Adelaide’s first opportunity to host the Australian Football Hall of Fame has been laced with a strong South Australian flavour, headlined by the fitting elevation of inaugural inductee Malcolm Blight to Legend status.
Considered one of the best Croweaters to ever play the game, Blight was joined by inductees in dual Crows premiership player Simon Goodwin and Magarey Medallist John Halbert to be feted at the black-tie event held at the Adelaide Oval.
As a player, there was little Blight didn’t achieve in the game – as an individual winning a Magarey and Brownlow Medal as the fairest and most brilliant player in the SANFL and VFL as well as the Ken Farmer and Coleman Medals as the leading goalkicker in both competitions. He was also an All-Australian on three occasions.
In a team environment, Blight played in two VFL premierships with North Melbourne while also representing two states – South Australia and Victoria – on a total of 14 occasions.
As a coach, Blight guided Adelaide two back-to-back premierships in 1997 and 1998 while also steering Geelong to the biggest game of the year in 1989, 1992 and 1994.
It is a significant resume for the boy from suburban Woodville who now has a statue outside the Adelaide Oval.
“I never thought I was the ‘best’,” Blight told The Advertiser. “But I always wanted to get better.
“I had a casual fashion compared to a lot … I wasn’t the greatest trainer. I wanted to play. Training was a means to an end … Saturday, 2-5; being with your mates. I would have been a frustration for coaches.
“For me, the greatest thrill was playing really well in a winning team. For me, it was playing … not far behind was coaching. But nothing replaces playing, being with your mates.”
Both of South Australia’s inductees into the Australian Football Hall of Fame – Sturt premiership captain Halbert and All-Australian Simon Goodwin – both had the choice of pursuing cricket or football at the highest level.
Halbert, who won two Bradman Medals and achieved selection in SA’s Sheffield Shield team, will never regret his decision to play football.
“Footy is my great love – my greatest love,” said Halbert, who won the 1961 Magarey Medal with the Double Blues.
“Cricket was there … but football is my great love.”
In 1966, Halbert was Sturt’s first premiership skipper in 26 years – one of the highlights of his playing career, as was playing in the centre on the MCG when South Australia trumped the Vics in 1963.
Off the field, Halbert coached Glenelg and Sturt to SANFL Grand Final berths but also gave back to the game while serving as chairman of selectors for SA’s State of Origin team, on the AFL Laws of the Game Committee and the South Australian Football Commission.
Goodwin was co-captain of SA’s Under-19 cricket team before the budding fast bowler received a back injury which turned him in the direction of football.
Being overlooked in the 1996 AFL National Draft was a significant driver for the long-kicking left-footer, who played in Adelaide’s 1997 and 1998 premierships.
“I wanted to prove people wrong,” Goodwin told The Advertiser.
“I’m not sure where that starts from … coming through as a young boy, I was told I was small. But I kept hanging in there.
“I was never satisfied … and that helped me to be the best.”
In addition, three of South Australia’s founding fathers – John Acraman, Charles Kingston and Noel Twopenny – wee recognised by joining seven Victorians in the Australian Football Hall of Fame’s Pioneers category.
“It is important we recognise the part these South Australian pioneers played in the development of game of Australian football, particularly in establishing its oldest league in 1877,” SA Football Commission Chairman John Olsen AO said.
“To have their story told in the Australian Football Hall of Fame pays tribute to these three men for taking up key roles in the foundation days of South Australian football. It also acknowledges the important part they played in establishing the path to a national game.
“It is appropriate that South Australia – and these three visionary South Australians – be recognised for their development of the national game of Australian football and the biggest sport in Australia.”
SANFL CEO Jake Parkinson said it was an honour to have the Australian Football Hall of Fame in Adelaide for the first time, and just the second outside of Melbourne.
“It was a privilege to be able to host such a prestigious event at Adelaide Oval, particularly because so many South Australians were recognised during the evening,” said Parkinson.
“Malcolm Blight is truly a legend of the national game, John Halbert’s achievements speak for themselves while Simon Goodwin is emerging as one of the best young coaches in the AFL on top of his playing career with Adelaide and South Adelaide.
“It was also fantastic that three pioneers of our game were recognised in this, SANFL’s 140th year.”
Played: 162 SANFL league games with Woodville (1968-73 and 1983-85) and kicked 363 goals; 178 VFL games with North Melbourne (1974-82) and kicked 444 goals.
Represented: SA, seven times (19 goals); Victoria, seven times (11 goals).
Coached: Woodville (1983-87, 114 games); Geelong (1989-94, 145 games); Adelaide (1997-99, 74 games); St Kilda (2001, 15 games).
Honours: Magarey Medal (1972), Brownlow Medal (1978), Coleman Medal, VFL leading goalkicker (1982); Ken Farmer Medal, SANFL leading goalkicker (1985); VFL premiership player at North Melbourne (1975 and 1977); All-Australian (1972, 1982 and 1985); Woodville captain (1983-85); North Melbourne leading goalkicker (1978, 1979, 1981 and 1982); Woodville leading goalkicker (1983 and 1985); North Melbourne Team of the Century at half-forward; Adelaide Hall of Fame.
Played: 244 SANFL league games for Sturt (1955-68) and kicked 253 goals.
Represented: SA, 16 times.
Coached: Glenelg (1979-82) and Sturt (1983-84).
Honours: Magarey Medal (1961); Sturt premiership (1966); All-Australian (1961); Sturt best-and-fairest (1958, 1960, 1961 and 1964); Sturt captain (1962-68); Sturt Team of the Century at centre half-forward; SA Football Hall of Fame.
Played: 275 AFL games with Adelaide (1997-2010) and kicked 162 goals; 18 SANFL league games with South Adelaide (1995-98) and kicked one goal.
Represented: SA, once; Australia, three times.
Coach: Melbourne, 2017 onwards.
Honours: AFL premiership player at Adelaide (1997-98); Adelaide club champion (2000, 2005 and 2006); All-Australian (2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2006 and 2009); Adelaide captain (2008-2010); Michael Tuck Medal, best afield in pre-season grand final (2006).
JOHN ACRAMAN (SA)
Founder of the first Adelaide Football Club in 1860. SAFA vice-president at inception of the association in 1877.
CHARLES KINGSTON (SA)
Founder of the South Adelaide Football Club in 1876 after being part of the early Adelaide Football Club from 1870. Key speaker at foundation meeting of the SAFA in 1877. Member of the first SANFL (then SAFA) premiership team in 1877.
NOEL TWOPENNY (SA)
Key mover to unify the game – and rules – with the formation of the SA Football Association in 1877. Early captain of the Adelaide Football Club.