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Superstar sporting dads: Getseriouser guest post

5 min read

Chip off the old block. An apple never falls far from the tree. Like Father like Son.
And that is not even where my story starts.
Among all the romanticism and celebrated nuances with Australian Rules football, the long line of Footballers-Being-The-Offspring-Of-Previous-Footballing-Greats is one of the game’s most iconic and remarkable elements.
It’s undeniably a proven bit of biology, given how many hits clubs have by recruiting the sons of their former champions. Its something very real and tangible to we football fans, but long is its history.
It was first introduced as after WWII. VFL clubs, in those days, recruited from geographical zones, but when Carlton secured former player Harvey Dunn’s boy, Harvey Dunn Jnr, despite the lad being zoned to North Melbourne, it kicked off 70 years of family connections being honoured and protected throughout the league.

It’s undeniably a proven bit of biology, given how many hits clubs have by recruiting the sons of their former champions. Its something very real and tangible to we football fans, but long is its history

Most notably in those earlier years was when Ron Barassi, a 58-game rover for the Demons, headed off to war and was tragically killed in active service at Tobruk. Barassi had a talented son in Ron Junior. The Demons desperately wanted their former player and accomplished war veteran’s name to live on, so this new Father-Son rule allowed the Barassi name to continue at the Dees.

And did it what! Ron Junior went on to represent Melbourne 204 times, winning six flags, two as captain (the latter as captain-coach). He won two Best and Fairests and many diehard fans of the oldest club in the land say Ron Senior’s boy is the greatest player to ever adorn the red and the blue.

Decades later we see the dynasty of Geelong heavily influenced by the talents of former players’ bloodlines. Gary Ablett Senior never won the ultimate team prize, but his sons Gary Junior and Nathan have won three flags between them. The former is held in as high regard as his father. When many Geelong fans argue who is their club’s greatest of all time, its not which surname to consider, it’s simply “Is it the dad or his eldest boy”?

John Scarlett was an industrious and well-respected fullback for the Cats in the 70s, his son Matthew then went on to win three flags as a pivotal member of the team, ironically but not coincidentally holding down the same position as his father.

Too Jack Hawkins was a legend down at Kardinia Park. 182 games during the 70s down in defence. Yet his son Tom, at the other end of the field, has kicked over 500 goals for the same club as his dear old dad.

Every club possesses dual narratives of brilliant fathers and their brilliant sons. David Cloke played 219 games for Richmond, yet it’s off the back of 114 games for Collingwood his sons Jason, Cameron and Travis ended up forging their own stories as Magpies. Travis most notably played 246 games for the Pies and featured in their 2010 premiership.

The Maggies also had Ray and Tony Shaw, legends of the club in their own rights who gave the club three father sons between them, now the club has another Daicos (with another two years away) and two of Gavin Brown’s boys connected for a goal in Round One this season.

Fitzroy despite its absence has felt the good and bad with sons following their fathers. There is the good in Brian Brown’s young fella Jonathan going up to Brisbane and winning three flags as a member of the Lions’ dynasty, but too the bad in John Murphy’s boy Marc deciding to not follow the same path north, ultimately going pick one to Carlton instead.

The Fullback of the Century, Stephen Silvagni, nicknamed ‘SOS’ for Son Of Serge, saw his Dad Sergio have an amazing career of his own for the Carlton in the 1960s before joining the Bluebaggers himself and dominating for over 300 games. Now we see another generation of Silvagnis trying to forge their own path, Jack, has played over 60 games now for the club his grandfather and father played for.

For the generations of families who support the same club, who share stories with their next of kin about greats of yesterday, to see these surnames continue through the highly-touted sons-of-said-greats is something to behold and to cherish.

Richmond fans are already weak at the knees at the prospect of that Maurice Rioli Junior will pull on a Richmond jumper, and the fact that’s almost locked in already as opposed to it being left to fate and the luck of the draw… is something very special.

To see Gary Junior mimic some of the moves and mannerisms of his father Gary Senior, the bloodline on display, or for Bulldogs fans delighting in that Tom Liberatore is as tough on the inside getting his hands dirty like his father Tony, or Darcy Moore having the athletic prowess and agility in spite of his height, just like his famous father Peter, it’s equally uncanny and incredible.

Mind you, if you are a Cats fan blessed with witnessing one Gary Ablett in your lifetime, to see one of only six to kick 1000 goals wearing your jumper, to then see another Gary Ablett run around in the blue and white hoops, winning premierships and Brownlows, now that’s just absurd and you should be embarrassed by your riches.

No other sport in world sport follows this same path. Consider a world where the progeny of all clubs’ former legends pick up the family legacy and continue it on in the same colours.

Archie Manning, a two-time Pro Bowl Quarterback for the New Orleans Saints in the 1970s. Imagine the delight for Saints fans if they had first dibs at his sons, Peyton or Eli. Four Super Bowls and eighteen Pro Bowls between them for Indianapolis, Denver and New York. They could have all been in New Orleans trophy cabinets now.

In Basketball, Dell Curry, arguably the greatest Charlotte Hornet of all time and until recently their all-time leading scorer. Yet, despite being born and raised in North Carolina, his talented sons have plied their craft elsewhere. Youngest son Seth currently in the playoffs for Dallas. His eldest, Steph, is already a two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion for the Golden State Warriors.

Although in Italian football, the Maldini story rang true. The great Cesare Maldini, champion AC Milan defender in the 50s and 60s with over 300 games and six trophies, yet despite no league rules to ensure it his son, Paolo, became even more became the club legend, over 600 games for his Dad’s club and won 18 major trophies from 1984 to 2009.

In a perfect world of integrity and equality, all clubs should have an even chance of securing a talented young player, regardless of their surname and family history.

But we thumb our nose at that and chose to celebrate the connection we have to the players of our game and it is fantastic. Joe Daniher should always play for Bombers, so too should Isabella Grant, Chris’ daughter, always play for the Bulldogs.

Football and family does and should always go hand in hand.

Leigh Eustace

Written by Leigh Eustace

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