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Sunday Age

The Ten

Date: 02/05/2004
Words: 1363
Source: SAG
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Sport
Page: 31
Most auspicious football debuts

1. John Coleman

Essendon, round 1, 1949

Much was expected from Coleman after he had kicked 160 goals for Hastings, his hometown club on the Mornington Peninsula, in 1948. But no one expected the onslaught unleashed by the Melbourne University commerce student in his first game for Essendon. Coleman, playing on another debutant, Hawthorn's Fred Wain, wobbled through a goal in the opening minute and had five by quarter-time. During the next three quarters, he kicked two, one and four goals, seeing off three opponents, to finish with 12 for the match.

2. Carl Ditterich

St Kilda, round 1, 1963

Since the beginning of league football in 1897, ruckmen had been considered football's cumbersome generals, planting their feet and swatting the ball to swifter teammates. Then along came Carl Ditterich. At 17 years of age, his blond hair bouncing in the sun, Ditterich exploded the myth of the immobile big man by leaping all over his Melbourne opponents and even hurtling along the wing. His athleticism lit up the Junction Oval and provided a neat counterpoint to veteran ruckman Alan Morrow, who took 22 marks. In the last quarter, Ditterich, who was recruited from East Brighton, combined with fellow debutants Ian Stewart and Bob Murray to set up a goal that gave St Kilda the lead and pointed the way of the future.

3. Len Thompson

Collingwood, preliminary final, 1965

At 200 centimetres and just as athletic as Ditterich, if not quite as robust, the arrival of Thompson served to confirm the age of the mobile man. Unlike Ditterich's opening-round gambit, however, he made his debut at the MCG in the heat of the finals. In the match in which Duncan Wright's career was ended by Collingwood after he felled Essendon opponent John Somerville behind play, Thompson, who was recruited from North Reservoir, showed remarkable cool to finish among the Pies' best players.

4. Dermott Brereton

Hawthorn, first semi-final, 1982

Another one to thrive on debut in the pressure of finals football, Hawthorn's showy recruit from Frankston Rovers still had red hair when he jogged on to the MCG for this match against North Melbourne. Having just turned 18, Brereton kicked five goals, including a doozy with a set shot from the boundary line, that ignited the Hawks to victory. If any debut set the pattern of a career, this was it.

5. Kevin Sheedy

Richmond, round 3, 1967

Speaking of setting the pattern for a career, Sheedy's decision to leave Prahran without a clearance and play for Richmond revealed an iconoclastic streak that would come to serve him well. Sheedy was forced to wait a couple of games before justifying his controversial move when he made his debut in the Tigers' victory over Fitzroy at the MCG. If the 19-year-old had failed to make the grade at league level, he would have been unable to play anywhere. He was banned from all other competitions in Australia.

6. Adrian McAdam

North Melbourne, round 5, 1993

McAdam is one player whose brilliant debut failed to set the tone for a career. Recruited from South Alice Springs after being selected at No.98 in the 1992 national draft, he sauntered on to the MCG for his debut match against Richmond and kicked seven goals. In the next game, he took 14 marks and kicked 10.6 against Sydney. In his third match, against Footscray, he kicked six, and all the stories about him being able to land a footy in a bin from several ovals away appeared to be true. At the end of the season, his tally was 68 goals from 17 games. After 36 games, and an abortive stint at Collingwood, his career ended.

7. Mark Dwyer

Fitzroy, round 15, 1986

Here's another player who failed to build on a skyscraper platform. Dwyer met his Fitzroy teammates on the Thursday night before his debut match against Carlton at Waverley Park. A 21-year-old with an open grin and a mop of hair, he wore a long-sleeved No.58 guernsey. After creating unexpected mayhem, his opponent, Jim Buckley, whacked him. The blow had no effect. Dwyer continued churning up and down his wing to score three Brownlow Medal votes and lead the Roys to victory. A few weeks later, during a split round, he stayed home and played a blinder for Koroit.

8. Keith Bromage

Collingwood, round 17, 1953

At 15 years and 297 days, Bromage became the youngest player to make his senior debut when he took the field for Collingwood against Richmond at Punt Road Oval. He started at half-forward and kicked two goals in the Magpies' win. After 28 games, aged 20, Bromage moved on to Fitzroy. The previous record-holder, Wels Eicke, was aged 15 years and 315 days when he made his debut for St Kilda in 1909. Tim Watson's age was 15 years and 305 days when he played against Richmond champion Francis Bourke during his debut at Waverley Park in 1977.

9. Greg Williams

Geelong, round 1, 1984

After being rejected by Carlton and returning home to Bendigo, where he won two competition medals with Golden Square, Williams finally overcame doubts about his pace to make his league debut with Geelong in this match against Fitzroy at Kardinia Park. He was 20. Alongside him on one wing was Gary Ablett, who, after six games with Hawthorn, was also playing his first game for the Cats. On the other wing was Michael Turner. Between them, the trio picked up 90 disposals. The match was significant not so much for the performance of Williams, who would go on to a stellar career, as it was for the coruscating performance of the Geelong centre line. No wonder the Cats kicked 11 goals in the third quarter.

10. Andrew Walker

Carlton, round 5, 2004

Not one to hand out undue praise to his players, Denis Pagan delivered a sizeable compliment last week when he said Walker's debut against West Coast at Optus Oval was the finest he could remember. The 17-year-old wingman from Echuca leapt tall buildings and moved faster than a locomotive on his way to 26 possessions. It was a super performance, sparking huge interest throughout football circles. Such interest was to be expected. There's nothing so exciting as a young player who excels at league level despite giving the appearance of having a kick in the yard with friends. In these days of regimented football, it's especially welcome.


About last week Ten Anzac links to Victorian football

I would like to add Bruce Sloss (Essendon 1907-8, 3 games, 0 goals; South Melbourne 1910-1914; 81 games; 44 goals) to South Melbourne's Anzac Honour Roll.

An elegant centreman, Sloss was named "Champion Player of the Colony" in 1911. In my view, this award was the precursor of the Brownlow Medal. In 1914, Sloss was best afield in the grand final, his last match.

In 1916 he captained one of the teams of Australian soldiers in a famous exhibition match in London. Shortly after, he was killed in action in France at the age of 28.

Dr Robert Grogan, Albert Park

Beside Fitzroy's Stanley Reid and Essendon ruckman and full-forward Charles Moore, who both died in the Boer War, three Collingwood players were also involved in the conflict. According to Richard Stremski's history of the club, Kill for Collingwood, Ern Absolom, Arthur Robson and William Arnott allegedly shouted Magpie war cries as they leapt over the battlements, and in 1906 Collingwood endorsed the use of a Boer War marching tune, Goodbye Dolly Gray, as the basis for the club's theme song, Good Old Collingwood Forever. It seems that Australians involved in the war contributed to a resurgence of the code in South Africa, after the game had originally taken hold during the 1890s in Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria.

Rob Hess, Victoria University


Have any suggestions about auspicious football debuts that should have been on this list? Write in and tell us. We'll publish a selection next Sunday. Please keep your responses to 50 words or less and wend them to the address at the top of this page.

Email: pdaffey@hotmail.com or sport@theage.com.au Fax: (03) 9670 0856

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