Tuesday, 12 March 2013

◄Special Edition 1► Beyond These Pages

The below is reproduced with permission* from the wonderful archive / research / treasure-trove website; AustralianFootball.com.

It is our writings on a twitter-inspired subject that filled an otherwise dull football-less day with memories of players past, and footballers of our collective history.
It is also a study in how the immediacy of twitter, and the societal links it creates, can forge partnerships and alliances; to hunt down trivia, research and document history, and to establish collaborative efforts among diverse 'mates' who may have never met.

Thanks should be apportioned to those involved in the tweeting and researching (named below, and others), and also to Andrew Gigacz at the Australian Football website, for pushing us to write this research and record the findings.
From our side... it was fun, genuine entertainment to work on this, and with support from such wonderful twitter folk.

The FootyMaths Institute gains a grain-of-sand size volume of credibility. An our Special Edition 2 is coming, where we also grow (ever so slightly) in stature.
[Trumpet successfully blown]

Click on the link here to enjoy it and the wonderful website that is AustralianFootball.com.

* Normally we haven't sought prior permission, so this is a real first!

An off-the-cuff Twitter remark led The FootyMaths Institute and his mates to search for a trio of linked VFL/AFL players whose careers spanned six decades. Find out how they went.

In modern times, football fans can while away the hours when football is not on, by hanging out on internet forums, facebook and twitter. I imagine the same would have happened around the time the VFL/AFL began over a century ago, just without the technology.

Back around 1897, the general public's access to football news was significantly more limited. You either saw a game live, or read it in the papers if you were educated enough to read. No radios or televisions existed in those days, so the only other way to find out about your heroes was by word of mouth. At your workplace. In the school yard. Down at your local pub. Or perhaps just during a chat to friend up the street.

While that seems arcane by modern standards, the early footballing years maintained a more intimate relationship between fan and football team. Clubs were much more representative of the suburbs that gave them their name. More of the teams' players would have grown up and lived in the area, would have jobs nearby, kids at local schools, and frequented the area pubs. The connection between fan and club was very different all those years ago.

Our generation has reduced direct access to footballers. They no longer work normal jobs while playing. A low percentage (to zero) would have grown up in the suburb that bears the team name, and only a very slightly higher percentage would have even been raised in the same region as the club.

But our generation has amazing access to information, and the ability to share, collaborate and disseminate that information... like no other generation before it. Topics and discussions wash back and forth over the internet, some linked to the coming season, or the season past, or even the events of the off season. Debate rages and subsides. Occasionally  obscure topics bob up, spark interest, capture attention and then fade.

One such topic on twitter inspired this post. It started out innocuously enough...

The discussion washed around players who played at VFL Park, then through Dustin Fletcher being noted as playing with others through 5 decades.

And so, via the internet and twitter, a search was on. To link players across the decades, across eras and across clubs. The only rules... 1) to maximize the decades played across  and 2) players had to play in the same team in at least one game to be considered 'linked'. And with twitter being the instantaneous medium it was, the results started to pour in, such as

  1969-2012: B.Doull - C.Bradley - B.Thornton
  1967-2010: G.Dempsey - D.Hawkins - B.Johnston
  1967-2012: K.Fletcher - T.Watson - D.Fletcher
all from @lucasgarth

  1898-1946: V.Cumberland (pictured) - B.Cubbins - A.Morrison

  1898-1950: S.Barker - J.Lewis - N.Smith
  1953-2002: R.Barassi - B.Doull - C.Bradley
from John Carr @TheHolyBoot

  1908-1950: F.Hughes - G.Coventry - P.Kyne

  1948-1990: A.Gale - K.Murray - R.Carter
  1958-2001: S.Silvagni - B Doull - S.Silvagni
  1967-2010: I.Hampshire - S.MacPherson - B.Johnson
all from @AndrewGigacz

Our unique contribution was

  1967-2012: I.Nankervis - A.Bews - L.Power
which brought in the newest AFL club into the mix with Luke Power playing at the GWS Giants on 2012.

So over the space of just under two days of sporadic tweeting by a disparate bunch, a neat little selection of just over 30 combinations were uncovered. All of them were six decade stretches and the chance of finding a seven decade combination, a driver of early activity, seemed remote.

After that two days of independent yet collaborative searching, the crowd-sourcing venture turned to experts in footy player stats... and the BigFooty forum provided a big list of combinations... 111 in fact. The list complied from "a table containing 68 million records" did though uncover that no three-player combination has yet stretched to seven decades. We have turned these into a visual guide as per the image link below.

Image link (opens in separate window): Players Spanning Six Decades

(Note. This is a large image. Zoom in to view details.)

Looking at the chart, we can link Drew Petrie and Brent Harvey, still playing in 2013, directly back to St Kilda's Vic Cumberland who played in the second season of VFL football back in 1898. Pivotal to that link across three centuries are two famous names of post war football. One a premiership player (and one of the most famous nicknames of the game), the other known for his superb kicking at full forward. Mr. Football, Ted Whitten, links with the great Bernie Quinlan, 'Super Boot' himself, who is also the most linked-to player.

There are other linkages of shorter time frames too, that mostly revolve around one club. Essendon, Collingwood and Carlton provide such examples, but it is Footscray that brings the most diverse connections.

Missing from the list are some of the great names of football: 400+ game veterans Kevin Bartlett and Michael Tuck. Longest consecutive games played record holder Jim Stynes. All time leading goal kicker, Tony Lockett. Triple Brownlow medalists Bob Skilton, Ian Stewart and Hayden Bunton. Icons of their playing and media days, Jack Dyer and Lou Richards.

From a club perspective, all clubs with the exception of University, West Coast, and Adelaide are listed as well. Newcomers the Giants gain access through Luke Power, the Gold Coast Suns have Daniel Harris on the list, Port Adelaide and Fremantle bring Daniel Motlop and Chris Tarrant respectively. Both incarnations of Brisbane (Lions and Bears) are also represented.

Would the same type of discussion have happened back in the early part of the last century? I would like to think so... perhaps not to the same depth (as the technical resources were not available), but you would think there would be a few folk sharing a beer at the local, and talking of the greats of their era, and others that went before them.

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