved the 50-goal mark on three occasions.  Paul Hudson and Phil Matera achieved the mark four and three times respectively, and were both rewarded with All-Australian selection.



It is becoming harder to achieve the magical 50 goal mark because of constant rotations and the requirement of players to help out up the ground with structures.  Having said that, Eddie Betts and Steve Johnson have both kicked over 50 goals on four and three occasions respectively with Betts a real chance to break the 70-goal barrier this season – the first crumber to do so since Jeff Farmer in 2000.  Mark Le Cras and Luke Breust have both kicked the half-ton on two occasions, while Lindsay Thomas, Chad Wingard and Tory Dickson are other modern day players who have achieved the 50.




Some Notes to explain omissions and the way my brain works

>In 1982-84 L. Matthews played mainly as a full-forward.

>From 1985-92 G. Ablett had spells up the ground, but essentially was a marking forward.

>In their Brownlow years M. Blight (1978) and B. Quinlan (1981) kicked 77 and 73 goals respectively in ruck rover roles, but they also spent considerable time as key forwards as well.  Have also not considered the likes of B. Johnson 2006, R. Robertson 2005 as they played as specialist full-forwards during those seasons.

About Damian Balassone

Damian Balassone is a delusional Collingwood supporter who writes poetry and fiction. He is the author of 'Strange Game in a Strange Land'.


  1. Keiran Croker says

    Great analysis Damian. You must have too much time on your hands!
    Eddie is certainly a special talent and has blossomed over with the Crows.
    It will be interesting to see who emerges in the next few years. The Swans have needed a genuine crumbling forward for years. I think young Tom Papley might be the reel deal. 20 goals so far in his first year (15games) is quite creditable.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Comprehensive list Damo. Daics’ and Lethal’s efforts are remarkable. KB’s 1980 finals series was textbook goal crumbing. Had forgotten about Gerard Healy’s fine performance in ’82. Didn’t he kick a bag in a State game that year and then get pinged for pissing in a public place after the celebrations? Adelaide I think?

  3. Top research and analysis Damo.

    What I’d give to get 22 games out of Fasolo and/or Elliott next year.

    It’s a tough gig these days in congested forward lines and the enormous defensive pressure. The skill of Betts and his ilk is phenomenal. To counter that I reckon backmen used to get away with a lot more.

    It’ll be interesting to see how many clubs come a knocking on Boomer’s door.

  4. DBalassone says

    Fair call Keiran re Papley – has looked lively, along with many other young Swans this year. You’d be interested to know the great Bobby Skilton kicked 60 goals in just 16 games during his Brownlow year of ’59 – not bad for a rover/resting forward pocket. Must have been a helluva player.
    Phil, I hadn’t heard of that Gerard Healy story – certainly doesn’t sound in character – although when you’re gotta go, ya gotta go. Interesting to hear Jacko slag him off in the recent Open Mike interview. He is still absolutely filthy that Healy pipped him by a goal that year.
    Jeff, let’s hope Fasolo and/or Elliott can join this exclusive club next year. I’m sure Boomer would be a handy pick up wherever he goes – but would hate to see it happen.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Great piece Damian. Left foot crumbers should be even more revered.

    I can confirm the Healy story. Pretty sure it was Hindley St. He actually improved the general odour of that part of town.

  6. Good job Damian.

    Yep Phil, i recall the Healy episode.So did many fans at the grounds in the weeks, months following.It wa sinded in Adelaide early in 1982 following a state game.

    Without being overly pedantic i’m unsure of some of those deemed ‘crumbers’. Bosustow was a marking option up forward,Monteath mainly ruck roved and Turner when moved from the wing up forward considered himself a marking option.

    Some handy crumbers who didn’t get 50 goals in aayer, but were definite crumbers were chaps like Paul Sarah, Geelong/Richmond,, John Stephens St Kilda and Fraser Murphy, Carlton/Collingwood..


  7. DBalassone says

    I employed a liberal approach to the ‘Other” section Glen, but I think you’re correct – it’s hard to strictly define a player as crumber. Bosustow was one of those freaks who could crumb and take hangers as well – a bit like Cyril perhaps. Monteath was a ruck rover who also played up forward a bit – he kicked a bag of 8 in 1980, when they couldn’t squeeze him into the all-conquering Tiger midfield. In retrospect you’re spot on re Turner – an aerialist, as well as a racehorse. Fraser Murphy was perhaps the prototype for Milne and Ballantyne – small, quick and dynamic.

  8. George Doig, 173cm never played a full WAFL season without kicking 100+ ….. But y`know he was just a wafl boy. Not in the leage of the vfl “men“. Best was 19 in a match, once kicked his entire team score in the amatuers of 27 goals plus….. 1 of 17 reasons why the Dockers B&F is called the Doig medal

  9. Ta Damian. I always had a high opinion of Monteath. Interestingly his final match which was the 1980 GF, when he, as captain, played off the bench. He was not fully fit. Next year he was back in WA.

    He kicked 8 against Melbourne earlier that season

    Georgie Bissett was another handy crumbing goal kicker.


  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Damian. Always love a list with Daics on top.
    Sadly, we’ll never know what Swan could have produced as a forward this season. Reckon he could have nudged 50.

  11. More Daicos propaganda from the Bala man…

    Where are Ballantyne and Walters on ye list?

    Behold thy mighty works and despair!

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