All Gippsland AFL Grand Final Team

It wasn't to be for GWS ruckman and Bunyip champion Shane Mumford in Saturday's AFL Grand Final, but where does the big mummy fit in an All-Gippsland AFL Grand Final team?

Our region has been well-represented on the game's biggest stage over the past two decades, so we picked a team based on appearances in the 21 deciders since the beginning of the AFL era in 1990. 

These stories feature glory and heartache in equal measure in a fitting reflection of the drama that intrinsically underpins the ultimate occasion in the career of any footballer lucky enough to get there.

This is not meant to be a definitive list, more an opportunity to celebrate the players lucky enough to get there, so let us know who we've missed.

Names that have been put forward to consideration:

Michael Voss (born in Traralgon, raised in Orbost)
Tom Alvin (Bairnsdale)
Troy Luff (raised in Traralgon)
Adam Simpson (spent five years in Sale as a teenager)

 

Back Pocket: Gary Ayres (Warragul)

Not a bad first name on the lineup. If this was an all time VFL/AFL team, 'Conan' would just about be captain. Most of Ayres' best work - four of five premierships (1983, 1986, 1988, 1989) and two Norm Smith Medals (1986, 1988) - was done pre-AFL era but he still found time to squeeze in one last grand final, contributing 20 disposals and three tackles in a typically hard-nosed display in defence for the Hawks. Ayres went on to coach Geelong to the 1995 grand final but unfortunately he was unable to continue his on-field success to the coaching box with the Cats once again falling short. A true legend of the game.

VFL/AFL Games: 269 (1978-1993)

AFL Club(s): Hawthorn

AFL Grand Finals: 1 (1991)

AFL Premierships: 1

Last game in Gippsland: TBC

 

Full Back: Andrew Dunkley (Devon)

One of the finest one-on-one defenders of a generation that featured some of the game’s most illustrious forwards, Dunkley’s only grand final experience was pretty unkind to him. Four days after the preliminary final, Dunkley was reported via video evidence for striking Bombers star James Hird and while the Swans managed to delay the hearing via the high court – amid high controversy – it was hardly the ideal preparation. Dunkley then had the unenviable task of shackling one of the greatest players in AFL history in Wayne Carey, who had 22 disposals, nine marks and one goal from four scoring shots to lead the Kangaroos to victory.  

AFL Games: 217 (1992-2002)

AFL Club(s): Sydney

Grand Finals: 1 (1996)

Premierships: 0

Last game in Gippsland: 2003 (Leongatha)

 

Back Pocket: Sean Dempster (Mallacoota)

Debuted in 2005 and played in a premiership the same year, having landed at Sydney at the perfect time. It was the first of five grand final appearances and the only one to end in a win, going on to fall short with the Swans in 2006 then three times with St Kilda in 2009-10. A late call-up to replace fellow Gippslander Robert Eddy in 2009, Dempster kicked a rare goal, but only averaged seven disposals, four marks and four tackles in his five games on the big stage. Though, he did manage to curb the influence of Magpies dynamo Alan Didak twice in 2010.

AFL Games: 222 (2003-16)

AFL Club(s): Sydney, St Kilda

Grand Finals: 5 (2005, 2006 2009, 2010, 2010 replay)

Premierships: 1 (2005)

Last game in Gippsland: TBC (Orbost Snowy Rovers)

 

Half Back Flank: David Wojcinski (Heyfield)

With speed to burn and a booming right boot, 'Wojo' was a fan favourite among the Geelong faithful. He was also something of a good luck charm for the Cats on the big stage, finishing on the winning side in all three of his grand final appearances, while missing out on selection for the 2008 defeat to Hawthorn. With an average of 14 disposals, five marks and five tackles – nine in 2009 alone – along with a few inside-50s and rebound-50s from his three grand finals, Wojcinski was a solid contributor to Geelong’s golden era.

AFL Games: 203 (1999-2012)

AFL Club(s): Geelong

Grand Finals: 3 (2007, 2009, 2011)

Premierships: 3

Last game in Gippsland: 2019 (Heyfield)

 

Centre Half Back: Mark Stevens (Heyfield)

After struggling to break into a brilliant North Melbourne team jam-packed with key position players including Wayne Carey, Mick Martyn, Justin Longmire, Matthew Capuano and Corey McKernan, Stevens made the move to South Australia to join reigning premier Adelaide for the 1998 season. It proved an inspired decision, as the Heyfield champion played an important role in the Crows retaining their crown. Stevens played as a tall defender and had 11 disposals and hauled in six marks to help thwart his former club and earn a premiership medal. 

AFL Games: 122 (1994-2005)

AFL Club(s): North Melbourne Adelaide

Grand Finals: 1 (1998)

Premierships: 1

Last game in Gippsland: 2018 (Heyfield)

 

Half Back Flank: Jason Gram (Sale)

A dynamic running defender, Gram defied cold and wet conditions to gather 31 possessions and be among St Kilda's best in the 2009 grand final against Geelong. Runner up in the Norm Smith Medal vote on countback, were it not for match-winner Paul Chapman's decisive final quarter goal, Gram may now be remembered as a Norm Smith medallist and premiership hero. An enigmatic talent, Gram was unable to have the same impact in either the drawn 2010 decider or the subsequent replay.

AFL Games: 156 (2002-12)

AFL Club(s): Brisbane, St Kilda

Grand Finals: 3 (2009, 2010, 2010 replay)

Premierships: 0

Last game in Gippsland: 2015 (Sale)

 

Wing: Josh Dunkley (Yarram)

Followed in the footsteps of, and then one-upped, his father Andrew when he was part of the Western Bulldogs' remarkable journey and triumph in 2016. Could easily have found himself headed to Sydney as a father-son selection but the Swans opted not to match the Dogs' draft bid and it could hardly have worked out any better for the Yarram-raised young gun. Dunkley quickly established his place in an exuberant Bulldogs team through his ability to find the footy, clean disposal and prowess overhead, and at just 19 years he was the youngest member of the drought-breaking premiership side.

AFL Games: 66 (1999-present)

AFL Club(s): Western Bulldogs

Grand Finals: 1 (2016)

Premierships: 1

Last game in Gippsland: 2014 (Sale)

 

Centre: Brendon Goddard (Glengarry) 

The source of arguably the greatest grand final moment on this list, with his stunning hanger and subsequent set shot goal in the dying moments of the 2010 grand final almost dragging St Kilda across the line. Could easily be the proud owner of a Premiership Medal, Norm Smith Medal and Saints immortality but, alas, the dramatic draw was bookended with heart-breaking defeats in the 2009 decider and 2010 replay. Having run out the 2009 decider with a broken nose and fractured collarbone, Goddard certainly couldn’t be accused of not giving it his all in pursuit of a flag.

AFL Games: 334 (2003-2018)

AFL Club(s): St Kilda, Essendon

Grand Finals: 3 (2009, 2010, 2010 replay)

Premierships: 0

Last game in Gippsland: 2000 (Traralgon)

 

Wing: Xavier Ellis (Lake Tyers)

Grand final day proved a mixed bag for Ellis, who experienced the highs and lows in his three appearances. In 2008, Ellis produced arguably the best performance of his career to that point, registering 28 disposals, 14 marks and a goal as the Hawks stunned the all-conquering Cats by 26 points. The 2012 decider against the Swans started well enough, with ‘X-Man’ kicking the opening goal of the game, before succumbing to a calf injury and being substituted midway through the third quarter, with the Hawks going on to fall short by 10 points. His third and final appearance also ended in defeat, this time for West Coast against his old side in 2015.

AFL Games: 120 (2006-2016) 

AFL Club(s): Hawthorn, West Coast

Grand Finals: 3 (2008, 2012, 2015) 

Premierships: 1 (2008)

Last game in Gippsland: TBC

 

Half Forward Flank: Paul Dear (Churchill)

Joined Hawthorn midway through one of the most dominant eras of any club in VFL/AFL history, Dear played in two grand finals as the Hawks contested eight deciders in nine years for five flags. After defeat alongside elder brother Greg in 1987, Dear was overlooked in ‘88 and ’89 before making the most of his opportunity in 1991. Dear turned the game in his side’s favour with a brilliant performance across half-forward, including two goals while creating several others, and he was duly awarded the Norm Smith Medal as best on ground in the 53-point win. The only way it would have been sweeter was if his brother hadn’t missed the entire season through injury.

VFL/AFL Games: 123 (1987-1996)

AFL Club(s): Hawthorn

Grand Finals: 2 (1987, 1991)

Premierships: 1 (1991)

Last game in Gippsland: TBC

 

Centre Half Forward: Jarryd Roughead (Leongatha)

The most decorated player on this list, ‘Roughy’ is one of only eight or so players to win four or more flags in the AFL era – a record that also puts him in elite company in the history of the sport. The big forward won his first flag in 2008 and was part of the Hawks’ three-peat from 2013-15, with the 2012 defeat to Sydney the only blemish on his extraordinary CV. Roughead always had his say on the big stage, averaging 16 possessions, 4.5 marks and two goals in his five appearances, including 26 disposals and nine marks in 2015 and a game-high five goals in 2014.

AFL Games: 283 (2005-2019)

AFL Club(s): Hawthorn

Grand Finals: 5 (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

Premierships: 4 (2008, 2013, 2014, 2015)

Last game in Gippsland: 2004 (Leongatha)

 

 Half Forward Flank: Clay Smith (Lucknow)

Only managed 55 matches in seven injury-ravaged seasons at AFL level but one of those was a grand final that earned him a premiership medal. After a promising start to his career, Smith ruptured his ACL three times in as many years between 2013-15, but managed to return midway through season 2016 and played a vital role in the Bulldogs’ remarkable finals series in which they reached the grand final from seventh place. Smith’s performance typified his and his team’s tenacious spirit, with 13 disposals, a team-best 11 tackles, three clearances and one goal to complete one of the great stories within one of the more memorable chapters of AFL history.

AFL Games: 55 (2012-2017)

AFL Club(s): Western Bulldogs

Grand Finals: 1 (2016)

Premierships: 1 (2016)

Last game in Gippsland: 2010 (Maffra)

 

Forward Pocket: Leigh Brown (Heyfield)

A journeyman that eventually delivered the goods as the ultimate utility at Collingwood, taking on roles in defence, attack and as a backup ruckman. Seldom the star but rarely beaten, often-maligned but routinely underrated, his return of one draw, one defeat and one win from three grand final appearances fits the narrative perfectly. Averaged a touch over 12 disposals, three marks, five tackles and seven hitouts from his three appearances and was among the Magpies’ best in the defeat to the Cats in 2011.

AFL Games: 246 (2000-2011)

AFL Club(s): Fremantle, North Melbourne, Collingwood

Grand Finals: 3 (2010, 2010 replay, 2011)

Premierships: 1 (2010)

Last game in Gippsland: 2018 (Heyfield)

 

Full Forward: Gary Ablett (Drouin)

In the eyes of many, the greatest to ever play the game and he hails from Drouin. If there has been a better player, there surely hasn't been one greater than 'God' to have suffered as much grand final heartache. Graced the big stage three times in the AFL era (four in total if you include the epic 1989 decider) only to be thwarted on each occasion. Returned from a short-lived retirement in 1991 to lead the Cats to three grand finals in the next four years but was never able to repeat his nine-goal Norm Smith Medal performance of '89, finishing with three goals from 17 disposals in '92, before managing a combined one goal and five behinds from 16 disposals in '94-95 as West Coast (twice) and Carlton joined Hawthorn in denying Ablett Sr the team achievement his individual brilliance deserved.

VFL/AFL games: 248

AFL club(s): Geelong, Hawthorn

AFL Grand Finals: 3 (1992, 1994, 1995)

Premierships: 0

Last game in Gippsland: 1981 (Drouin) (TBC)

 

Forward Pocket: Jarryd Blair (Wonthaggi)

Burst onto the scene in 2010, breaking into the side midway through his rookie campaign with his ferocious tackling, forward pressure and eye for goal ensuring he kept his spot during Collingwood's run to the flag. Played his part in the draw with five tackles, 10 disposals and one goal one and while he was rarely sighted in the replay or the 2011 defeat to the Cats, Blair had already gained his membership to the Pies’ premiership club.

AFL Games: 157 (2010-2018)

AFL Club(s): Collingwood

Grand Finals: 3 (2010, 2010 replay, 2011)

Premierships: 1 (2010)

Last game in Gippsland: 2008 (Wonthaggi Power)

 

Ruck: Shane Mumford (Bunyip)

A journeyman that could well have played in grand finals for three separate clubs, Mumford got his hands on a premiership medal with Sydney in 2012. While he only managed six disposals, 14 hitouts and three tackles on the day before being substituted out of the game for Luke Parker in the final term, the big mummy had combined well with backup ruckman Mike Pike to limit the impact of Hawks duo David Hale and fellow Gippslander Jarryd Roughead. Mumford then came out of retirement in 2019 to play in GWS’ maiden grand final but this time finished on the losing side and struggled as the lone ruckman against Richmond pair Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo.

AFL Games: 192 (2008-present)

AFL Club(s): Geelong, Sydney, GWS

Grand Finals: 2 (2012, 2019)

Premierships: 1 (2012)

Last game in Gippsland: 2007 (Bunyip)

 

Rover: Scott Pendlebury (Sale)

The Rolls Royce of this side. Made a decent contribution in the drawn decider in 2010 with 19 disposals, six tackles, three inside-50s and a clearance before amassing 29 disposals, seven marks and 11 tackles to win the Norm Smith Medal and lead the Magpies to victory in the replay the following week. ‘Pendles’ was everywhere in the 2011 defeat to Geelong as well with a game-high 33 disposals, seven tackles, four inside-50s, four rebound-50s and an outrageous 10 clearances. It was tougher going on his return to the big stage in 2018 when he was held to 20 disposals, three tackles and five clearances in Collingwood’s heartbreaking five-point loss to West Coast. 

AFL Games: 301 (2006-present)

AFL Club(s): Collingwood

Grand Finals: 4 (2010, 2010 replay, 2011, 2018)

Premierships: 1 (2010)

Last game in Gippsland: 2005 (Sale)

 

Ruck rover: Dale Thomas (Drouin)

A man who thrived in the spotlight, Thomas certainly shone on centre stage. Produced two of his best performances in the 2010 grand final and grand final replay and probably would have won the Norm Smith had it been awarded for the standout player over the two games. Had 26 touches and laid eight tackles in the draw and picked up 27 possessions – including 10 contested – in the replay, with a goal in each. Followed it up with 31 disposals in the defeat to Geelong in 2011 to cement his reputation as a big-game performer, despite the result.

AFL Games: 258 (2006-2019)

AFL Club(s): Collingwood, Carlton

Grand Finals: 3 (2010, 2010 replay, 2011)

Premierships: 1 (2010)

Last game in Gippsland: TBC

 

Interchange: Trent West (Wonthaggi)

With the likes of Brad Ottens, Steven King, Mark Blake and fellow Gippslanders Shane Mumford and Nathan Vardy for competition in the ruck at various stages, it took West six years on Geelong’s list to play 20 AFL games. But game 20 was one to remember as ‘Westy' partnered Ottens to great success in the 2011 grand final against Collingwood. The Wonthaggi-raised tall had 25 hitouts and chipped in around the ground with six disposals, two marks, two tackles and two inside-50s to help the Cats win a third flag in five years.

AFL Games: 70 (2006-2016)

AFL Club(s): Geelong, Brisbane Lions

Grand Finals: 1 (2011)

Premierships: 1 (2011)

Last game in Gippsland: TBC

 

Interchange: Tom Papley (Bunyip)

Taken at pick 14 of the rookie draft, Papley immediately set about confirming Sydney’s gamble was actually typically shrewd recruiting. After debuting in round one, the goal-sneak played 16 of 23 games during the home and away season and kicked nine goals in his first three finals matches, as the Swans finished on top of the ladder and qualified for a third grand final in five seasons. Papley was solid enough on the big stage, contributing 15 disposals, five tackles and three inside-50s in his small forward role, but the Swans fell short as the Western Bulldogs rode a tidal wave of momentum to a fairy-tale flag. 

AFL Games: 82 (2016-present)

AFL Club(s): Sydney

Grand Finals: 1 (2016)

Premierships: 0

Last game in Gippsland: 2014 (Bunyip)

 

Interchange: Brent Macaffer (San Remo)

A career defined by injuries but Macaffer made the most of the opportunities his body allowed him to play a key role in Collingwood's drought-breaking flag in 2010. Reinvented himself as an effective tagger later in his career, but made his name initially as a handy forward and his three goals from 25 disposals across the two grand finals was a healthy contribution.

AFL Games: 77 (2009-2016)

AFL Club(s): Collingwood

Grand Finals: 2 (2010, 2010 replay)

Premierships: 1 (2010)

Last game in Gippsland: 2017 (Kilcunda Bass)

 

Interchange: Robert Eddy (Stony Creek)

After being overlooked in favour of fellow Gippslander Sean Dempster's premiership experience in 2009, Eddy got his chance the following year. A combined 15 disposals and five tackles from the two grand finals represented a pretty lean return but his rundown tackle and resulting set shot which struck the post proved a handy point in the draw. An arm injury sustained in a first quarter clash with Collingwood skipper Nick Maxwell limited his output in the replay, which ultimately proved his last game at AFL level.

AFL Games: 33 (2008-2010)

AFL Club(s): St Kilda

Grand Finals: 2 (2010, 2010 replay)

Premierships: 0

Last game in Gippsland: TBC

 

Interchange: Nathan Vardy (Yarram)

After six injury-plagued years at Geelong, including a hip problem that cost him a spot in the 2011 grand final side, Vardy moved West and got his shot at glory. Ironically, an untimely injury opened a door this time, with Nic Naitanui’s ACL re-rupture paving the way for Vardy’s return to the side. The Yarram giant worked in tandem with primary ruck Scott Lycett to combat Magpies star Brodie Grundy, who dominated the hitout count with 49 to West Coast’s combined 29, but Vardy matched or beat him in every other key stat, finishing with 14 disposals, four marks, six tackles, four clearances and capped the performance with a crucial final term goal.

AFL Games: 68 (2011-present)

AFL Club(s): Geelong, West Coast

Grand Finals: 1 (2018)

Premierships: 1 (2018)

Last game in Gippsland: 2008 (DWWWW)

 

Interchange: Stuart Anderson (Sale)

Didn't have a big say on proceedings in the 1996 grand final but he didn't need to and was fortunate to be there at all, having suffered a hamstring strain in the qualifying final against Geelong. Anderson missed the preliminary final win against Brisbane but three weeks proved long enough for him to sufficiently recover to be available for selection for the centenary grand final. Anderson finished the day with five possessions, one mark, one tackle and, most importantly, one premiership medal.

AFL Games: 70 (1994-98)

AFL Club(s): North Melbourne, Fremantle

Grand Finals: 1 (1996)

Premierships: 1 (1996)

Last game in Gippsland: 2018 (Sale)

 

Interchange: Andrew McQualter (Traralgon)

The numbers weren't huge, but that was never McQualter's way. Having been delisted and worked his way back via the rookie list, 'Mini' registered 14 disposals and seven tackles in the 2009 grand final defeat to Geelong, then had more tackles (10) than touches (7) in the 2010 draw, but his toughness around the contest was important on both occasions. Like many of his teammates, McQualter found the going tough in the 2010 replay, but three grand finals from 94 games represents a solid achievement, regardless of the lack of silverware.

AFL Games: 94 (2005-2012)

AFL Club(s): St Kilda, Gold Coast

Grand Finals: 3 (2010, 2010 replay, 2011)

Premierships: 0

Last game in Gippsland: 2015 (Rosedale)

 

Interchange: Peter Somerville (Moe)

 

Somerville's stat lines suggest he was an old-fashioned tap ruckman but the Moe mountain was highly-regarded for his high flying marks and strong hands throughout his VFL/AFL career. Mixed success on the big stage, serving as a capable backup to Bombers champ Paul Salmon in the defeat to Collingwood in 1990 and the victory over Carlton in 1993. Had three disposals, two marks, five hitouts and a goal the first time around before tallying six disposals, two marks, three tackles and five hitouts on his way to securing a premiership medal at the second attempt.

VFL/AFL Games: 160 (1988-99)

AFL Club(s): Essendon

Grand Finals: 2 (1990, 1993)

Premierships: 1 (1993)

Last game in Gippsland: TBC

 

Interchange: Luke Ablett

Not the first player you think of when you hear the name 'Ablett' but Luke managed what his illustrious uncle Gary couldn't and played in a flag. A bull of a midfielder who was part of a power-packed Sydney engine room that barged its way into back-to-back grand finals in the mid-2000s, Ablett was never a huge acumulator but regularly played his role. Only managed a combined eight disposals, three marks and five tackles across the 2005 win and 06 defeat - including a famous miscued kick across goal to gift West Coast star Ben Cousins a goal in the early stages of the final quarter of the 2005 decider - were far from his best returns, but being part of Sydney/South Melbourne's first VFL/AFL flag in 72 years more than made up for it.

AFL Games: 133 (2001-08)

AFL Club(s): Sydney

Grand Finals: 2 (2005, 2006)

Premierships: 1 (2005)

Last game in Gippsland: 2000 (Drouin)

 

Umpire: Matt Stevic (Leongatha)

AFL Games: 367

Grand Finals: Seven (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

 

 

*Please note:

  • Greg Dear played in four grand finals (for three premierships) for Hawthorn, but none after 1989, having missed the 1991 season with injury
  • Tyson Goldsack played in two grand finals (2010 replay and 2018) but while he was drafted from Gippsland Power, he played his grassroots football for Pakenham and not in the Gippsland region
  • This team originally somehow overlooked Gary Ablett Sr - fair to say his inclusion is well deserved and the appropriate amendments have been made!



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