It’s always a dream job to be asked to sit on a selection committee to pick teams of the decade or teams of the century.
I’ve done the decade one twice for the Bendigo Footy and Netball League’s Hall of Fame and the Team of the Century once – for Eaglehawk back in 2005, their 125th year.
But to name a Best Ever side is a monumental assignment and one which, thankfully, I’ve never been asked to assist with.
How could you possibly compare a player from the 1890s, say, with one from the first decade of the 21st century. A daunting task, to say the least.
We did our best with the Eaglehawk side naming a handful of Two Blues from the very early 20th century, thanks to the knowledge and historical background provided by the late Jack Taylor.
Jack had donned the Two Blues jumper pre-WW2 when he ran out for Eaglehawk in the juniors, or under-18s as we’d call them today, way back in 1938.
Well, in Sydney they’ve recently picked a Best Ever NSW side from the days of the Swans of South Melbourne (now the Sydney Swans) in the then VFL formed in 1897, right through to the present day.
Well, to late 2019 actually, as that’s when the side was named.
The selection panel was chaired by former Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless who was also in the top seat of the inaugural NSW/ACT AFL.
The committee comprised Mike Sheahan, Gerard Healy, NSW Australian Football Society executives Rod Gillett and Ian Granland, society member and author Miles Wilks, AFL NSW/ACT CEO Sam Graham and AFL commissioner Gabrielle Trainer who represented the AFL.
Since 1897 (when South Melbourne was a foundation member of the brand new VFL) close to 500 NSW players have been senior footballers in the VFL/AFL with smaller numbers in the WAFL and the SANFL.
NSW players have won seven Brownlows (Haydn Bunton’s trio in the 1930s when at Fitzroy was a big help), five Magarey Medals and three Sandover Medals.
And so, NSW’s best-ever side:
B: Ross Henwood (North Albury), Leo Barry (Deniliquin), Chris Lethbridge (Sydney YMCA)
HB: Jarrad McVeigh (Pennant Hills), Gordon Strang (North Albury), Dennis Carroll (Lockhart)
C: Shane Crawford (Finley), Lenny Hayes (Pennant Hills), Neil Davies (Central Broken Hill)
HF: Terry Daniher (Ungarie) vice-captain, Wayne Carey (North Wagga) captain, Luke Breust (Temora)
F: John Longmire (Corowa), Bill Mohr (Wagga Tigers), Paul Kelly (Wagga Tigers) v-capt
Followers: Bruce McGregor (West Broken Hill), Brett Kirk (North Albury), Haydn Bunton (Albury)
Interchange: Mark McClure (East Sydney), Isaac Smith (Cootamundra), Kieran Jack (Pennant Hills), Tom Hawkins (Finley)
Coach: Allan Jeans (Finley). Assistant coach: Neale Daniher (Ungarie).
There was no conscious effort or direction to, or by the selectors, to either equally represent all parts of NSW or to select players from across all eras.
Team and coaches named in Time On, the annual journal of the NSW Australian Football History Society.