AFL crowns indigenous team of the century

© The Age

August 1, 2005

Champion Geelong ruckman Graham “Polly” Farmer was today named as captain of the indigenous team of the century.

Eight current AFL players, including Andrew McLeod and Adam Goodes, have been included in the league’s indigenous team of the century, announced today.

The team, captained by ruck legend Graham “Polly” Farmer and coached by Hall of Fame member Barry Cable, was named at a lunch at the Palladium at Crown Casino.

Prime Minister John Howard attended the lunch.

The team was selected by a panel of football identities and journalists to honour the 100-year anniversary of the first indigenous league footballer Joe Johnson, who made his debut with Fitzroy in the VFL in 1904.

AFL chairman Ron Evans said: “In a sense, it’s more than the team of the century. It’s a team that recognises the contribution of indigenous Australians since the very beginnings of the game.”

Aboriginal television host Ernie Dingo paid tribute to the influence of indigenous footballers over the past century at the lunch.

“Today, we salute the skill, the grace, the wizardry, the brilliance, the amazing talent who’ve made our game unique,” he said.

“We are proud of the contribution that indigenous Australians have made to the game of football.”

Elder Joy Murray, of the Wurundjeri people, said Australian Rules football had played a big part in reducing racism.

“Much could be said about the sport and the attitudinal changes towards indigenous Australians. Players such as Nicky Winmar … and Michael Long deserve special mention, and full credit to the AFL and its families for taking appropriate action to formalise these changes,” she said.

McLeod and Goodes, who were named as ruck-rover and centre half-back respectively, were joined by contemporaries Brisbane Lion teammates Chris Johnson and Darryl White, Port Adelaide trio Gavin Wanganeen, Byron Pickett and Peter Burgoyne and Sydney’s Michael O’Loughlin.

Not surprisingly, the team was full of dash, with Stephen Michael, Jim Krakouer and Maurice Rioli all renowned for their exciting play.

Recently retired players include premiership players Chris Lewis, Michael Long, and Peter Matera, while Nicky Winmar was also included.

Respected football umpire Glenn James was duly named as the team’s umpire.

The team

Backs: Chris L Johnson, Darryl White, Bill Dempsey
Half-Backs: Gavin Wanganeen, Adam Goodes, Norm McDonald
Centres: Peter Matera, Maurice Rioli, Michael Long
Half-Forwards: Nicky Winmar, Stephen Michael, Syd Jackson

Forwards: Chris Lewis, Michael O’Loughlin, Jim Krakouer
Followers: Graham Farmer, Andrew McLeod, Barry Cable
Interchange: Michael McLean, Byron Pickett, Michael Graham, David Kantilla, Ted Kilmurray, Peter Burgoyne

Captain: Graham Farmer, Coach: Barry Cable, Umpire: Glenn James