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Ross Glendinning – Australian Rules Brownlow Medal Winner

GlendinningIn contrast to 1982 Brownlow Medal winner Brian Wilson and 1980 recipient Kelvin Templeton, 1983 winner Ross Glendinning 17 September 1956) was a player that received considerable attention for the Brownlow. From the time he made his debut with North Melbourne in 1978, it appeared more a question of when, not if he would win a Charlie.

He attracted 66 votes during his first five seasons and finished second to Wilson in 1982. Glendinning, dividing time between centre half-forward and centre halfback, was also a capable goal kicker by any standard, more so for being a mid-fielder.

Glendinning was also unlike many other Brownlow winners in the regard that he played for sides that were consistent winners. Even when he went to the expansion team West Coast Eagles for his final two seasons, he was on the ground for 22 wins in the 40 games he played for the new team.

If there could be any knock levied against him, it could only be that he never made it to the premiership level or played in a Grand Final. He played in the finals 13 times, but was on the winning side only four. Unfair as it may be to evaluate a player’s career by what a team accomplished when it truly mattered, it is commonplace in all sports, not only Australian Rules Football.

Here is a season-by-season look at Ross Glendinning, offered in the attempt of going beyond finals appearances and individual accolades.
Born in Subiaco, Western Australia, Glendinning first played at the professional level in 1974 with East Perth of the Western Australian Football League. The Royals have a long list of distinguished players in their history, including Graham “Polly” Farmer the champion ruckman who emerged in the same year of 1956 when Glendinning was born. Barry Glendinning stepped onto the ground in 1974 for a side that had reached the finals of the WAFL. His first season marked the first time the Royals had failed to make the finals since 1966, but they returned for both of his final two seasons. The Royals made it as far as runners-up in 1976 and took the premiership in 1978 after Glendinning had moved to North Melbourne in the VFL. In four seasons with East Perth, he played 56 games and is one of three halfbacks on the Royals Post- War Team of the Century.

Glendinning’s final season of 1977 with the Royals also marked the first of his 15 appearances for Western Australia in State of Origin representation.

Ross Glendinning’s VFL career got off to a promising start in 1978. He kicked three goals and two behinds in a round one match against Footscray. The Kangaroos were a force that season and reeled off a string of eight wins before losing to Carlton in round nine. They beat the Bombers the following week before another victory against South Melbourne, but then hit a rough patch of four consecutive losses. Beginning with Footcray’s round 12 revenge for the round one loss. Richmond and St. Kilda also beat the Roos, and Hawthorn added another loss, before the side totally reversed their fortunes and won four in a row.

Glendinning’s play was considered worthy of nine Brownlow votes. The side made it to the finals after finishing the home-and-away season at the top of the ladder ahead of Hawthorn by five percentage points.

The Hawks defeated the Roos to take the flag by a margin of 18 points. It was to be Glendinning’s only Grand Final appearance, even though North Melbourne was the reigning premiership side from 1977 and 1978 marked their fifth successive Grand Final. He played alongside the 1978 Brownlow winner, Malcolm Blight.

Glendinning made steady forward progress over the next four seasons and the Kangaroos remained a strong side. He kicked 59 goals in 1979, the high water mark for his career with North Melbourne. He received 14 Brownlow votes that season, as he did again in 1980. His goal kicking was down, but the season featured the statistical anomaly of having produced the exact same number of disposals, 372, as had the 1979 season.

His vote total dropped to 11 in 1981 and the Kangaroos slipped a bit too, finishing eighth on the ladder and failing to qualify for the finals.

Both Glendinning and the Roos were back strongly in 1982. They made the finals after finishing fifth on the ladder, and then won an elimination final before bowing out against Hawthorn in the semifinal. Glendinning was acknowledged with 18 Brownlow points, good for second position behind Brian Wilson, a player who had only one Brownlow vote the season prior.

Glendinning’s Brownlow season of 1983 saw his goal kicking increase to 20, a nice improvement from the prior two seasons that saw him limited to 11. He also took the most kicks of his career with 350 and set his career mark for disposals with 522, 42 more than his previous best from 1982. He exceeded the 100 marks level for the fifth time, with his total of 166 in 1983 being another career mark.

North Melbourne finished atop the ladder, winning one more game and accumulating four more points than number two Hawthorn, even though the Hawks had edged them by just under one percentage point. As far as the side was concerned, the season was marred by a semifinal loss to the Hawks and a preliminary loss the following week the Essendon Bombers by the embarrassing score of 164-78.

Brownlow voting was tight, with Glendinning receiving 24 to win one clear of Maurice Rioli of Richmond and two better than Essendon’s Simon Madden. Fourth place went to Gary Dempsey, Glendinning’s teammate who had won in 1975 as a member of the Footscray Football Club. Another teammate was two-time Brownlow winner Keith Grieg, who won as a member of the Kangaroos in 1973-74. Glendinning received a second North Melbourne best and fairest award to go with the one from 1982.

Ross Glendinning played three more seasons for North Melbourne without making it back to the finals. Like many Brownlow winners, his vote total took a steep decline, with only three in 1984 and two in his final season of 1986 with the Roos.

The VFL expanded from 12 to fourteen teams in 1987 and Glendinning, perhaps eager to get back to his home area, went to play for the new West Coast Football Club. The newcomers did quite well for an expansion team, winning 11 games in their first season and 13 in 1987, good for fourth on the ladder and a spot in the finals. The Eagles lost a heartbreaker elimination final to Melbourne by two points. Glendinning would kick five goals and three behinds in the final game of his career. He had led the Eagles in goal kicking in the final two years of his playing time, including leading the team with a career-high 73 goals in 1988. He was captain of the side for both of his final seasons.

Glendinning was inducted into the WA Hall of Champions in 1994, the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2000, the WA Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and the North Melbourne Hall of Fame in 2012. He served as the coach of WA in State or Origin games in 1996 and 1997. The Ross Glendinning Medal is awarded annually to the best and fairest player of the West Coast/Fremantle match.

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