Back in my day.

A great reflective piece by - Mitch Cleary


The only current AFL coach to have never played at the highest level, Fagan etched out a stellar career across Tasmania. Plying his trade as a rover and small forward, the 58-year-old won multiple premierships, best and fairests, leading goalkicker awards and represented his beloved state 12 times.

Career: More than 250 games (1978-1990) for Hobart, Sandy Bay, Devonport and North Hobart
Highlights: 12 matches for Tasmania, 2x best and fairests and 2x club premierships

Lions coach Chris Fagan enjoyed a decorated state league career in Tasmania. Picture: AFL Photos


Started his career in a blaze, winning Melbourne's best first-year player in 1989 and playing 21 matches in 1991 – including a five-goal, 25-disposal performance where he earned just one Brownlow Medal vote. The nuggety forward failed to reach great heights after that, moving to Footscray and later St Kilda, where his father John was the club's recruiting boss.

Career: 118 VFL/AFL games for Melbourne (1989-1992), Footscray (1993-1995) and St Kilda (1996-1999)
Highlights: Melbourne best first-year player (1989)

Luke Beveridge in action for St Kilda in 1996. Picture: AFL Photos


In any other era Clarkson could have gone down as a star of North Melbourne. But the Roos' era of the early 1990s made it tough for the champion coach to earn a regular spot. Kicked the winning goal after the siren against Melbourne in his first VFL match in 1987 under John Kennedy snr. Earned one more Brownlow vote (five) than Beveridge which edges him ahead.

Career: 134 VFL/AFL games for North Melbourne (1987-1995) and Melbourne (1996-1997)
Highlights: Match-winning goal after the siren on debut (v Melb, R15 1987)

Alastair Clarkson in action for North Melbourne in 1993. Picture: AFL Photos


Enjoyed an incredible career season in 2004 – winning the Blues' best and fairest in his first season at Princes Park after three at Arden Street. He was also voted the competition's most courageous player by his peers in an era when fellow winners Glenn Archer and Jonathan Brown were at the peak of their powers. The fearless defender retired after 83 matches, which places him behind Matthew Nicks.

Career: 83 AFL games for North Melbourne (2001-2003) and Carlton (2004-2006)
Highlights: Best and fairest (2004), Robert Rose Award (2004)

David Teague runs with the ball during his club champion year at Carlton in 2004. Picture: AFL Photos


Consistent utility for the Swans through the late 1990s and early 2000s, who had the pleasure of servicing Tony Lockett and playing alongside Paul Kelly and Adam Goodes. Nicks played more than 17 matches for eight seasons straight from 1997-2004. Missed the 2005 premiership through injury after playing nine of the first 11 games of the season. Ranked ahead of Clarkson and Teague through sheer weight of games played.

Career: 175 AFL games for Sydney (1996-2005)
Highlights: Three Brownlow votes after kicking 6.7 against St Kilda from 26 disposals in round 21, 2001.

Matthew Nicks celebrates a goal for Sydney against North Melbourne in 2001. Picture: AFL Photos


How can Fremantle fans ever forget his match-winning mark and goal after the siren against St Kilda in 2005? The No.2 pick in the 1998 AFL Draft showed plenty of potential as a forward/ruck and was a crucial member of the Dockers' line-up in the early 2000s. However, his battle with knee injuries that plagued his career saw him call time as a Docker as a 26-year-old in 2007.

Career: 139 AFL games for Fremantle (1999-2007)
Highlights: Fremantle's greatest team (voted in 2019)

Justin Longmuir celebrates his match-winning goal after the siren against St Kilda in 2005. Picture: AFL Photos


After a fluctuating nine-year stint at Collingwood – including a losing Grand Final – Shaw's career exploded at Sydney. The running half-back/wingman enjoyed two runner-up finishes in Swans best and fairests and became a key member of Paul Roos' and John Longmire's sides. Tasted premiership success in 2012 and was one of the Swans' best in the losing 2014 decider.

Career: 237 AFL games for Collingwood (2000-2008) and Sydney (2009-2015)
Highlights: Premiership (2012)

Rhyce Shaw launches another foray forward for the Swans. Picture: AFL Photos


One of the best kicks of the modern era. His raking left boot was used at both ends for the Power, firstly to set up from defence and finish off work in attack. Led the Power's goalkicking with 51 majors in a season in which they made a preliminary final (2002). His retirement at the end of 2006 was short-lived, answering Alastair Clarkson's call to add experience to a Hawthorn line-up that claimed the 2008 flag. His match-winning five minutes of brilliance in the third term from that match was enough to edge him ahead of Shaw, just.

Career: 206 AFL games for Port Adelaide (1997-2006) and Hawthorn (2008-2009)
Highlights: Premierships (2004, 2008), leading goalkicker (2002)


Uncompromising backman who formed a key part of one of the best defensive units in VFL/AFL history. A brilliant debut season earned him the 1994 Rising Star over a strong field including future teammate Chris Johnson (Fitzroy) and Corey McKernan (North Melbourne). Was a mainstay in defence during the Lions' glory years before missing out on the 2003 decider as first emergency, having missed the preliminary final. Ahead of Dew after claiming a club best and fairest.

Career: 215 AFL games for Brisbane Bears/Brisbane Lions (1994-2007)
Highlights: 2 x premierships (2001, 2002), best and fairest (1998), AFL Rising Star (1994)

Chris Scott dodges Sydney's Ryan O'Keefe in 2005. Picture: AFL Photos


Hard-as-nails defender who was named as one of only four Essendon All-Australian members in the 2000 premiership season. His aggressive approach earned high praise from Kevin Sheedy and won Hardwick the 1998 Bombers' best and fairest. He then claimed his second flag in his final match in his third season at Port Adelaide. Marginally ahead of Scott due to the All-Australian guernsey.

Career: 207 AFL games for Essendon (1994-2001) and Port Adelaide (2002-2004)
Highlights: 2 x premierships (2000, 2004), All-Australian (2000), best and fairest (1998)

Damien Hardwick was a brilliant, tough defender for Essendon and Port Adelaide. Picture: AFL Photos


Behind Nathan Buckley, has the highest Brownlow Medal finish amongst the current coaches after his third-place effort in 1992 – just three votes behind winner Scott Wynd. Was twice an All-Australian in an era and a club best and fairest in a year the Cats made the Grand Final.
Career: 132 VFL/AFL games for Fitzroy (1987-1988) and Geelong (1989-1995)
Highlights: 2 x All-Australian (1991, 1992), best and fairest (1992)

Ken Hinkley congratulates John Worsfold after the Cats' loss in the 1992 Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos


An incredibly dependable midfielder/defender across his 14-year career at two clubs and twice finished top-10 in the Brownlow Medal across 1993 and 1994. Astute by foot, Cameron was also a major driver in teams that played in preliminary finals in 1997, 1998 and 2001. Despite not being named an All-Australian, ranked ahead of Hinkley due to playing nearly twice as many games.

Career: 256 AFL games for Footscray/Western Bulldogs (1990-1999) and Richmond (2000-2003)
Highlights: Best and fairest (1993)

Leon Cameron in action for the Bulldogs in 1993. Picture: AFL Photos


The tough half-back was the heartbeat of West Coast's premierships in 1992 and 1994, which he captained. In a star-studded team of talented players, Worsfold was the glue that held everything together, spending eight years as Eagles captain. Won a club best and fairest as a 19-year-old in a team that included Chris Mainwaring, Guy McKenna and Ross Glendinning, and captained his state in two State of Origin matches. Falls behind Adam Simpson due to 97 fewer games, and behind John Longmire on account of individual brilliance.

Career: 209 VFL/AFL games for West Coast (1987-1998)
Highlights: 2 x premierships (1992, 1994), best and fairest (1988)

Eagles captain John Worsfold celebrates victory in the 1994 Grand Final against Geelong. Picture: AFL Photos


While many of his contemporaries in this field were easing their way into VFL/AFL careers at 19, Longmire was winning Coleman Medals with 98-goal seasons. The key tall backed up his 1990 feat with 91 majors the following year, before producing four more years with 50-plus goals. Missed the 1996 North Melbourne premiership season with a knee injury but got his elusive flag in his last AFL game in 1999. Would have been named All-Australian in 1990 but no team was announced.

Career: 200 VFL/AFL games for North Melbourne (1988-1999)
Highlights: Premiership (1999), Coleman Medal (1990), best and fairest (1990), leading goalkicker (1990-1994)

John Longmire finally won an elusive premiership in his 200th and final VFL/AFL game. Picture: AFL Photos


The only 300-gamer of the current coaching pool. Class player and one of the first picked in a quality North Melbourne midfield that included Peter Bell, Anthony Stevens, Wayne Schwass and Shannon Grant during his tenure. Forced his way into the Roos' side as a 20-year-old in 1996 before winning the first of two premierships. Played more than 18 matches for 14 consecutive years and averaged more than 24 disposals a game in his final three seasons before retiring as a 33-year-old. Ahead of Worsfold and Longmire due to longevity.

Career: 306 AFL games for North Melbourne (1995-2009)
Highlights: 2 x premierships (1996, 1999), All-Australian (2002), best and fairest (2002).

Adam Simpson was a hard-nosed midfielder across more than 300 games for North Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos


Still holds the record for most clearances in a single season – an astonishing 265 from 26 games in 1999. By comparison, Hawthorn dynamo Tom Mitchell picked up 192 from 24 games in his Brownlow Medal year in 2018. Ratten's quality as a midfielder was highlighted when he won the Blues' best and fairest in a premiership year (1995) alongside Greg Williams, Craig Bradley and Anthony Koutoufides in one of the club's greatest ever midfields. The current Saints boss went on to claim two more club champion awards and two All-Australian guernseys and also represented Victoria and Australia.

Career: 255 AFL games for Carlton (1990-2003)
Highlights: Premiership (1995), 2 x All-Australian (2000, 2001), 3 x best and fairests (1995, 1997, 2000)

Brett Ratten was one of the game's best midfielders during a stellar career with Carlton. Picture: AFL Photos


One of his generation's greatest half-back flankers/wingmen. After focusing on cricket during his junior sporting years, Goodwin burst onto the AFL scene as a 20-year-old and was a dual premiership player for the Crows after just two seasons and 31 matches. His booming left boot and incredible game sense earned him five All-Australian guernseys and three best and fairests. The last club champion award came in the same season he was voted as the game's best player by the league's 16 coaches. One of only two current coaches to have been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Career: 275 AFL games for Adelaide (1997-2010)
Highlights: 2 x premierships (1997, 1998), AFLCA Champion Player (2006), 5 x All-Australian (2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2009), 3 x best and fairests (2000, 2005, 2006), Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee.

Simon Goodwin celebrates a goal for Adelaide in 2005. Picture: AFL Photos


An outright superstar of the competition. Few midfielders rivalled Buckley through the late 1990s and early 2000s and his dominance was proven with a Brownlow Medal in 2003. Before Buckley even joined the AFL, he won a SANFL premiership, Grand Final best-on-ground medal and League best and fairest as a 20-year-old in 1992. A year later he won the AFL's Rising Star Award and, three years after that, the first of seven All-Australians. One of only four players in history to win the Norm Smith in a losing team.

Career: 280 AFL games for Brisbane Bears (1993) and Collingwood (1994-2007).
Highlights: Brownlow Medal (2003), AFLCA Champion Player (2003), 7 x All-Australian (1996-2001, 2003), 6 x best and fairests (1994, 1996, 1998-2000, 2003), AFL Rising Star (1993), Norm Smith Medal (2002), Collingwood Team of the Century.

Nathan Buckley's exploits at Collingwood rank him among the club's greatest players. Picture: AFL Photos



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