Barry Hall – Former Australian Rules Football Player
The history of team sports provides many examples of great individual players who failed to leave a permanently lasting impression due to working for teams that had weak win/lose records.
Lasting significance requires that not only the individual player does well, but also that his team does well. And whilst there are players who could rightly be accused of putting themselves and their statistics above those of the team, most genuine sportsmen would be sincere when they said that they would sacrifice or return individual accomplishments and statistics gladly in exchange for team victories.
We’ve been examining the top goal kickers in the Australian Football League for some time now, and with few exceptions, they have labored on teams that did not due particularly well.
This can generate speculation on the source of a player’s achievements.
Did he lead his team in kicking goals because of truly great ability? Was it the result of playing for a team where no one else could contribute to the scoring? Was it selfishness on the part of the player to take kicks rather than relinquish the ball to a teammate who might have been in a better position to take the kick?
Today’s examination will look at a player who did manage to score proficiently, but nevertheless played for teams that achieved the top prize, victories in the quarters, semis, and the biggest prize of all, the Grand Final.
Here are the clues for the diehard footy fans that care to try to identify our subject in advance of our revelation.
This player had a better than average career in terms of longevity, playing in 16 seasons.
From 1996 through 2001, he played for St. Kilda. He saw limited duty in his debut season, helping the Saints to two victories and taking part in two losses. Overall for the 1996 season, the Saints ended up tenth on the ladder of 16 teams.
He played a significant role for the St. Kilda side in 1997, when the team finished at the top of the ladder when over the course of the season, the Saints consistently improved, beginning in round seven to the extent that they got to the top and maintained that positon in rounds 21 and 22. The Saints were to lose the Grand Final to Adelaide that year, losing to the Crows by a margin of 31 points, giving that club its first premiership victory. Our subject scored three goals and shared Best accolades with five of his teammates.
St. Kilda went into a descending spiral during the next three seasons, finishing 6th in 1998, 10th in 1999, and dead last 16th in 2000. They were unable to move up any further than one spot in 2001.
The 2002 season found our player working for the Swans in the Capital. He would play a total of eight seasons for Sydney FC, as the team progressed for the first three years of his tenure, to 3rd in 2005, when they raised the flag as Grand Finals winners over the West Coast Eagles in a thrilling four point victory. Our player was the captain of that side and scored two goals in the winning effort. For the season, he had his high water mark of 80 goals, a number he would match in 2010, but never surpass.
The Swans would make an encore appearance in the Grand Final the following year, but 2006 was a year for the West Coast Eagles to extract revenge and turn the tables on the Swans. Our player was held scoreless and the one point margin of victory for the Eagles would have provided one of the most dramatic Grand Finals of all time.
Sydney’s fortunes declined from that point to the extent that our player’s last season with the Swans, 2009, saw them at 12th on the 16 team ladder.
Our subject’s final two seasons, 2010 and 2011, were spent with the Western Bulldogs. During his first season, he helped the club by matching his career high of 80 goals in route to their finishing in the fourth position, steadily moving up the ladder, jumping from 8th to 4th in the 8th round, slipping a bit to as low as 6th in round 11, returning to 4th in round 17 and holding that positon until the 22nd round was concluded. The Bulldogs would defeat our player’s old team the Swans in the semifinals before losing to his original St. Kilda side in the preliminary finals.
In his final season, 2011, he would make contributions that would seem to indicate that he had more time left, but he wrapped things up when the Bulldogs came in 10th for the season.
For his career, he currently resides at 83rd for the number of games played. He was consistent enough as a score to end up at number 14 for most goals kicked.
For any who have not solved the riddle from the above clues, we are writing about Barry Hall.
Whether you knew him as Bazza, Big Bad Barry, or simply Barry Hall, he is considered as one of the top forwards of the modern era. Hall was the leading goal kicker for his teams on 11 occasions and was named to the All-Australian Team in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010.
Barry Hall was born and spent the first 12 years of his life in Broadford, where he played football and also took an interest in martial arts and boxing. He moved to Melbourne at the age of 12 and won a state junior boxing title. Boxing was apparently not sufficient to command his attention, however, and he was spotted by footy talent scouts whilst he was playing for the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup.
No stranger to controversy, Barry Hall made several appearances before the tribunal and lost 10 matches to four separate suspensions. He also seemed to be wearing a target rather than a number on his guernsey, as he gave away almost twice as many free kicks as he received.
Other incidents for striking opponents served to tarnish Barry Hall’s legacy to a small degree, but in his defense, it should be said that a footy player without passion is a mediocre footy player. The most serious would have to have been the punch to the jaw of Brent Staker in 2008, for which Hall received one of the more severe punishments the AFL Tribunal has ever doled out: seven games.
Whether you view Barry Hall as hero or villain would obviously depend to some degree on which side you were backing. He does provide a more than adequate example, however, that it is possible for a leading scorer to play for better than average teams, supplying leadership when needed and goal kicks when required.