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  • Dan Crouch

South Australians dominate Australian Football Hall of Fame inductions

Mark Williams is one of seven new Australian Football hall of fame inductees. Picture: Julian Smith.

The 2023 Australian Hall of Fame class has been announced and honored in a ceremony at Crown Palladium in Melbourne, and the class of 2023 has an undeniable South Australian flavor.

Corey Enright, Bruce McAvaney, Michael Aish, Mark Williams and Tom Leahy were the inductees with South Australian connections, Brownlow Medal winners Jimmy Bartel and Sam Mitchell were the other inductees for the night.

St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt was unable to attend the ceremony, but a special announcement was made to ensure that he would have been inducted had he been able to attend and he will be honored at next year's ceremony.

A look at the seven new Australian Football Hall of famers.

Corey Enright: 332 games for Geelong, 3x premiership player, 2x best and fairest, 6x All-Australian.

One of the best defenders of the 21st century and one of the most important players during Geelong's premierships in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Enright won both of his best and fairests and earned two of his six All-Australian jackets in premiership years, and made an All-Australian team in his final year despite having already played more than 300 games. Enright also held the Geelong Cats games played record at the time of his retirement, but it has since been broken by Joel Selwood.

Enright since retiring as a player has continued to contribute to Aussie Rules Football as an assistant coach for Geelong (2017-2021) and St Kilda (2022-present).

Jimmy Bartel: 305 games for Geelong, 3x premiership player, 2007 Brownlow medalist, 2011 Norm Smith medalist, 2x All-Australian.

Another superstar from Geelong's era of dominance; Bartel had by far his best season in 2007 as The Cats made the jump from being a good team to an unstoppable force. Bartel was instrumental in the club's epic rise as he stormed home to win the Brownlow Medal with 29 votes, seven votes clear of fellow Hall of Fame members Simon Black and Brent Harvey.

Bartel's 300th game coincided with Enright's club record-breaking game in 2016 and the future Hall of Fame duo were chaired off together after the win.

Bartel continues to make his presence in Australian Rules Football felt as part of the channel 7 commentary team.

Sam Mitchell: 307 games for Hawthorn and 22 games for West Coast, 4x premiership player, 2012 Brownlow Medalist, 3x All-Australian, 2003 rising star, 5x best and fairest.

That is a seriously good Résumé. How good do you have to be to win five best and fairests

at a club which also employs Buddy Franklin, Luke Hodge and Cyril Rioli among others? He finished in the top three on four more occasions too.

Mitchell consistently polled well on Brownlow night as he totaled 227 career votes and shared the award in 2012 with Trent Cotchin. He polled more than 13 votes ten times, more than 20 votes four times, and maxed out at 30 votes in 2011.

Mitchell's best asset as a player was his unique ability to kick long and accurately with both feet; lots of players can kick on both feet or handpass with both hands but no player has ever used all four limbs to move the ball as smoothly and effectively as him.

His contributions to Australian Rules Football since retiring have been ongoing as a West Coast assistant coach, Box Hill Hawks VFL coach, and now the head coach of Hawthorn.

Michael Aish: 307 games for Norwood, 2x SANFL premiership player, 1981 Magarey Medalist, 4x best and fairest, 2x All-Australian.

One of the greatest players ever produced by South Australia, though probably unheard of by the younger generation due to never playing in the AFL/VFL. Michael Aish won the Magarey Medal at just 20 years of age and was heavily pursued by VFL clubs for most of his career, but he turned his back on Victoria and stayed loyal to Norwood and SA.

In the era of bitter state rivalries before the VFL became a national competition Aish played 15 state games for South Australia, including the great honor of captaining the side in 1986 and 1989.

Michael's dad Peter captained and coached Norwood, and his brother Andrew and son Jesse have both played for the club. However, it is Michael who is responsible for making the Aish surname the greatest in Norwood's history.

Mark Williams: 380 SANFL/AFL games for West Adelaide, Port Adelaide, Collingwood and Brisbane, 4x SANFL premiership player, 2x best and fairest.

Success is in Mark Williams' genes, his father Fos Williams coached nine Port Adelaide premierships in the 50s and 60s, six of which were as a player-coach. Mark 'Chocco' Williams followed his father's footsteps as a four-time Port Adelaide premiership player.

Williams was inducted as a player but he also boasts a sensational coaching career; he coached Port Adelaide in the AFL for 273 games including their first and only premiership in 2004.

All up, Williams has played and coached 717 games at state and national level and has been one of the great servants of the sport. Williams continues to contribute to Australian Rules Football as a well-loved assistant coach for the Richmond Tigers.

Bruce McAvaney: More than 1000 AFL games commentated, 10 Grand Finals, countless memorable calls.

Bruce McAvaney is just the 11th broadcaster to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, and the first since his longtime partner Dennis Cometti in 2020.

McAvaney has commentated just about every sport known to man and his voice is the soundtrack for Australian sport; he started commentating footy in the 70s in the SANFL. His ability to call the footy with genuine enthusiasm and excitement at the appropriate times often elevated already great moments to iconic.

His high levels of enthusiasm, use of statistics, ability to read the crowd and the energy of the game, and quirky anecdotes from the plethora of other sports he covered set Bruce apart from any other commentator.

Tom Leahy: 111 games for North Adelaide, 58 games for West Adelaide, 3x SANFL premiership player, 3x best and fairest, 1913 Magarey Medalist.

Leahy stood 194cm tall and revolutionized the ruck position in the early 1900s. He is considered by many football historians as the greatest South Australian ruckman of all time.

As well as winning the Magarey Medal in 1913 he was also a three-time runner up for the award. He may have added more accolades during his career but he lost some of his best years when the SANFL paused during World War 1.

Following his retirement he became the coach of Norwood for three years, a successful venture which yielded two premierships and one grand final loss.


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