The origins of the AFL’s most famous nicknames: Part I

C’mon, Kolora-Noorat aggression.

THERE’S a bloke with red hair on the bench called Bluey.

In the ruck is Dutchy Holland, at full-forward is Browny and running around in defence is Clarkey, Johnno and Jacko.

This could just as well be Collingwood at a packed MCG as the Kolora-Noorat ressies on a frosty Saturday morning. Common nicknames with not a whole lot of thought put into them.

But nicknames don’t have to be boring. There’s the funny, like Geelong’s Joel “Smithy” Corey, nicknamed as such because teammates figured he had two first names and could do with a surname.

There’s the clever, like the Selwood boys and “Bunnings” – because Bunnings sells wood.

And there’s the childhood nicknames that have stuck, like Lance “Buddy” Franklin and Anthony “Billy” Brownless.

Then there’s the famous ones. The nicknames that have superseded a player’s birth name and gone down in footy folklore. Here’s a taste of some of those monikers, and the origin stories that come with them. And yes, we left Graham “Stiffy” Johncock off for a reason.

Skin so dark you’d almost think he was an average white dude.


NOTHING says nickname like a bit of casual racism.

Edward Greeves, the winner of the first Brownlow Medal and the namesake of Geelong’s best and fairest award, was said to be a fairly dark-skinned baby when he was born in 1903.

So much so that family friend Michael Scott (a NSW golfer, not the regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin) decided to call him Carji, referencing a character in a play he’d just seen.

The character – from the play A Country Girl – was Carjillo, the Rajah of Bhong, a face-painted Englishman disguised as Indian royalty.

So little Eddie Greeves was stuck with a nickname from what was essentially a blackface character. Not cool, Michael Scott. Not cool at all.

Plugger and his girls. No jokes here. We don’t want to die.


PLUGGER’S nickname was inherited from his father, Howard, who in turn had inherited it from his own father, a green-thumb who used to “plug around” in the garden.

It’s unclear if one of Lockett’s four teenage daughters has continued the Plugger tradition, although given it became synonymous with his massive frame and lumbering movement, our best guess is no.

On a side note, how terrifying yet awesome would it be knocking on Mr Lockett’s door to ask him permission to take one his of daughters out on a date? For any kid gutsy enough to do it, it’s probably best to not Google “Tony Lockett, Peter Caven” beforehand.

They call him Mr Bomba-stic, very fantastic.


“WELL der, ya dickhead, he played for the Bombers and that’s why he’s called Bomber.”

Wrong. No, not the part about him playing for the Bombers. He did do that. 202 times to be exact.

But his original nickname was “Bomba”, and like a lot of guys on this list he was pegged with it when he was a kid. It’s unclear exactly why he earned it, but it referenced a series of adventure books called “Bomba the Jungle the Boy”.

Some say it’s because he looked the kid who played Bomba. Some say it’s because he liked climbing trees and getting around barefoot. Some same he just really bloody liked the books.

Either way, fate took him to the Bombers and the spelling of his nickname changed with it.

“Hey you, wanna be embarrassed and shamed on TV?”


WHILE Newman now looks like he is perpetually staring into a wind machine, you’d be surprised to know he was once a young man that did young man things.

That included watching American television programs like The Jackie Gleason Show, and impersonating Gleason’s catch phrase “and away we go”, which was the cue for the show’s band leader, Sam, to start conducting.

Legendary Cats coach Bob Davis said the nickname “Sam” caught on from Newman’s impersonations of Gleason. So his nickname should be Jackie. Idiots.

(Although there are some who say it was Davis who did the impression when Newman would run onto the ground…which would make a hell of a lot more sense.)

The King. Of being a bit of a knob.


OTHER than owning a given name that sounds appropriately close to “wankery”, Wayne Carey has been called “The Duck” since the early days of his footy career.

No, it’s not because he did the Donald Duck and got around with his pants off. Well, much.

It was because he waddled when he walked and ran, and because he used to beg for bread crumbs from old men in the Botanic Gardens.

Half of that is true. You can believe whichever half you like.

Percy’s nickname drove him to drink and steal Carlton memorabilia.


ON the topic of giant knobs, Peter Jones copped the nickname “Percy” from the uncle of Carlton teammate Adrian Gallagher.

Large, hairy, and obviously thought of as a bit of dick (in the friendliest sense of the word), Jones was named after the enormous penis that was transplanted onto the injured man in the 1971 film Percy.

Jones used the nickname as a motto during his early-1980s State Government election campaign, telling voters to “Point Percy at Parliament”.

Dicks and government. A relationship going strong to this day.


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