Michael Tuck: AFL Ruck-Rover Great
He holds the record for having played the most games in the AFL
Michael Tuck was one of the best ruck-rovers ever to play Australian Rules football. He started his career with the Hawthorn Football Club in the Victorian Football League and played for them for his entire career. He holds the record for having played the most games in the AFL.
Tuck was born on 24th June, 1953 in Berwick, Victoria, which is a suburb 45 kilometres south-east of the central business district in Melbourne. As compared to most football players, Tuck started playing the game relatively late in his life. He initially used to play in a different position and later moved on to become a ruck-rover as he proved to be an asset to the team in that position.
Michael Tuck wasn’t built like a ruck-rover though, which made him stand out from others in the league. However, he didn’t let his size affect his skills. He captained the Hawks for a number of years until his retirement and led the team to many Grand Finals. Besides being the team captain, Tuck was named as an All-Australian for two years. He also made it onto Hawthorn’s Team of the Century and also represented the Big V in a couple of matches.
In 1996, Michael Tuck was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame. Most football players often move towards coaching, but he was one of the few that completely retired from playing and bid the game goodbye.
Michael Tuck started playing football for the Hawks in 1972 at the age of 20. He joined Hawthorn from a country zone club. Throughout his nineteen-year football career, he remained with the Hawks. Michael’s debut game was as a full-forward because the Hawks had lost their starting full-forward to an injury and Michael Tuck was to take his place. This game was against Richmond and Tuck starred with an impressive performance as he landed goals on his first three kicks.
However, he was dropped from the senior side as after the first goals he kicked, his performance tapered off. Over the next few years, Michael Tuck was tested in various positions because he was not suitable as a full-forward and the Hawks didn’t want to lose a player like him because he had potential. He was tried as a winger and in the same year he was also moved to the position of defender.
In 1974, Michael Tuck finally found his true position as a ruck rover. Once he did, he established himself as a senior league player in Hawthorn. Michael Tuck, along with Leigh Matthews and Don Scott, formed a skill combination that was feared by every Victorian Football League club at the time. In his career as a ruck rover for the Hawks, Tuck helped Hawthorn win seven Premierships between 1983 and 1991.
Michael Tuck played seven Premiership games for Hawthorn throughout his career, which is a record.
1976 VFL Grand Final
The 1976 Grand Final was to be played between Hawthorn and North Melbourne. Hawthorn was in second position and had won 16 of the 22 games that they played. North Melbourne on the other hand lost seven games out of 22. During the season, the Hawks had defeated North Melbourne twice already and were confident of winning the Grand Final as well.
In addition, the feared the combination of Michael Tuck, Matthews and Scott had helped the team secure wins against North Melbourne, including the qualifying final, which Hawthorn won by a 20-point margin. As expected, the Hawks secured the club’s third Premiership by a 30-point margin against North Melbourne.
1978 VFL Grand Final
The 1978 VFL Grand Final was between North Melbourne, the Premiership winners in 1977, and Hawthorn. Hawthorn had defeated North Melbourne in 1976, but didn’t make it to the Grand Final. This was a chance for the Hawks to secure their fourth Premiership.
Throughout the season, Hawthorn and North Melbourne were neck to neck, Hawthorn was in second position while North Melbourne was at the top. The Hawks had faced North Melbourne in the second semi-final of the same season and comfortably defeated them by 10 points. The team hoped to do the same in the Grand Final.
As the Hawks hoped, they were able to defeat the North Melbourne Football Club by 18 points.
1983 VFL Grand Final
Hawthorn came in strong since the beginning of the 1983 VFL Grand Final and finished second with 15 wins out of 22 games. On the other hand, their opponent Essendon had come in fourth on the VFL ladder and also had 15 wins out of the 22 played.
In the 1983 VFL Grand Final, the Hawks started strong and were in the lead by 2.6 points by quarter time, which made it easy for them to dominate the rest of the game. Essendon was not able to score a single goal in the third quarter. After displaying a strong performance, the Hawks secured their fifth Premiership win by an 83-point margin, breaking Richmond’s record from the 1980 Grand Final. This record stood for five years.
Michael Tuck was a key player for Hawthorn during the 1976, 1978 and 1983 premierships; unfortunately he was not able to score a single goal in either of the games.
Career As Captain
After the retirement of Leigh Matthews in 1986, Michael Tuck took over as captain of the team. He led the team to five VFL/AFL Grand Finals as captain, of which the Hawks won four. He remained Hawthorn’s captain up until his retirement in 1991.
1986 VFL Grand Final
The 1986 VFL Grand Final was Michael Tuck’s first as Hawthorn’s captain. The Hawks faced Carlton this time around. Although the Hawks finished first, the favourite was Carlton because this was their first time in the Grand Finals since 1982. Maintaining the same performance that they delivered all season, the Hawks secured an early 37-point lead by the second quarter.
With the help of Michael Tuck’s leadership skills, the Hawks won their sixth Premiership, adding another Premiership win to his belt, but this time as captain.
1987 VFL Grand Final
The 1987 VFL Grand Final was a repeat of the previous season as Hawthorn squared off against Carlton again. Hawthorn had won the Premiership under the captaincy of Michael Tuck and was hoping to repeat the same. On the other hand, the Blues were seeking vengeance for last year’s defeat and started off strong from the beginning of the season, finishing on top with Hawthorn finishing second.
Tuck wore a sleeveless jumper in the game because the heat was unbearable. In addition to the heat, the Hawks were missing one of their key players, Jason Dunstall, who was out with an ankle injury. The Hawks were unable to secure the premiership that year and lost to Carlton by 33 points.
1988 VFL Grand Final
The 1988 season was the third consecutive time that Hawthorn made it to the Grand Finals led by Michael Tuck. Hawthorn had finished first but had been defeated by Melbourne once in round seven. However, in the Grand Final, the Hawks dominated the game throughout and defeated Melbourne by 96 points, beating their own record set in the 1983 premiership win. This record remained unbroken for the next 19 years.
1989 VFL Grand Final
The 1989 VFL Grand Final was Hawthorn’s eighth Premiership victory where they played against the Geelong Football Club. The Hawks secured victory after a tough contest. In the game, Hawthorn’s star centre half-forward was injured by Mark Yates of the Cats. This was considered to be the one of the most thrilling Grand Final matches of all time.
1991 AFL Grand Final
The Hawks and the Eagles battled it out for the premiership in the 1991 AFL Grand Final. This was also Michael Tuck’s last season and he retired in style as he led the team to their 9th Premiership victory by a 53-point margin.
Awards And Achievements
Michael Tuck wasn’t able to win the Brownlow Medal in his career but he finished as the runner-up on six occasions. In addition, he was selected for the All-Australian Team in 1979 and 1983 and was also named in Hawthorn’s Team of the Century. Tuck represented Victoria on 11 occasions and scored five goals in those games.
He captained the Hawks for five years and led them to four Premiership wins. He played 7 Premiership games in all, which to this day is a record. Tuck also holds the record for most games played at 426 games for Hawthorn. However, this does not include the games he played as part of the reserve team before becoming a senior player.
Michael Tuck also holds the record for most finals played at 39 and the most Grand Finals played at 11. At the time of his retirement in 1991, he was 38 years and 95 days old, making him the 10th oldest player to retire from the AFL.
With years of dedication to his team and his skill on the field, it is no doubt that Michael Tuck is one of the memorable football players in the AFL.