Bulldogs reveal Indigenous Team of the Century

Current players join all-time greats

SOUTH Fremantle's Indigenous and family ties were strengthened at the weekend following the naming of its Indigenous Team of the Century, a formidable line-up with several current AFL and WAFL players joining some of football's all-time greats.

Club representatives from the Collard, McGrath, Matera, Michael and Rioli families won geurnseys in the Bulldogs' 100-year team.

The team was announced at a well-attended function in Fremantle at the weekend with the Bulldogs faithful honouring the Indigenous contribution to South Fremantle that stretches back to the turn of the 20th Centrury.

Although the club's first known Aboriginal player -- Jimmy Melbourne in 1902 -- did not win a guernsey in the star-studded team, the line-up boasts some of football's finest.

Perhaps the team's most dynamic area is its centreline, containing Peter Matera, Maurice Rioli and Nicky Winmar, arguably the game's most highly skilled players to have ever laced up football boots.

The Bulldogs Indigenous team contains club legends, brothers, Brad and Cliff Collard, who were central to the Bulldogs' rise in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Continuing that family connection, several in the team are related, including brothers Ash and Toby McGrath, Sebastian, Maurice and Dean Rioli, Peter, Phil and Wally Matera, and legend Stephen Michael is joined in the team by his son, Clem, who played 43 AFL games for Fremantle.

The club's Northern Territory connection was highlighted with six players from the Top End named, including the mercurial Benny Vigona (pictured).

South Fremantle's Indigenous Team of the Century
Backline
Roger Hayden, Shannon Cox, Ashley McGrath
Half-back line Willie Roe, Basil Campbell, Toby McGrath
Centreline Peter Matera, Maurice Rioli, Nicky Winmar
Half-forward line: Benny Vigona, Stevan Jackson, Dean Rioli
Forward line: Jeff Farmer, Mark Williams, Phil Matera
Rucks: Stephen Michael, Brad Collard, Wally Matera
Interchange: Cliff Collard, Clem Michael, Sebastian Rioli, Bill Hayward
Coach: Mal Brown

The players
Roger Hayden
– back pocket: A fast, elusive and very skilful player both sides of his body, Hayden was AFL All-Australian in 2007 after a career-best season. Recruited from Gosnells Hayden had an immediate impact with the Bulldogs and in 2005 starred in the 10-goal premiership victory over Claremont. Games: South Fremantle 58, Fremantle 100. 2000 AFL rookie draft, pick 21

Shannon Cox – full-back: Outstanding talent for a big man. Can play equally as well deep in defence, midfield or in the forward line. Recruited from Kojonup and was taken by Collingwood in the 2005 rookie draft.

Ashley McGrath – back pocket: Established himself as a power small forward in the Brisbane Lions 2003 AFL premiership side. By 2008 he was trialled as a rebounding half-back flanker and back pocket. His pace, agility and adaptability makes him a coaches dream. 2000 AFL national draft, pick 13.

Willie Roe – half-back: The lean, mean football machine. A will o’ the wisp performer whose forays from the backline in tandem with Benny Vigona changed the face of football in the 1980s. Games: South Fremantle 81, East Perth 3, WA v SA 1988.

Basil Campbell – centre half-back: The most powerful, talented and speedy big man in the club’s post-war history. Campbell set the standard for courage and versatility for South Fremantle. His State of Origin debut is part of football folklore. Games: South Fremantle 102, 1980 premiership, 1977 State of Origin WA v Victoria.

Toby McGrath – half-back: A proven, big game player at WAFL level, McGrath is one of the Bulldogs’ most decorated players. At home in the backline or midfield he is an inspirational leader. Games: South Fremantle 150, WA 4. Current South Fremantle captain, 2008 WA captain, 2005 WAFL premiership, 2005 Sandover Medal, 2005 SImpson Medal, 2004 Hughes Medal (?).

Peter Matera – wing: Undoubtedly the best wingman ever to play for the West Coast Eagles and probably in the AFL. Twice runner-up in the Brownlow Medal, Matera was close to the complete footballer. His record speaks for itself. Games: 318 – West Coast Eagles 253; South Fremantle 60; WA 5. Career span: 1987-2002. 1992, 1994 AFL premiership player. 1992 Norm Smith Medal. West Coast Eagles Club Champion 1997. Runner-up in Brownlow Medal 1994, 1997. AFL All-Australian 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997. AFL Indigenous Team of the Century

Maurice Rioli – centre: ‘Mr Magic’ possessed the cleanest pair of hands, the most balanced body and close to the best tackle in football history. First of the great South Fremantle Indigenous legends to carve a niche in the VFL. Poetry in motion. Games: 299: South Fremantle 168, Richmond 118, WA 13. Career span: 1975-1990. 1980 WAFL premiership player. 1980, 1981, 1983 Simpson Medal. 1982 Norm Smith Medal. All-Australian 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988; Richmond fairest & best 1982, 1983. VFL Team of the Year 1983. WA Football Hall of Fame; Fremantle Legends Team 2007. AFL Indigenous Team of the Century

Nick Winmar – wing: Winmar completes a centreline of rare talent and football genius. The first Indigenous player to play 200 and 250 AFL games. His brave stance at Victoria Park against racism was a defining moment which changed the course of football history. Games 316: South Fremantle 58; St Kilda 230; Western Bulldogs 21; WA 7. Career span: 1983-1998. St Kilda Fairest & Best 1989, 1995; AFL All-Australian 1991, 1995; St Kilda Hall of Fame, AFL Indigenous Team of the Century.

Benny Vigona – half-forward: Some say he lived in the shadow of Maurice Rioli, some say he was more talented. Either way Benny Vigona himself cast a giant shadow. The first Northern Territorian to gain life membership at South Fremantle. Vigona was more skilful and graceful on both sides of his body than all of them. Games: 165 at South Fremantle, 4 for WA. Career span: 1977-1986. 1980 WAFL premiership.

Stevan Jackson – centre half-forward: The laconic big man who on his day was a match-winner. Had exceptional evasive skills for a big man and a perfect foil for the talent around him. Games: 41 at South Fremantle, 38 at West Coast, 21 at Richmond, 1 for WA.

Dean Rioli – half-forward: Son of ‘Sibby’, Dean Rioli was destined for greatness. Possessed the skill, balance, poise and awareness which is a Rioli trait. Games: 19 at South Fremantle, 100 at Essendon; 1997 WAFL premiership.

Jeff Farmer – forward pocket: The ‘Wiz’ was just that. One of the AFL’s most exciting players who kicked 9 goals in the second half against Collingwood in 2000 at the MCG. Still holds the record of most goals kicked in the AFL by an Indigenous player. Games: 10 (and counting) at South Fremantle, 118 at Melbourne, 131 at Fremantle; 2000 AFL All-Australian; All-time leading goal scorer for Indigenous footballers in the AFL, with 483.

Mark Williams – full-forward: Can play as a small or a tall. Capable of kicking a bag of goals on his day. Leading goal scorer for Hawthorn in 2008 AFL Grand Final victory, with 3. By the end of his career will challenge Farmer’s goal-kicking record. Games: 100 (and counting) with Hawthorn; 2008 AFL premiership; Pick 43 at 2000 AFL national draft.

Phil Matera – forward pocket: The five-time West Coast Eagles leading goal scorer, Matera had great closing speed and tackling skills which set the standard for small forwards for generations to follow. Games: 45 at South Fremantle, 179 at West Coast, 2 for WA; 2003 AFL All-Australian; 389 AFL career goals; VFL/AFL Italian Team of the Century.

Stephen Michael – ruck: One of football’s most highly decorated players. Won every award in football, except leading goal-kicker. Pound for pound, inch for inch the most influential player in the history of the club. Games: 260 at South Fremantle 243, 17 for WA; 1980 WAFL premiership; 1980, 1981 Sandover Medal; 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1983 South Fremantle Fairest & Best; 1983 Simpson Medal; 1983 Tassie Medal; 1983 All-Australian captain; AFL Hall of Fame; WAIS Hall of Champions; Fremantle Football Hall of Legends; Fremantle Sporting Wall of Fame; WA Football Hall of Fame; Fremantle Legends Team 2007; AFL Indigenous Team of the Century.

Brad Collard – ruck-rover: Rarely put in a bad game. Set the standard for courage, commitment and leadership during his 202-game career for the Bulldogs. Games: 202 at South Fremantle, 1 for WA; 1991 Hughes Medal; South Fremantle captain.

Wally Matera – rover: The diminutive ‘flea’ was everyone’s favourite player who excelled at the bottom of the packs. The eldest of the three Matera brothers, his amazing career proved many football pundits wrong. Games: 142 at South Fremantle, 32 at Fitzroy, 24 at West Coast, 2 for WA; 1985, 1992, 1993 Hughes Medal.

Cliff Collard – interchange: When the going got tough, Cliff Collard stepped into top gear. An uncompromising backman who stopped many top forwards in their tracks and delivered the ball with precision. Games: 172 at South Fremantle, 1 for WA. Career span: 1986-1994; 1990 Hughes Medal.

Clem Michael – interchange: Son of Stephen Michael, Clem made his own mark as a footballer both at AFL and WAFL level before struck down by injury. His ratio of winning games with the Dockers is the best in the club’s history. Games: 26 at South Fremantle, 43 at Fremantle; 1997, 1999 WAFL premiership: Pick 21 at 1997 AFL national draft.

Sebastian Rioli – interchange: Paved the way for Tiwi Islanders and Noongars to make their mark in football by being the trail-blazer, opening the floodgates for Indigenous participation at WAFL level from 1972. He was a pocket dynamo whose ball-handling and foot-passing skills were legendary. Games: 51 for South Fremantle. Career span: 1972-1976.

Bill Hayward – interchange: Written up in South’s history books as a ruckman of outstanding skill and an undoubted star. Described by the great Frank Jenkins as one of the best players of his era, Hayward was paid the ultimate compliment 40 years after his retirement by being compared with the great Stephen Michael. One of 3 Hayward brothers (with Eric and Mayley) to have played with South Fremantle . Games: 26 for South Fremantle. Career span: 1936-1937.

Malcolm Brown – coach.

* View the line-up in the Photo Gallery, linked above.

DARREN MONCRIEFF
Darren@AboriginalFootball.com.au
Tuesday, July 7, 2009



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