A Hall of Fame Oversight
The back end of the 1970s provided little joy for followers of the Footscray Football Club. A constant battle to balance the books and subsequent sale of some of its finest talent sabotaged any chance of building a contender. Wins were rare and some of the losses were, to put it bluntly, horrendous. Throughout this gloomy era, one perpetual ray of hope shone, a reason the success-starved supporters could say "yes" to an afternoon at the Kennel when logic suggested they pursue an alternative form of entertainment.
Kelvin Templeton was a once in a generation player as a glance at his dazzling CV will attest:
- The first key forward to claim the Charles Brownlow Medal (1980).
- Two club best and fairest awards (1978 and 1980).
- Back-to-back leading goalkicker awards in the VFL (1978 and 1979).
- First player in VFL history to have separate 100-goal (1978) and Brownlow Medal (1980) seasons.
- First player from his club to top a century of goals in one season.
- Led his club goal kicking tally for five consecutive seasons (1976-1980).
- Gained interstate selection with Victoria four seasons in a row (1977-1980).
- 78-game consecutive goal-scoring streak.
It’s an imposing body of work made all the more remarkable that it was achieved prior to his 25th birthday. Sadly, it appears one influential group has forgotten what an indomitable force Templeton was at his peak. Three decades after a series of debilitating leg injuries forced him into premature retirement, one accolade - induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame - remains absent from his honour roll.
This essay looks at Templeton’s twelve-season VFL career emphasising the less than ideal conditions he encountered, and ultimately conquered, in compiling the magnificent resumé listed above. I hope this piece convinces you to join me as a vocal advocate for KT’s inclusion in “The Hall”.
Templeton first came to the attention of the football world in 1973, the 16-year-old schoolboy notching a century of goals (104) for Traralgon in the Latrobe Valley League. Had his services been available on an open market you can be sure the bidding for the gifted teenager would’ve been furious. Fortunately for Footscray, the introduction of country zoning in the late 60s, and the allocation of the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland Football Leagues to the Tri-Colours, allayed that problem.
With his Big City suitor mired in a 12-season finals drought, it was hoped Templeton could assist in ending the club's barren run. Respected football scribe Greg Hobbs believed he could contribute immediately.
The Sporting Globe, Saturday, February 23, 1974 –
Is this the year of the Bulldog?
“Footscray have recruited Kelvin Templeton, 17, a highly regarded Full Forward from Traralgon. Last season he kicked 100 goals in the Latrobe Valley and in one representative game against the Goulburn Valley League he kicked 8 goals.
Templeton is 6 foot 3 inches (190 cm) and may be played as a permanent Forward Pocket as part of a double-pronged front line attack”.
Despite a headline-grabbing six-goal debut in front of a maniacal Magpie mob in April 1974, Templeton’s first two seasons of VFL football (54 goals in 26 games) were serviceable rather than sensational. The Bullies glut of “tall” forwards such as Bernie Quinlan, Laurie Sandilands, Peter Welsh, Barry Round and Greg Parke consigned the teenager to a cameo, rather than starring, role in the 'Scray scoring set-up during Bob Rose’s final two years in charge.
Bill Goggin’s arrival as senior coach prior to the commencement of the 1976 season signalled the end of his apprenticeship. Assuming the responsibilities that come with being the focal point of the attack, Goggin’s faith was repaid in full, Templeton’s 82 goals a major factor in the clubs brief return to the playoffs. Defeat at the hands of Geelong in the Elimination Final ended the Pups premiership push. Sadly, Templeton’s first taste of serious September football would be his last.
Templeton’s 1977 commitments came to a sudden and painful halt on the Queen’s Birthday weekend when he suffered a season-ending knee injury whilst on interstate duty in Hobart. With 40 goals to his name at the midway point of the home and away fixture a crack at the magical “ton” remained a distinct possibility. Templeton’s absence condemned the Dogs to a seventh place finish and yet another footy free September. The disappointment of a return to the ranks of the also rans ushered in another period of unrest and eventual bloodletting on Barkly Street.
Plunged into yet another financial crisis, the Dogs started offloading talent to keep the cash flowing. Ray Huppatz was cleared to near neighbour North Melbourne over the summer. Sadly, the star South Australian rover’s escape to pastures greener was just the beginning of yet another Footscray “fire sale”. Next to go was Denis Collins, the dashing winger exiting a foundering Western Oval for Carlton one week into the ’78 season. Collins’ departure to Princes Park proved too much for Goggin who, upon the hearing that the 1972 recruit-of-the-year had been bought by the Blues, tendered his resignation.
Within weeks former captain Laurie Sandilands (Collingwood) and the brilliant Bernie Quinlan (Fitzroy) left for new dwellings. Sandilands' senior stint in Black and White vertical stripes lasted just four afternoons, but the loss of Quinlan would both hurt and haunt the Bullies for the next decade. After sharing a Brownlow Medal with former teammate Barry Round in 1981, Quinlan took residence in the Junction Oval goal square and became the VFL’s premier full forward of the early 1980’s kicking a century of goals in 1983 and 1984.
Compounding the loss of that talented quartet was the unrelenting off-field drama engulfing the club during the early stages of ’78. Alarmed with the financial health of the leagues sole western suburbs representative, VFL powerbrokers met with Bulldog hierarchy. At one point a players strike appeared a real possibility.
Whilst the club stumbled from crisis to catastrophe Templeton kept on keeping on. And how!
- His 118 goals from 21 appearances is the (equal) 17th highest single season tally in VFL/AFL history.
- He averaged 5.6 goals per game across season.
- Kicked 5 goals or more on 13 occasions.
- Passed Jack Collins’ club record of 84 goals (1954) in Round 14
- His 15 goals against St Kilda on 1 July remains a club record
- His 24 scoring shots (15 goals 9 behinds) remains the most shots taken by one player in a single VFL/AFL match.
The most prolific, if not greatest, afternoon of Templeton’s playing career came against St Kilda on 1 July 1978. (In June 2013, I wrote a piece about that remarkable afternoon for this website. You can read it here.)
On August 12 1978, Templeton etched his name into Footscray folklore. Appropriately, he would reach the magical three-figure total at Victoria Park, the venue that played host to his superb debut four years earlier. Entering the round 19 clash two goals shy of immortality, Templeton reached the historic milestone late in the third quarter. Sadly the result, a 16-point loss to a finals bound Collingwood outfit, would mirror both the individual and clubs year. Templeton’s final tally of 118 goals remains a single season club record for the Footscray/Western Bulldogs Football Club.
A forgotten statistic, perhaps the most conspicuous of all the numbers associated with Templeton’s ton was the Bulldogs 7-win/15-loss 11th place standing at the completion of the home and away fixture. The 31.8% “success” rate was, and to this day remains, the lowest winning percentage of a team with a century goalkicker in the same year.
Templeton retained his title as the competition leading goalkicker in 1979, his final tally (91) edging out Richmond’s Michel Roach by a solitary major. Whilst not as brilliant as his efforts twelve months prior, he was just as reliable for a team whose minor improvement (seven wins, one draw, ninth-place finish) was barely noticeable.
Early in his tenure on Barkly Street, Bill Goggin made the astute decision to make Kelvin Templeton the focus of Footscray’s forward set-up. Upon his appointment to the same position in September 1979, Royce Hart decided the most efficient way to utilise the skills of his best player would be to push him up field and into the heat of the battle. Moving Templeton to centre half-forward was a history-making decision, a masterstroke. Unfortunately, it would be a rare victory for Hart during a tortured two-and-a-half-year stint as Footscray’s senior coach.
Last year I revisited Templeton’s special season, in an article you can read here. The season warrants further comment in this piece, nevertheless. Templeton's 75-goal effort in a five-win season (that commenced with 11 straight losses) was outstanding, and include two hauls of seven goals, two bags of six goals and one five-goal effort, all in losses. He also managed tallies of either four goals or three goals on eight other occasions.
Regrettably the devastating knee injury he sustained in a pre-season contest the following February denied Templeton any chance of a suitable encore to his wonderful efforts of 1980. Absent for the first three quarters of the season, he returned to the field in the clubs final six encounters. The ’81 Dogs 2-win/20-loss record indicated how reliant it was on its one true match winner to remain competitive. Niggling injuries over the back half of the 1982 home and away program blighted Templeton’s final year in Red, White and Blue limiting him to 14 games. It’s doubtful even a semi-fit Templeton could’ve done much to save his side from securing their third wooden spoon in what was yet another miserable winter out West.
Then the Dees came knocking.
In what Mike Sheahan calls “the biggest story I ever broke”, Templeton and Peter Moore, shocked the football world by requesting, and receiving, clearances to the Melbourne Football Club. The daring coup that delivered the incumbent captains of their respective clubs Footscray and Collingwood reputedly cost the Demons $1 million in total. Hindsight shows us that whilst Moore added another Brownlow (1984) to the one he grabbed in 1979, Templeton struggled. The nagging injuries that wrecked his post-Brownlow efforts continued to plague him during his three years at the “G”. Restricted to just 34 appearances, he kicked 99 goals at an average slightly under 3 per game.
A half century (51) of goals was good enough to lead the Demons in that category in 1984. Templeton showed glimpses of his best form during a rare injury-free period that included 35 goals in eleven consecutive appearances. His contribution was a major factor in the Demons mid-year six-game winning streak. Any hopes of a return to his brilliant best were dealt a fatal blow when injuries kept him in the stands for the first half of the following year. On July 20th, 1985, Templeton took the field for his 177th and final VFL match. In front of a crowd of 17,920, Templeton’s one-possession effort was a sad finale to what had been a marvellous career.
It could be argued that Templeton continued contributing to the Bulldog cause well after he’d exited. The cash that flowed into the coffers upon his clearance allowed the Dogs to commence the rebuild of the playing list. Interstate stars Andrew Purser, Jim Sewell and Ian Williams along with a couple of youngsters plucked from their Gippsland zone in Brian Royal and Steve Wallis formed the nucleus of a team that fell eleven points short of a berth in the VFL Grand Final three years later.
As well as the acquisitions, Templeton’s departure necessitated a restructure of the Footscray forward line. It resulted in Simon Beasley being drafted into the role as their “go to” man in the front half of the ground. After some trying times (including some unwarranted criticisms from media mavens) Beasley became a tremendous servant of the ‘Scray, the 575 goals he kicked remains the clubs aggregate goal-kicking record.
Templeton continued to serve the nation’s premier football competition long after his retirement from the playing fields. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Swans from 1996 to 2002, he oversaw a sustained period of on-field success, (Sydney qualified for five finals series including a Grand Final appearance in 1996 during his time in charge) and off-field stability. When Templeton gave a rare interview to Peter Hanlon for the Melbourne Age in 2015 he was asked what was his proudest achievement was during his time in the Harbour City. His answer wasn’t footy or finance centred, rather “advances in player welfare”.
So how is it that the soon to be 60-year-old native of Tyers, Gippsland, continues to be overlooked by the Hall of Fame selection committee? I wish I knew.
Whilst not questioning the bona fides of any member of the Hall of Fame, it would be derelict of me not to compare Templeton’s playing record against his previously inducted contemporaries.
The table below looks at the goal-scoring record of eight former champions whom Templeton’s career overlapped across a period of five consecutive seasons. I’ve selected the most prolific (goal-scoring) consecutive five-year period for each player - because scoring goals is a forward's raison d’etre.
|Player||Period||Games||W||L||D||Win %||Goals||Ave per game|
Templeton’s numbers whilst comparable are made all the more outstanding when Footscray’s win ratio, slightly better than one in three (36.5%) is taken into consideration. Might Templeton’s absence from the Hall of Fame be due to the low profile his team enjoyed across the latter part of the 1970s? A case of out of sight out of mind?
Before the dawn of specialised channels devoted to the saturation coverage of AFL football, the Saturday evening replay was compulsory viewing for footy fans keen to catch up with the action from earlier that day. With the ABC and HSV7 covering a maximum four games per weekend, the choice of matches invariably consisted of the popular (Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond) or powerful (Hawthorn, North Melbourne) clubs. The Bulldogs' lack of success (14 wins, 1 draw from 44 matches) during Templeton’s two-year stint as the VFL’s premier goal kicker (78-79) resulted in fewer appearances on The Big League or The Winners during that time than any other club with the exception of fellow struggler Melbourne.
|H&A matches covered||1978||1979||TOTAL|
The advent of the internet and services such as You Tube exacerbates the original problems associated with the Dogs minimal airtime during the period in question. Punch the term “70’s VFL football “into any of the various search engines on the web. You’re more likely to be offered a link to highlights of one of the “sexier” sides than footage of KT kicking a bag of goals in front of an intimate Western Oval crowd.
It’s worth noting that in the interview with Peter Hanlon referenced above, Templeton stated that he was “disconnected to some degree from the AFL”. Templeton’s public appearances in recent times have been scarce. Maybe if he’d traipsed the well-worn path of the hoary old weekend warrior to TV, radio or the talking circuit, the question this essay poses would be redundant.
Established in 1996 the Australian Football Hall of Fame celebrates its twentieth anniversary later this year. The Hall of Fame...
“...seeks to recognise and enshrine players, coaches, umpires, administrators and media representatives who have made significant contributions to Australian Football – at any level – since the game’s inception in 1858.”
The inauguration of Jason Akermanis, Peter Bell, Bob Hammond, Michael O’Loughlin, Neil Roberts and Austin Robertson last year took the total number of inductees to 257. Hopefully, when the "Class of 2016" is announced on Tuesday, June 14th, Kelvin Templeton’s belated entry into this exclusive club will be confirmed.