Australian Football

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Key Facts

Full name
Michael Clifford Fitzpatrick

Known as
Mike Fitzpatrick

Born
28 January 1953 (age 69)

Place of birth
Hastings, VIC (3915)

Occupation
Finance, Football administration

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 22y 67d
Last game: 30y 218d

Height and weight
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 96 kg

Senior clubs
Subiaco; Carlton

Jumper numbers
Carlton: 3

State of origin
VIC

Hall of fame
Australian Football Hall of Fame (2022) Western Australian Football Hall Of Fame (2004)

Mike Fitzpatrick

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
SubiacoWANFL1970-197497770.79
CarltonV/AFL1975-1976, 1978-19831501501.0075%10.534.235.3227
Total1970-1976, 1978-19832472270.92

AFL: 8,716th player to appear, 1,276th most games played, 639th most goals kickedCarlton: 850th player to appear, 79th most games played, 47th most goals kicked

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MikeFitzpatric

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Among the most vivid memories of Mike Fitzpatrick centre around his lion-hearted performances as captain of Western Australia in state of origin matches against Victoria, when he seemed to epitomise and personify the West Australians’ hunger to succeed. However, Fitzpatrick himself was actually born in Victoria, at Hastings, which only goes to prove that things are not always as straightforward as they seem. His two state of origin appearances for Victoria, therefore, were perhaps not quite the anomaly they appeared.

As a Rhodes scholar, Mike Fitzpatrick would no doubt appreciate the complexities which often underlie the seemingly mundane, but his approach to football was unequivocally simple. Indeed, because of his wholeheartedly aggressive approach, he was virtually tailor-made for the VFL where his performances in important games were frequently of a match-winning order. 

Debuting with Subiaco in 1970, Fitzpatrick quickly developed into a key component in the team that coach Haydn Bunton was developing for a long overdue assault on the premiership. When that assault was finally mounted, in 1973 under Bunton’s successor Ross Smith, Mike Fitzpatrick led the ruck and was one of his team’s best players in a Grand Final defeat of West Perth that broke a 49-year premiership drought. Fitzpatrick also won Subiaco’s fairest and best award in 1973, and duplicated the feat the following year, which proved to be his last in the west as he then shifted his allegiance to Carlton in the VFL, where he enjoyed a substantial amount of further success.

Assuming the mantle of number one ruckman at Princess Park, a role held for almost two decades by the legendary John Nicholls, was never going to be easy, but Fitzpatrick proved he was up to the task from his first year in 1975. Shorter and less bulky than the average league ruckman of the day, he used his body and nous to perfection and in so doing was able to consistently outpoint taller and heftier opponents. 

Studies abroad restricted his appearances, and form, over the next few seasons, but once he was able to devote himself to football, he became one of the best big men in the VFL. He was certainly one of the better palmers of the ball going around, a skill that the famed Carlton 'mosquito fleet' of the late 1970s and early 80s certainly appreciated. 

A club best and fairest winner in 1979, a premiership year for the Blues, underscored his worth, and in the wake of an internal rift in the club that saw the departure of captain-coach Alex Jesaulenko, his appointment as captain was seen as a logical move. Over the next four years, Fitzpatrick showed himself to be an inspirational leader, one of the best in the business, and he was a key factor in the club's dual premiership successes in 1981 and 1982. 

Several recurring injuries throughout 1983 restricted his output, and after the team was eliminated from the finals in the first week, Fitzpatrick announced his retirement, at the relatively young age of thirty. While he almost certainly still had a lot of good football left in him, opportunities in the business world beckoned. 

In 2003 he was appointed to the Board of the AFL Commission, and in March 2007 he became one of the most powerful and influential figures in the game when he succeeded Essendon's Ron Evans as AFL Chairman. 

Author - John Devaney and Adam Cardosi

Sources

Full Points Footy's WA Football Companion, blueseum.org

Footnotes

* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.