The team of the golden era

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 04 Mei 2013 | 19.55

THE best Tasmanian-born Aussie Rules teams from each decade since World War II – that's the challenge the Mercury set its experts and it illustrates the tremendous depth of talent the state has produced in the past 60 years.

Tassie has clearly punched above its weight.

We have called on veteran sports journalist and analyst GEOFF POULTER – a life-long fierce supporter and student of Tasmanian football and footballers – to compile the first four teams covering the decades from the start of the 1950s to the end of the 1980s.

Hobart-born Poulter, 65, worked for the Mercury for six years from 1967 before moving to Melbourne where he has spent the past 40 in the sports media.

Poulter was an inaugural Tasmanian Hall Of Fame inductee in 2005 and a Tasmanian Team Of The Century selector.

He is a life member and a past presi¬dent of the Australian Football Media Association.

He was inducted into the MCG media Hall Of Fame in 2000.

Our stringent must-be-born-here stipulation ruled out the likes of Stuart Spencer, Jim Ross, Bob Withers, Les McClements, Gordon Bowman, John Devine, Bill Williams, Graeme Wilkinson, Mal Pascoe, Max McMahon, Des James and Jim Leitch – all likely selections.

And plenty of others.

We did claim Mick Conlan, son of the great Neil, who left here at age nine when his father took on a Canberra coaching post.

But we ignored Garry Lyon and David Neitz, born here while their dads had brief NWFU stints, Bob Murray and others with similar faint claims.

We also ruled out Kevin Symons who was born here but played for the combined VFA interstate teams before returning.


Check out Poulter's selections and reasons below and in the graphic above.
Did he get it right or wrong? Who did he miss? Who shouldn't be there?
Join the debate below.

THE 1950s were truly the glory days of Tasmanian football. This was still well before the great exodus of players to Victoria.

To further pin-point the golden era you can trim it to, say, 1956-61, inclusive. After that the player traffic across Bass Strait began to quicken.

Subsequently players left earlier in their careers, rather than give local clubs three or four seasons. Coach¬es from interstate were still making a substantial contribution to Tassie footy's growth. But, eventually, this impact also declined.

Growing up in the '50s we were unaware of the magni¬tude of VFL football. Sure it was a better standard. We knew little else. Most local stars didn't go over there. There wasn't the big money, the same attraction. VFL re¬plays hadn't yet lobbed. Local lads often referred to the quiet life. Mates, the pub, family, fish¬ing or even hot cars. Mel-bourne was light years away.

In lots of ways this was a serene time in life. You played footy and cricket at school. Little else. Before school, recess, lunch time, after school it was kick-to-kick. All shapes, sizes and ages competed. All worked out how to get a touch.

And even the stout, timid or slow kids knew how to kick. Place ball carefully on foot, head over, follow through. Strike cleanly with those rounded-toed Jenkins and it rolled sweetly off the boot. Steady, enough nostal¬gia old-timer.

Our '50s stars had a solid grounding with few distrac¬tions. So much so that Tassie beat WA and SA at the 1958 carnival and SA and the VFA in 1956. This 1950s combined team could have won VFL premierships in that de¬cade. It reeks of class.

The obvious names stand out. I'll concentrate on some of the non-automatic selec-tions of which some readers may not be totally convinced. All-Australians in this 22 were non-negotiable inclu¬sions.

For the AFL's 150-year publication I listed the 10 best Tasmanians not to go to the VFL. Nine are in this '50s team – Gale, Hayes, Strange, Conlan, Webb, Long, Leedham, Garwood, Griffiths. All should have been in the 2004 Tasmanian Team Of The Century. Some¬how Gale, Hayes, Strange, Webb, Long, and Griffiths missed the final 25. Bad call!

The other player on that list of 10 was Horrie Gor¬ringe. Gordon Coventry said Gorringe was the best player from all states at the 1924 Hobart Carnival. A VFL club offered the Huon rover an orchard for the fruits of his labour. Still he stayed home.

Darrel Baldock told me the clever Webb and powerful Hayes were a strong influ¬ence on him growing up on the North-West Coast. Strange was an absolute gun. Tall, strapping, smooth – a better version of look-alike Collingwood 1990 premier¬ship centre half-back Michael Christian. Raking kick, long arms, polished.

Griffiths was enigmatic. He kicked 10 goals for the TFL. I saw him at Pontville in a combined country league game when he was about 34 and weary. He still kicked a 70-yard match-winning goal to the road-to-Hobart end. And no wind!

Gale was an All-Australian back pocket in 1958. A versatile defender, Gale was taller than Lerrel Sharp, Collingwood's 1953 premier¬ship back pocket, whom I have placed there with Gale at half-back. When Sharp returned in 1960 to join North Launceston under its new coach "Cannonball" Bob Withers, he was still the best player in the NTFA that year. He was a star.

Sharp had undefinable qualities. A play-reader and hard, he could find a way to beat a taller, faster, stronger or younger opponent. A foot¬baller's footballer.

Leedham – the best Tasma¬nian not to play VFL – will be testy he's not named at centre half-forward. But a close footy friend of Baldock told me it was folly to ever pick Doc on a flank where he was restricted, crowded and unsuited. At CHF he moved both ways, controlled the tempo. And his left side was as strong as most others' right.

Full-forward was a difficult choice. George Goninon was a premiership full-forward with Geelong as Clarke was at Melbourne. Goninon was a straight kick and played in a top side. Clarke was more versatile, a better high mark and more Tas-oriented. He kicked six goals for Tassie (Leedham four) in a narrow loss to Victoria at North Hobart mid-1957.

My most graphic memory of Clarke was as a kid at the back of the main North Ho¬bart stand in 1956. You could barely see the top of players' heads in the goal square. Every now and then Clarke would rise high to take a spectacular mark, his frame hovering above a pack.

Moore played 24 times for his state in most positions. For this team his best fit is half-back. Conlan (record 26 state games) played for Tassie at 17 and was tough and dynamic. Hodgson was a racehorse on the wing and Fitzallen, on the other side, was a beautiful mover. Neat, skilled, rarely beaten.

The bench bristles with class. Berkeley Cox was clos¬est of those to miss out. Jack Dyer said Stokes was the best centreman he'd seen. Chick was All-Australian with Victoria at the 1956 Car¬nival. Johnson was full-back in Melbourne's '59 premier¬ship side.

The rest of the 22? Howell was just beginning a stellar career. All-Australian Long was a gifted half-forward; and Cashion and Leo deco¬rated rovers. All-Australian Garwood (19 state games) was a wonderful player. As a boy, Peter Hudson re¬members peering through a window overlooking the Boyer Oval seeing Garwood's thumping drop kicks at training. And Baldock was, well, pure poetry in motion.

Rough gets the nod in the ruck, just ahead of the likes of Terry Shadbolt, Brian Yost, Rex Geard and several others. Victorian Jim Ross was the state's best ruck of the 1950's, probably of all time, but ineligible. Tassie struggled to produce talented tall ruckmen but its shorter types more than atoned.

To illustrate the tremen¬dous depth of the 1950s team, I have left out names that roll off the tongue – Atkins, Eaton, Marquis, Hill, A Webb, Heathcote, Linger, Apted, Golding, Martin, Delanty, Parremore, Parsons, Moir, Reid et al. I have noted previ¬ously that Spencer, McClements, Wil¬liams, Symons and Pascoe were among the ineligible.

This is all purely opinion. Many of you readers may disagree. That's to be expected. I ask you to try to remember these players at their best and don't judge them from their days as fading stars. If so, you might look at the team in a different perspective. I did. Bravo these greats of the 1950s!


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