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Graham Teasdale – Brownlow Medal Winner

graham teasdaleIt is not all that often when we find a Brownlow Medal winner who played for more than one team. As we have made our way through time from the inaugural Charles Brownlow Trophy in 1924 to where we today find ourselves, 1977, players who have played for two teams are a clear minority. To clarify, we are not actually in 1977, we are in 2015 as of this moment, but we mean to say that we are looking at the 1977 Brownlow Medal winner, a footballer who spread he services amongst three teams, Graham Teasdale (26 June 1955).

At first glance, it would appear as though the VFL was establishing a pattern of awarding the Brownlow Medal to players named Graham, but other than Teasdale and his immediate predecessor from the 1976 season, Graham Moss, the name of Graham appears nowhere else on the list of Brownlow winners, although few would dispute that if Graham Farmer had played in the VFL, he would have won at least one Brownlow award.

Teasdale Debut 1973 For Richmond

Teasdale made his debut with Richmond in 1973, getting on the ground for the Tigers for six games, although he did not participate in the finals in a year that the Richmond Football Club raised the premiership flag. He began his second season in the VFL with South Melbourne and he played from 1975 until 1981, the season before the Swans fled the biggest city to set up shop in the Capital and become the Sydney Swans. Teasdale joined Collingwood for the final two seasons of his career, 1982 and 1983; a VFL career of 10 seasons total, over which he played 141 games and kicked 175 goals for a 1.24 goal per game average.

Along with sharing first names with the 1975 Brownlow Medal winner, in one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moments that sports supply on occasion, Teasdale also received the identical number of Brownlow votes, 103, and would experience the same adjustment process where his total votes for 1977 were halved in order to provide some reasonable comparison with Brownlow winners from any of the seasons other than the two where the VFL counted votes from two umpires rather than just the one.

With that modification made, Teasdale’s 1.40 votes per game average takes a plunge that leaves his name nowhere to be seen on the list of all-time average votes per game, which is no indictment whatsoever of his prodigious footy skills.

Teasdale made his debut with the senior side of the Richmond club in 1973, playing most of the time he spent with Richmond from 1972 to 1975 in the under 19s. He was a leading goal kicker there and on the reserves side, but he could not solidify a place with the seniors, so he transferred to South Melbourne, probably well aware that he was giving up the chance to play on one of the more relevant teams of the time in exchange for the opportunity to play consistently on a senior side.

He got the opportunity he desired, and no one can fault him for seeking it. Beginning in round eight, he played the balance of South Melbourne’s home-and away season, fifteen games in all, where he scored 38 goals, a number he would equal in 1977, his Brownlow year, leading the team in goals kicked just as he had in 1975 in his first season with the Swans.

He again played 15 games for South Melbourne in 1976, but on a team that posted only nine wins, the finals were far beyond. He did begin to attract attention in terms of Brownlow votes, gathering nine for the season. That number in 1976, however, was well down the list since 1976 was the first year where double the number of customary votes was available.

Wins Brownlow Medal With 59 Votes

Teasdale missed only round 13 in 1977 en route to receiving 59 Brownlow votes to win the award by a margin of 14 votes over Keven Bartlett of Richmond in the second and final season of the VFL’s poorly received modification to the Brownlow voting system. The Swans squeezed into the final position for the finals, edging the Carlton Blues team that had won the same number of games, but lost one more than the Swans, which gained a draw with St. Kilda in round seven thanks in part to Teasdale’s three goals. The Swans went up against Richmond in the elimination round, only to trail the Tigers after every quarter and wind up losing by 34 points. It would turn out to be Teasdale’s one and only chance at finals glory.

Four more seasons of futility followed, including 1979, where Teasdale appeared only eight times in the first eight rounds. They avoided the wooden spoon, however, tying with Melbourne with six wins and 24 points, ahead on percentage only, and leaving bottom-of-the-ladder honours to St. Kilda.

He would transfer to Collingwood the following season, concluding his stint with the Swans at 121 games and 138 goals.

He was on the ground for Collingwood for the first 14 round only in 1982, missing round nine and appearing 13 times. Once again, Teasdale was on a side that finished 10th on the ladder, tied this time in wins and points with St. Kilda, beating the Saints on percentage.

Whilst we do apologise in advance for the poor pun, Teasdale’s swan song was a lone round 19 appearance against Richmond in 1983, although technically, we suppose it would have been his Magpie song, even though that metaphor has no meaning of which we are aware.

Graham Teasdale’s career as a footballer of course raises the age-old question that has followed the career of every sportsman who has played a team sport. Is it better to serve a minor role on a successful team, which is the proposition Teasdale faced with Richmond, or is it preferable to be a significant star on a team with perennially lowered expectations? Or, to pose the question as Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour once did, “Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”

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