Kelvin Templeton – Former Australian Rules Brownlow Medal Winner
We have seen many different scenarios play out with regard to Brownlow Medal winners that we have looked at in the past. Many were great players who played many seasons and were valuable to their clubs consistently, even if those clubs struggled to gain any traction in the league. A few players did experience some team success, with the ultimate being the premiership flag. Occasionally, we have seen a winner that only played for a few seasons before something, injury or otherwise, ended their careers, opening the door to speculation over what might have been if they had played more years.
The 1980 Brownlow Medal winner presents another of the seemingly infinite permutations that will be seen in any sport. Kelvin Templeton (30 September 1956) played 12 seasons, nine with the Footscray Football Club and three with the Melbourne Demons. Unlike many of the Brownlow winners, he was a prodigious goal kicker, kicking 593 to wind up at 33rd all-time most in the history of the league and fourth amongst Bulldogs players. He averaged 3.35 goals per game and his other statistics are most respectable.
Where he differs to a great degree compared to other Brownlow Medal winners is that he received only 44 votes for his 12 seasons of footy. Discounting the 23 he received in 1980 leaves 21 for the remaining 11 seasons. In four of his seasons, he received zero votes.
We though it might be interesting to examine this player in detail and discover what it was that made him skyrocket to the top of the Brownlow list in 1980 when prior to that season, he had never received more than five votes.
There was little doubt that Templeton would be a footballer. Playing for Traralgon of the Latrobe Valley Football League in 1973, he kicked 100 goals at the age of 16 and was the youngest ever to achieve that distinction. True, big statistics at that level of play could indicate a young man maturing well ahead of his peers, but in his case, it was merely an omen of what was to follow.
Recruiters from Footscray kept an eye on the local prodigy. They signed him to play beginning in 1974 when the Bulldogs were going through years of drought due to a lack of goal kickers capable of winning a match in crunch time ever since Jack Collins had hung up his boots in the 50s. Playing at full-forward, he put the boot to six goals in his debut against the Collingwood Tigers on 20 April 1974 when he was still lacking five months of turning 18. He kicked 25 goals in 12 appearances that first year, which if our math serves, works out to over two per game, yet he was completely ignored for Brownlow consideration due to a perceived possible lack of best and fairness.
Not even kicking 82 goals in his third season of 1976 earned him more than two votes, perhaps the strongest evidence we have seen in our examination of Brownlow winners to support the claim that the award is biased towards midfielders. He led the Bulldogs in goal kicking, as he would the next four seasons. He got his first taste of the finals that year, kicking four goals against the Geelong Cats to lead the goal kicking from both sides, but that failed to make up for the seven points by which the Bulldogs trailed the Cats when the final siren sounded.
Templeton was limited in 1977 and did not play beyond round 11. Footscray concluded the season in seventh position. He did average almost 4.5 goals per game for the nine in which he played.
He had his best season kicking goals in 1978, with 118 in 21 games, yet that earned him the exact same number of Brownlow votes, five, which he got the year previous in nine games. He averaged 5.6 per game, earning his first Coleman Medal as the league’s leading goal kicker. He won a second Coleman Medal in 1979, this time with 91. That performance was good for two Brownlow votes.
He moved to centre half-forward the following season after the Bulldogs had an 11 game losing streak to start the season. That move worked out well, at least initially, resulting in Footscray winning its next three. Unfortunately, beyond that they only won twice more in the balance of the season, finishing above only Fitzroy and St. Kilda. Kelvin Templeton was the primary beneficiary of the position change, as he won the Brownlow Medal with 23 votes. He still managed to kick 75 goals in becoming the first forward to win the Brownlow and kick over 70 goals in the same season.
He played two more seasons with Footscray. A serious knee injury in 1981 limited him to six games. That and other chronic injuries continued to dog him in 1982. The Bulldogs won only two games that 1981 season and only Melbourne, winning only once, prevented them from claiming the wooden spoon. The spoon would be the Bulldogs’ fate in 1982, even though their three wins were one better than the previous year, as perennial bottom-dwellers St. Kilda won four times.
The Demons, tired of being laughing stocks, invested money in players in 1983, one of which was Templeton. He played 34 games for the side over the course of three seasons. He led the side in goal kicking in 1984, booting 51 over the course of 16 games, needing only 103 kicks to do it, but even though he was still relatively young in footy years, it was beginning to be obvious that his body was betraying him. He missed the first 11 rounds in 1985 and played his last game in round 16 against Carlton. He announced his retirement in April of the following year.
Subsequent to his playing days, he entered management as the CEO of the Sydney Swans.
For one stellar season, at least in the eyes of the Brownlow voters, Kelvin Templeton stood atop the football world. He had other great seasons as well, although it might be fair to see he never received the recognition he deserved. Then again, it is without doubt that Templeton would have gladly traded his individual highlights for more opportunities to appear in the finals.