Herald Sun | TOGETHER they have played 2693 games, kicked 5757 goals, won 23 premierships, 15 Coleman Medals and seven Brownlows.
It is a who’s who list of some of the biggest names in football from the past seven decades and they all have one thing in common — they hail from country Victoria.
As Essendon and Geelong prepare to recognise the contribution of regional areas to football this weekend with the Powercor Country Festival, legendary Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy compiled the list for the Herald Sun as the best players from country Victoria that he has seen during his lifetime.
While only a toddler when John Coleman was at the peak of his powers in the early 1950s, Sheedy, 69, said the former Essendon forward’s remarkable record made him an easy choice at No.1.
Hailing from Port Fairy in Western Victoria, Coleman’s playing career spanned just 98 games over six seasons before a knee injury prematurely ended his career but he still stands 48th on the VFL/AFL’s all-time goalkicking list with 537 goals, his average of 5.48 goals a game second only to Hawthorn’s Peter Hudson (5.64).
“I’ve been watching footy since I was four or five so it’s really about the time I’ve been alive. I didn’t see Coleman at his best but his record speaks for itself,” Sheedy said.
“The great Alf Brown always said forget about everyone else, Coleman is the best. I’m not sure if anyone else has been better since.
“Even in his last year he averaged seven goals a game. It’s an amazing record.”
Another key forward sits second on Sheedy’s list, the leading goalkicker in AFL/VFL history Tony Lockett (281 games, 1360 goals) who grew up in Ballarat.
“I cannot understand why Ballarat does not have a statue of Tony Lockett driving into Ballarat,” Sheedy said.
“I don’t think anyone will ever get past Lockett and in the end it was quite amazing what he was able to achieve.”
Sheedy said the answer to who was better out of Gary Ablett Snr (248 games, 1030 goals) and son Gary Ablett Jnr (295 games, 384 goals) was clear in his mind but both found spots in the top five.
“Senior’s better than Junior,” Sheedy said.
“Midfielders get a lot of the ball because they’re in the play.
BUSH CHAMPIONS: Kevin Sheedy’s Top-10 VFL/AFL country Victoria legends
John Coleman (Ess) Port Fairy
Tony Lockett (StK/Syd) Ballarat
Gary Ablett Snr (Haw/Geel) Drouin
John Nicholls (Carl) Maryborough
Gary Ablett Jnr (Geel/GC) Modewarre
Ron Barassi (Melb/Carl) Castlemaine
Doug Wade (Geel/NM) Horsham
Adam Goodes (Syd) Merbein
Francis Bourke (Rich) Nathalia
Greg Williams (Geel/Syd/Carl) Bendigo
“I pay more attention to people who did play great in finals and had skills that brought people to the game and I think goalkickers don’t get enough credit.”
Maryborough product John Nicholls — who played 328 games for Carlton and was a two-time premiership captain as well as 1972 premiership captain-coach — filled the other spot in Sheedy’s top-five.
Essendon and Geelong have provided more than 5000 free tickets to Saturday night’s match to regional communities while a free festival will take place outside the ground from 2pm which will include farm animals, wood chopping, food trucks and live music performances from country music stars Lee Kernaghan and Shannon Noll.