Keith Greig – Brownlow Medal Winner
As we continue our journal from the early to the modern years of looking at the players who have won the Charles Brownlow Trophy for Best and Fairest player by season in the VFL, we reach a point when we can cover two years’ worth of awards with one name: Keith Greig.
The 1973 and 1974 Brownlow Medal winner was playing his third and fourth seasons at the time, but he would go on to play another 11 seasons with North Melbourne before retiring in 1985. He would also savour the taste of team accomplishment as well, since the Roos would raise premiership flags in 1975 and 1977, the first two of their current four as of 2015, quite a feather in the cap for a team that was initially shunned by the VFL in 1896 for, among other reasons, having fans with a strong reputation for hooliganism. With his second Brownlow in 1974, Greig would become only the eighth player to win the Charlie more than once, and the fifth to win consecutively.
So, for all of you current crop of North hooligans, and you know who you are, and for anyone else with an interest in footy history, here is a closer look at Keith Grieg and his part in the history of the North Melbourne Football Club.
Born In 1951
Keith Southby “Racehorse” Grieg was born 23 October 1951. He was playing junior footy for the thirds of the VFA’s Brunswick side in 1968 when he was awarded the Gillon Medal as Best and Fairest in the VFA. The VFL, which had eventually accepted North’s hooligan fans, recruited him to play for North Melbourne when he was 19. So immediate was his impact that he was picked for his initial State Representative game, the first of twelve times he was awarded that honour, after playing just nine senior games for the Roos. He would ascend further by being made Victoria’s captain in 1978.
Early on, he played on the wing. He also played half back in later years, but it was as a winger that he enjoyed his greatest personal and team success, and it was as a centre that he would join the Australian and North Melbourne Football League Teams of the Century in 1996 when the 100th anniversary of footy rolled around.
Greig was first on the ground for North for a round one game against Carlton on 3 April 1971 where he promptly got his foot involved in kicking two goals in a victory over the Blues.
He would kick 11 that season and attract a good number of 10 Brownlow votes from 19 games in his rookie season, but the Roos could manage no better than ninth on the ladder.
North fared even more poorly in 1972, winning a wooden spoon for a dismal season where they won only once. Statistically, Greig showed progress in most categories, but the most positive spin he could possibly put on the season would have been that adversity forges champions.
Brownlow Medal Win in 1973
Keith Greig appeared in 21 of 22 games for North in his first Brownlow year of 1973. Fortunes for the side were much improved as well, mainly because they had nowhere to go but up after 1972. They won half their games that season, which was good for sixth on the ladder, one spot out of the finals. Greig’s goal kicking was reduced to just two, but he was setting new personal bests for marks and disposals that would be some of the best of his career. It would seem as though his kicking accuracy was a bit substandard, however, since he had 10 behinds, but other than his first season, where he kicked 11 goals and his second where he managed eight, he was never relied on to fill the role of a goal scorer and he never kicked more than six again for the entirety of his remaining career. His 27 Brownlow votes were two clear of Graham Moss of the rival Essendon side, and only Moss and Leigh Matthews of Hawthorn bettered him by one in the number of three-vote games.
The 1974 season was one of high expectations for Greig and the Kangaroos. They delivered on those expectations, concluding the home-and-away season second on the ladder and hot on the heels of Richmond. The Roos journey through the finals saw them conquer the Hawks in the qualifying final. They lost in the semifinal with Richmond, but then survived a narrow victory over Hawthorn in the preliminary final after the Hawks had advanced by beating Collingwood in the other semifinal. That win put North into the Grand Final with Richmond, but they did not play well enough in losing to the Tigers 128 – 87. Greig did manage one goal in the match.
Greig, in again attracting 27 Brownlow votes, was four ahead of his nearest competitor, Melbourne’s Gary Hardeman.
In 1975, North won its first VFL premiership when they finished third on the ladder and worked their way through to the Grand Final, where they beat Hawthorn for the title. The tables were reversed in 1976, where the Hawks got the better of the Roos. Greig was in his first year of captaincy.
The 1977 started off showing great promise for Greig. North was undefeated in the first five rounds, but after a round six loss to Richmond, injury forced Greig to miss five games. He returned for rounds 12 and 13, but he was again hurt and had to watch as the club won its second VFL premiership.
1978 Grand Final Defeat Against Hawthorn
He came back in 1978 as the once-again strong club made it to the Grand Final only to suffer defeat again at the hands of Hawthorn. He was present for most of the team’s games in 1979 as a third-year captain. In 1980 he played only rounds one, six and seven in 1981, so it was perhaps sentimentality that would account for his Syd Barker Medal as club Best and Fairest.
Four more seasons followed, perhaps the best being 1983 when he once again received Brownlow votes, 10 of them, but losses in the finals to Hawthorn and Essendon left a sense of unfulfilled expectations. The club made it to the finals round in his last season of 1985, but they lost to Footscray in the semifinal, Greig’s 294th and last game.
Hall Of Fame Inductee
After his playing days were over, he was chairman of selectors for North Melbourne in 1992 and in 1996 he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.