SOMETIMES at The Hickey Stand’s Norlane headquarters we like to relax by cracking open a Furphys, punching a few durries, and dusting off the Carlton v Geelong 1995 Grand Final VHS to remind us how to feel feelings again.
Through the fits of rage directed mainly at Gary Ayres’ rubbish haircut and inability to stop Diesel Williams from getting the ball 31 times and kicking five goals, there’s always a tinge of sadness at seeing some of Geelong’s legends in the death throes of their careers.
Ken Hinkley called it quits after the 61-point loss, Gary Ablett would only last 17 more games before he went off the rails, and Billy Brownless played just 19 more matches as his body grew weary of trying to stop a fat man from emerging gloriously from a skinny man’s body.
Through the tears and self-loathing at our inability to let go of the past, it got us thinking – who did that numpty of a man Ayres plan on replacing these giants of the game with?
Wiping the ciggie ash off our overstretched woollen Cats jumper with the No.5 ironed onto the back, we stumbled out through our concrete backyard in just the guernsey and our tighty-whiteys, kicked open the door to the back shed, and rifled through our box of old footy records to find out who debuted for Geelong in 1995.
We’ve been crying in the shower ever since.
ROBERT DI ROSA: Debuted Round 1 – (3 games, 0 goals)
THE No.18 pick in the 1994 National Draft, Western Jets midfielder Robert Di Rosa was thrown straight into the big time, debuting in Round 1 against the Demons and picking up nine touches along the way in a Cats victory.
The next week, he had six touches against Sydney in another win, and then three touches against Collingwood as Geelong went unbeaten to start the season.
Obviously a scholar of maths, Gary Ayres figured Di Rosa would have zero disposals if he played him again, followed by minus-three the next week, so he did the only sane thing and dropped him. Forever. Di Rosa never played in the AFL again.
Eventually sent packing from Kardinia Park, Di Rosa found game time in the Footscray reserves and was then given a chance on the Essendon rookie list, but he could never force himself back into the big time.
Now living in Newmarket, just north of Toronto, Canada, Di Rosa runs his own real estate business and rocks a sick soul patch in his spare time.
BRENTON SANDERSON: Debuted Round 1 – (199 games, 29 goals)
ARGUABLY Geelong’s best debutant of 1995, Sanderson was The Hickey Stand’s favourite player when we were kids because we liked his haircut. Honestly. We’re an odd unit.
Having started his career in Adelaide with six games in 1992 and 1993, Sanderson moved to Collingwood in 1994, where he share housed with future Brownlow Medallist Nathan Buckley. Only putting up another four games, he was then traded to the Cats for pick No.47 (which became Robbie Ahmat) and pulled on the hoops for the first time in the Round 1 match against the Demons.
After playing the first five games of the season, he was pushed in and out of the team like a vintage Jordan Murdoch, but returned in Round 19 and played all the way through to the Preliminary Final.
Only managing three touches in that game, Sanderson was dumped for the Grand Final in favour of Grant Tanner, who had faced the exact same fate in the premiership match the year before.
Ultimately, while Sanderson did go on to win the club best and fairest in 2001, he never had another chance to play in a Grand Final, with his last match coming in the “let’s never speak of it again” Semi-Final against Sydney in 2005.
Bloody Nick Davis.
Sanderson is now assistant coach at Collingwood under best mate Buckley, having spent a rollercoaster three years as Adelaide head coach.
He’s also lost all of his hair. Devastating.
BRAD SHOLL: Debuted Round 1 – (169 games, 46 goals)
THE only player in this list to play in the 1995 Grand Final, Sholl rivals Sanderson as the most valuable asset to the Cats from this debutant year.
Having played just two games alongside brother Craig at North Melbourne, the running half back was traded to Geelong with picks No.17 (Carl Steinfort) and No.69 (Dean Helmers), in return for Robert Scott.
Taking a few games to settle in, Sholl secured his place in the best 22 in a Round 7 loss to a Dunstall-less Hawthorn, picking up 32 disposals. From there he played every game of the season, but saved his worst for last – getting just 10 touches in the Grand Final.
Rocking a bit of a rough head and a junkyard dog attitude, Sholl brought some much-needed hardness to the Cats over the following few seasons, finishing second in Geelong’s 1996 best and fairest and sixth in the 1997 Brownlow Medal.
Retiring at the end of 2002, Sholl did what every good mid-range Geelong player does and went into coaching in the country, starting at Port Fairy, then moving to Hawkesdale-Macarthur, and most recently guiding the Timboon Demons in the Warrnambool and District Football League.
DEREK HALL: Debuted Round 4 – (74 games, 74 goals)
IF it wasn’t apparent before now, Gary Ayres’ solution to replacing superstars like and Ablett and Brownless was to bring in mildly talented players from elsewhere.
Medium-sized forward Derek Hall started a tradition of Geelong giving West Coast’s dud goalkickers a second chance, with the Karl Pilkington lookalike moving across the country after two underwhelming games for the Eagles.
Handed a Cats debut in Round 4 against the newly minted Fremantle Dockers, Hall had just one disposal as the star-studded Geelong team gave the new guys their second ever victory.
Sent back to the magoos for a game, Hall returned in Round 6 against Footscray and tallied 21 touches and two goals in a sure sign he was going to become a Kardinia Park legend.
The next week he was shit again.
While his debut season in Geelong was as wobbly as a Jed Bews kick out of defence, Hall was reliable over the next two seasons, kicking 50 goals from his 39 games, before injury eventually caught up with him.
As is tradition, Hall moved into coaching after retirement, starting at Peel Thunder in WA before going on an exclusive coaching tour of teams nicknamed the Cats, taking the reins at Mooroopna in the Goulburn Valley League in 2005 before moving to the Katandra Kats in 2008.
Hall was last spotted winning the hearts and minds of starry-eyed kids in Bunbury when he rocked up to a South West Football League match to act as guest umpire.
JOHN CUNNINGHAM: Debuted Round 5 – (2 games, 0 goals)
THE son of Hawthorn premiership player Jack Cunningham, hard-working rover John could only notch two games in his two and a bit seasons at the Cattery, before being delisted at the end of 1995.
But his footballing story was only just beginning.
Joining Norwood in the SANFL in 1996, Cunningham’s performance for the Red Legs in the 1997 Grand Final is the stuff of legend in South Australia.
Banging up his knee badly in a pre-season match of that year, nobody expected him to return to the field having being operated on in April. Making a remarkable recovery, Cunningham played his first game for the reserves in the final match of the regular season, then was thrown straight into seniors for the finals series.
Making it through to the Grand Final to play Port Adelaide – who were going for their fourth flag in as many years – Cunningham picked up 29 touches and kicked two goals as Norwood won the match by 73 points.
The ex-Cat’s heroics led to him being awarded the Jack Oatey Medal for best on field.
Eventually, after 108 games and 120 goals for Norwood, injury caught up to the midfielder and he retired in 2002, moving into a career in … let’s play a game – coaching or real estate…?
Why not both!? Cunningham took the reins at Pembroke Old Scholars in the South Australian Amateur Football League, and is currently managing director at JKC Real Estate in Adelaide.
Edit – We were lucky enough to have John comment on our Facebook page to give an insight on his two games, only confirming our disdain for Gary Ayres and his crap haircut:
“Cracker of a read!! We all thought after Gary Ayres coached us in the twos throughout 1994 we were all a big chance to be given a go in 1995. I enjoyed my 25 mins in debut game and 15 mins in the second and last game – great chance to showcase my abilities at the highest level. Vivid memory of being sacked the week before Christmas of 95 having completed six weeks of pre-season for upcoming 1996 season.”
JAMES MCLURE: Debuted Round 9 – (3 games, 0 goals)
FOR most players, the battle to make it to the big time is the toughest one they’ll ever have to endure.
But for James McLure, his fight came from the mental demons brought to life by an ongoing struggle with schizophrenia and depression.
An illness that interrupted a promising career at the Cats and then at Woodville-West Torrens in the SANFL, McLure has openly spoken of losing all touch with reality, at times thinking he was a wizard or the next secretary-general of the United Nations.
Now on the road to recovery, McLure is proactive in helping out others like him in the community, working at Mental Health and Wellbeing Australia in South Geelong.
Ultimately, there’s nothing that we can write that hasn’t already been done significantly better by Greg Dundas at the Geelong Advertiser in this article from 2016, and we wish nothing but the best to James and his family.
CRAIG BIDDISCOMBE: Debuted Round 20 – (34 games, 6 goals)
INITIALLY handed a jumper because the property steward thought Barry Stoneham had visited a really good day spa, Traralgon’s Craig Biddiscombe made the most of his luck and debuted in his first season at the Cats.
Playing just the two games late in the year the midfielder gained momentum in 1996 and was awarded a Rising Star nomination after picking up 25 touches against Fitzroy in Round 13.
While showing glimpses of talent in the next few seasons, Biddiscombe was unable to lock down a spot in Geelong’s best 22, and was traded to Richmond for the 1999 season, where being able to catch the ball was the only prerequisite for being on the Tigers’ list.
Adding another 44 games to his career tally at Punt Road, injury eventually forced him out of the game.
Uniquely, the ginger nut didn’t go into coaching or real estate, instead focusing on a career with Leading Teams where he talks about ‘dynamics’, ‘culture’, ‘productivity’, and other words which makes us at The Hickey Stand want to sit in a dark room by ourselves for the rest of eternity.
Also, Biddiscombe is an exceptional cricketer according to a glowing review on his Wikipedia page – a review that’s almost too glowing.
TIM ALLEN: Debuted Round 22 – (1 game, 0 goals)
HAVING wrapped on production for Toy Story, Tim Allen joined the Cats as a back-up tall forward option in the case that both Gary Ablett and Billy Brownless were unavailable.
That moment came in the final round of the 1995 season against the Hawks, as Allen spearheaded Geelong’s attack with 0 goals, 0 behinds, and one disposal.
While he only played 34 games and kicked 17 goals in his five year career, Allen had front row seats to the best goalkicking performances in Aussie Rules history, first serving as back up to Tony Lockett at the Saints, then Jason Dunstall at the Hawks, and then Ablett at the Cats – three of the five forwards to kick 1000 goals in league history.
While we’d love to know what Allen is up to these days, googling ‘Tim Allen’ just provides us with a reminder of the truly awful Jungle 2 Jungle.