Inspired by Dreamtime at the ‘G in a couple of week’s time, this is a special edition of Tyler’s Top 10.
This week Tyler dives into the best Indigenous players to play VFL/AFL.
This edition will look at not the best careers in terms of accolades, but the best indigenous footballers to grace our game.
This task is simply too difficult to narrow down to 10 spots in an all-time sector, so this edition is looking at the best from the last 30 years.
*In recognition of these players and their contribution to the game, next to the names listed are the names of the Indigenous land in which all were born*
10. Peter Matera (Wagin): With Matera’s father Italian and his mother Indigenous; Matera accomplished the rare feat of making the Indigenous and the Italian Team of the Century. The exciting wingman won two flags with the Eagles and is the club’s inaugural Norm Smith Medallist.
9. Gavin Wanganeen (Boandik): When a two-time premiership player comes in at ninth, you know it’s a tidy list. Wanganeen did it all, he played in multiple positions and still delivered late in his career with a brilliant 2004 grand final performance.
8. Michael Long (Wurrumiyanga): When Michael Long put the footy under his wing; you didn’t dare to blink, as it risked you missing a millisecond of history. His run in his Norm Smith Medal winning 1993 grand final is one of the more entertaining and iconic pieces of football history. Longy played 190 games for the Bombers and is still a crucial part of Dreamtime to this day.
7. Nicky Winmar (Killabin): Arguably the most iconic Indigenous player for his stance against racism at Victoria Park in 1993. Winmar made history when he raised his shirt and pointed to his stomach and the inspiring photo will go down in history, with his famous career for the Saints.
6. Shaun Burgoyne (Larrakia): Rather insulting for Silk to be at sixth on this list. He won four flags across his 407 games and was one of the most reliable players to ever play the game. Not bad for a bloke that was meant to be cooked in 2008.
5. Andrew McLeod (Larrakia): One of three dual Norm Smith Medalist’s, McLeod sensed the occasion better than most. We don’t have enough words to list his accolades, but he played and performed absolutely everywhere on the field in his 340 AFL games.
4. Cyril Rioli (Wurrumiyanga): When Cyril played, you watched. He only needed 10 touches to change the game and didn’t he do just that on a regular basis. How’s this for a resume: four flags, Norm Smith Medallist, three All-Australians and 275 goals in 189 games. Upsettingly, left the game with more to offer at age 28.
3. Eddie Betts (Barngarla): If you’re ever looking to delete an hour of your time, head to YouTube to watch ‘Eddie Betts’ best goals and you won’t be left unsatisfied. It is good to see Eddie still a regular to the game despite his playing career all said and done. 350 games, 640 goals, four Goal of the Year awards, one of the greats!
2. Adam Goodes (Wadlu Waru): A disappointingly underappreciated player. Goodes could play in all positions and was one of the bravest players – on and off the field – to ever play the game. Brownlow’s, premierships, All-Australians, there were few accolades he didn’t accomplish.
1. Lance Franklin (Mooro or Goomap): He had to top this list. The only Indigenous player to kick over 1000 VFL/AFL goals, Franklin has changed the game. As Tyler’s all-time G.O.A.T, it was the first name put onto this list.