All would have done hard yards, but with one head start: gender. Lee’s brothers would not let her play if she cried, so despite losing the standard many layers of skin on the asphalt, she did not. “Street football moulded me into the footballer I am,” she told Flanagan.
She played her first match for Brunswick as a teenager, beginning in the centre. “I got the biggest tackle. I thought I’d been hit from here to China,” she said, “but I was glad of it. I thought, so this is what it’s all about.”
Fame was far, far away, let alone a hall of it. One day, Lee ordered a hastily unearthed late inclusion to stay with the opposition’s best player. At one point, she scanned for her and found her dutifully next to her opponent – on the opposition bench.
How far has women’s footy come, then to now! AFLW came too late for Lee, but it’s fair to surmise would not have come at all without her. Footy was Lee’s university, she told Flanagan. “It’s the place I learned about life.”
The male inductees need no introduction, but a refresher doesn’t hurt. It’s the whole point of the Hall of Fame.
Judd’s explosive best was the equal of anyone’s. In an eight-year stretch, he won two Brownlow Medals, five best and fairests, six all-Australian guernseys, two Leigh Matthews Trophies, captained a premiership and won a Norm Smith. Formally, his CV lists one game for East Perth, the first of his first AFL season. After that game, it was correctly predicted that he would never be seen at that level again.
Nathan Burke epitomises the idea of stalwart. Through his 17 years and then record 323 games, St Kilda had its many and characteristic ups and downs, but he was as constant as a calendar. Now he’s hooked up with Lee as coach of the Bulldogs’ AFLW team while daughter Alice carries the family torch at the Saints. If Lee could not have imagined how it would all play out, surely neither could Burke.
Wispy-haired Robert Wiley is from a long tradition of exquisitely skilful West Australian rovers. Only in the last of his nine seasons for Perth footy club did he not win the best and fairest. Those years were punctuated by a stint with Richmond, where he contributed to the 1980 premiership, and again in 1987 when John Todd brought him in to help kick-start the new-fangled West Coast Eagles.
Wiley is in Perth’s Team of the Century, but in a forward pocket. In the way of their era, he would “rest” there while waiting to change on ball with one Barry Cable, roving to Merv McIntosh.
Oatey and McIntosh both had careers interrupted by World War II, which is just as well, because otherwise inscribers might have had to append PTO to the bottom of their scrolls of honour.
Oatey did it all, but his renown is as a coach. While stationed briefly in Melbourne during the war, he played five games for South Melbourne and was impressed by the VFL’s devotion to what we would now call one-percenters. He took this back to Adelaide and led Sturt to seven flags, five of them in a row. In sum as player and coach, he won 12 flags.
McIntosh was a formidably big and powerful ruckman, but famously did not abuse those advantages. After the hiatus of war, he won seven best and fairests in nine seasons for Perth, not to mention those three Sandovers.
In 1955, he led Perth from 34 points behind East Fremantle at half-time to win their first flag for nearly 50 years. They talk about it still in the west. It was McIntosh’s last game. That seems like a good place to finish.
Games played: 302 (East Brunswick, VU Western Spurs).
Honours: Five Helen Lambert Medals (best and fairest in VWFL), seven club best and fairests, three premierships, Spurs captain for 14 years, AFL national championship best-player award and VFL women’s rising star award both named in her honour.
Games played: 323 (St Kilda).
Honours: Three best and fairests, four All-Australians, St Kilda Team of the Century.
Games played: 292 (Perth, Richmond, West Coast).
Honours: Eight best and fairests (all Perth), two All-Australians, four premierships, Perth Team of the Century, WAFL Hall of Fame.
Games played: 279 (West Coast, Carlton).
Honours: Two Brownlow Medals, two Leigh Matthews trophies, premiership captain, Norm Smith Medal, six All-Australians, five club best and fairests.
ELEVATED TO LEGENDS
Merv McIntosh (1922-2010).
Games played: 217 (Perth).
Honours: Three Sandover Medals, seven best and fairests, All-Australian 1953, Tassie Medal (best player in the interstate carnival) 1953, WA Hall of Fame, Perth Team of the Century.
Jack Oatey (1920-94).
Games played: 186 (Norwood, South Melbourne).
Games coached: 777: Norwood (513), West Adelaide (259), Sturt (5).
Honours: 12 premierships (two as player, 10 as coach), four best and fairests (Norwood), SANFL Hall of Fame, Sturt Team of the Century coach, SANFL grand final best-on-ground medal named for him.