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
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
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
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