Round 8 – Carlton v Port Adelaide: The Spirit of Craig Bradley looms large on a solemn day for Port Adelaide


Carlton v Port Adelaide

May 15th, 2016

RD 8

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne


Back in 1981 a rangy, shaggy-haired youngster made his debut for Port Adelaide. He hailed from Pooraka in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. The club would give him the taxi voucher each week to come down to Alberton to train. Stephen ‘Bomber’ Clifford, one of Port’s rat pack took him under his wing, became a surrogate father and protected the lightly built cub on the field. Over the next five years at Port Craig Bradley announced himself as one of the greatest ever to wear the black and white. In 2000 he made the clubs’ team of the century. In 1986 he left for Carlton, along with fellow South Australian’s Stephen Kernahan and Peter Motley. It was the recruiting coup of the decade for the Blues, who also netted Jon Dorotich from Western Australia.


Bradley was a fantastic footballer, one of Port Adelaide and Carlton’s best. He was also an outstanding cricketer. In 1983 Bradley went to England on tour with a youth Australian side missing part of the season. He continued to play grade cricket in Adelaide and Melbourne in the summer months before retiring to concentrate solely on football. He won best & fairest’s in both Adelaide and Melbourne, Fos Williams Medals representing South Australia and was made captain of Carlton in 1998. A true legend of the game, Bradley is in the top three footballers I’ve seen play for Port Adelaide. He was a fitness fanatic before his time, perfecting the art of yoga and warm-downs before any player knew what either were. That fanatical approach to fitness meant Bradley was able to play until the age of 38. And he was as important a player in his last game as he was in his first; incredibly rare for a footballer.


Today Jared Polec wore the number 21 guernsey for Port Adelaide against Carlton at Etihad Stadium made famous by Bradley. Polec would be the first to admit he isn’t in Bradley’s league as a player. (Especially on today’s performance.) But then very few players are.


Perhaps it’s time the idea was floated that Port Adelaide and Carlton play for the Craig Bradley Cup as recognition of Bradley’s marvellous deeds for both clubs. There seems to be a copious number of medals, cups and ‘special’ matches each week in the AFL recognising someone. A Craig Bradley Cup would do ample justice to a very special player, and be as worthwhile as any of the current arrangements certain clubs share.


And how Port could have done with a fine leader like Bradley today, especially during the last ten frantic minutes where Port lost their heads and Carlton pounced. Leading by 17 points with just under ten minutes to go Port gave up the lead and fell two agonizing points short. It was a poor last half a quarter in an average game for Port. Again, when it most counted, its leaders went missing. Perhaps it’s time that Port used some of its China windfall to pay for counselling session for Travis Boak, so he can sort out his off-field issues and get back to leading the side in a more competent fashion. Until his mind is right his football won’t be.


Perhaps season 2017 will see the introduction of the Craig Bradley Cup. As for Port in the short term the words of General Custer, as he witnessed the total annihilation of his troops at Little Big Horn ring true: “I think you’ll see a completely side next week”.


FAlmanac banner sq

Read more Round 8 game reports by clicking here



  1. chrism76 – I reckon this is an excellent idea. As a boy I saw Bradley in a number of State of Origin matches, and he was fantastic. Your idea would honour the bloke who played, I think, 501 matches for Port, Carlton and at state level.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Craig Bradley, Russel Ebert and ………..? Would be interested in your third great of the prison bar Magpies. Off the top of my head I can recall a lot of really good Port footballers starting with Jack Cahill in the 60’s. Mark Williams, Greg Phillips. Was scratching my head for another out and out champ in the modern era.
    I had the feeling Port’s goose was cooked when Neade wandered across half back like he had all the time in the world, and got caught and stripped by Bryce Gibbs. Fos Williams would have been rolling in his grave.
    I only saw the last quarter but Wingard and Hartlett looked to go missing when the game was on the line. Not the Port Adelaide way. Trouble in the camp?

  3. chrism76 says

    I guess in my time alive and going to matches – 1982 onwards it would be Bradley, Abernethy and Wanganeen…but really you could throw in a number of others..Leslie, Phillips, Hodges.
    Ebert obviously but really only caught the tail end of his playing career.

Leave a Comment