Leon Francis Baker
17 August 1956 (age 67)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 27y 227d
Last game: 32y 10d
Height and weight
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Swan Districts (1984)
Hall of fame
Western Australian Football Hall Of Fame, Inducted 2008
Ted Thomas (Grandfather)
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Baker’s determined aggressive style has earned him respect as a great competitor; yet he is also an astute reader of the play. His skills and ability to deliver the ball accurately to team mates further afield have made him a tremendous asset to the Bombers ..... Shy and unassuming off the field, he is one of the few players who can seemingly change the course of a match solely through his own efforts.¹
One of those prodigiously talented individuals who seem able to rack up numerous possessions almost without trying, Leon Baker might conceivably have achieved much more in league football had he not been such a late starter and possessed of a wanderlust nature. When he made his debut with Swan Districts in 1981 he was already approaching 25 years of age, having played all his earlier senior football with such country teams as Avenel, Seymour and South Bunbury.
He was an immediate and pronounced success at Swans, vying for best afield honours with team mate Graham Melrose in the 1982 grand final win over Claremont, and earning a club fairest and best award the following year. Courageous, tough and abundantly skilled, he was as close to the ideal centreman as could be imagined.
In 1984 Baker transferred to Essendon, where he continued to flourish. He was one of the best players on view in the 1984 Grand Final against Hawthorn (reviewed here), where a classic 'blind turn' and goal mid-way through the last quarter to put the Bombers in front is still talked about. He repeated the strong performance in the 1985 decider, and was a key factor in the Bombers winning both matches. In a star studded team, his second place finishes in both flag years was testament to his standing at the club. He played a total of 86 games in five seasons at Essendon, and notwithstanding injury problems in the final two years, is remembered as one of its favourite sons.
Leon Baker represented West Australia at state of origin level on three occasions, and was selected in the 1985 All Australian team. Despite the brevity of his stay at Swan Districts, he was chosen as centreman in the club's official 'Team of the Century'.
Author - John Devaney with additional material from Adam Cardosi
1. VFL Yearbook 1985, page 6.