Paul Roos at the Sydney Swans famously had a “no dickheads” policy during his halcyon years of 2005-6. Roos meditated, maintained his pristine brown hair over eight years of coaching, and was once seen to be whistling right before a quarter-time address with the Swans five goals down. They won.

No Dickheads was a further example of Paul Roos trying to bring new thinking into AFL circles, in an era synonymous with the general “All Dickheads” thinking of the Brisbane Lions era.

Of course, No Dickheads was never going to cut it if the Swans wanted to kick on and become one of footy’s fabled dynasties.

Now that Hawthorn are being thrown around by the likes of Essendon and Gold Coast – not to mention dickhead fans deserting in droves – we can safely say that the Hawks’ era of dickheadness is officially over. With Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell being shipped out, there is a sudden drop in knees dropping into thighs, jibes about injections and general cheap pot shots.

We can finally start to compare: Brisbane or Hawthorn? Who were the greatest? The greatest dickheads?

With advances in nutrition, tactical planning and more time for teams to train, it is naturally difficult to compare across eras. How does a Neil Balme cheap hit behind the play compare to a Mark Yeates cheap hit behind the play compare to a Luke Hodge cheap hit behind the play? Without a time machine, we may never know.

Now, people may accuse me of short-sightedness in only rating teams from the AFL era. This is unfair, as literally every single player from the 1970s and 80s was a dickhead, rendering any analysis from that era irrelevant. Mal Brown, Carl Ditterich, Phil Carman, Mark Jackson, Leigh Matthews, Paul van der Haar, David Rhys-Jones, you name it.

Brent Crosswell once wrote an article about watching Sam Newman breaking John Nicholls’ nose in a 1970s ruck contest. He naively asked his teammates why this had happened and was simply told, “Polly (Farmer) taught him the ropes.”

We will always wonder how the Hawks of 2007-16 compare to the Hawks of the 1980s. Now, Dermie running through the Essendon huddle was a dick move, to be sure, but that was definitely funny. Dermie had chutzpah. Or is it only less dickish with the rose-tinted glasses of time?

Moving on to the AFL era, it is clear that greater professionalism has taken over footy. Instead of players engaging in a melee with total disregard to the match unfolding around them, they now know that they have to deck their opponent once before refocusing on winning the ball.

The AFL era has seen some great teams come and go. My high school days coincided with watching North Melbourne grind out finals win after finals win. Good times. Glenn Archer was an enforcer somehow without being a dickhead. Wayne Carey alone filled North’s dickhead quotient, to be sure, but I’m mainly focused on on-field dickheads, such as Byron Pickett’s numerous cheap bumps.

Just like how Essendon 1999-2001 was a fake dynasty, so we had a fake tough guy in Matthew Lloyd. He no doubt read an article about him being soft in his early days and overreacted.

Similarly, when Kevin Sheedy called on Essendon to play with “no rules” against Brisbane in 2002, he had thrown his team to the Lions, literally and figuratively. Essendon had been overtaken on the field – by superior dickheads.

The Brisbane Lions! Now we’re talking. This was a team who took football to the next level. This involved:

  • Their players calling in fake votes to an Age survey on who was the toughest player in the AFL, so that Collingwood’s Ryan Lonie emerged as one of the winners.
  • Completely ruining the Australia-Ireland series concept because the Scotts always started brawls whenever a match wasn’t going Australia’s way.
  • Mal Michael repeatedly texting Collingwood’s Jarrod Molloy, who had been traded for each other, ‘thanking’ him for being able to experience Brisbane’s premiership wins.
  • Producing a painting of Eddie McGwire wearing a Lions top with a pot belly sticking out after the 2003 Grand Final. Probably deserved.
  • And repeatedly bumping Nick Riewoldt in his injured shoulder off the ball in 2005. Again, the Scotts and Michael.

It is only now that Brisbane has a point of comparison. Three-peat Lions: meet the three-peat Hawks.

Now, by this stage with AFL marketing in full flow, the Hawks were able to come up with a buzzword to fully justify dickheadness: ‘unsociable’. For some reason the otherwise inoffensive team that always pushed their buttons was North Melbourne.

First there was Hawthorn’s meltdown in the 2007 semi-final, when once they realised they wouldn’t win simply lost the plot and began the fisticuffs. Then Brain Lake proved that he had taken the Hawthorn way to heart by strangling Drew Petrie in 2014. Finally, a year later, the coup de grâce: Luke Hodge and Jordan Lewis delivering twin hits to the head to Andrew Swallow and Todd Goldstein within ten minutes of each other.

I’ll just say that a 2015 Grand Final involving these two would have made slightly more interesting viewing than what we saw.

Sam Mitchell’s subtle, clever play complemented Hodge’s more muscular dickishness, with his ‘injection’ gesture to an Essendon player in 2015 and general all-round game (of annoying people). Jeff Kennett also contributed off the field.

Time to get sentimental about it all being over. We may never see their likes again.

Looking to the future, GWS’ ambition has resulted in the recruitment of the likes of Shane Mumford, Steve Johnson, Jeremy Cameron, Jonathan Patton, Tom Scully and Phil Davis providing a nice blend of experienced dickheads with the lippy up-and-comers, small rover-types whose idol was perhaps Steven Milne.

They are looking to begin their own dynasty to rival the Hawks. In every sense.


Marty Gleason