NSW welcomes 100 inductees into Hall of Fame

NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame Legends Paul Kelly and Tony Lockett at the inaugural gala dinner. Photo: Nigel Owen

More than 350 people attended the inaugural NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame gala dinner at the SCG on Friday night in one of the most significant occasions in NSW football history.

One hundred people comprising 76 players and coaches, 11 administrators, nine umpires, and four media personalities were formally inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Nine of the 100 inductees were elevated to Legend status, the highest honour awarded for NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame members. Legends are determined by a selection committee which considers the candidate’s outstanding service and overall contribution to the game. The NSW Legends are listed below.

The list of Legends and inductees comprises some of the biggest names in the history of the game, including Lockett, Daniher and Kelly.

Head of AFL NSW/ACT, Tiffany Robertson, said of the evening: “It’s important for people to understand NSW has played Australian rules football for more than 140 years. There have been countless talented players and committed volunteers who have built a strong culture and rich history for the code throughout the state.

“The Hall of Fame is a testament to all those people who have given so much. Congratulations to everyone who was recognised this evening.”

The first ever NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame event came on the eve of the Sydney Derby XXVII, where the Sydney Swans and the GIANTS go head-to-head at the SCG. These elite clubs – who have each suffered only one loss to date in season 2024 and sit second and third on the ladder, respectively – have more than 20 players of NSW/ACT origin on their men’s AFL lists, demonstrating the talent the state and territory has to offer.

In the elite AFLW competition, the Swans and GIANTS combined last season to have more than 30 players of NSW/ACT origin on their lists.

The Hall of Fame also comes the week many NAB AFL Auskick centres open across NSW/ACT for the season. It’s not too late for participants to get involved in Auskick, local football or NAB AFL Superkick and Nines, or coach, umpire or volunteer across these formats. Visit play.afl to see how you and you and your family can get involved.

Congratulations to the 100 NSW Australian Football Hall of Fame inductees, listed here, and the Legends awarded at the gala dinner:

Jim Phelan
Jim Phelan gave thirty-seven years of service to the game in Sydney. He is credited with steering the Sydney competition through World War One and the financial issues around the demise of the league’s own ground. Phelan was involved in the East Sydney club and the Waratah club before the game’s 1894 collapse. He then returned in 1904 to be the inaugural treasurer and secretary of the Newtown club. Phelan was primarily responsible for keeping the game going in Sydney throughout World War I in his role as the league’s secretary from 1915 until 1925. In addition to his skills in administration and acquiring ovals to play on, Phelan was an avid promoter who wrote about football in local publications until his death. In 1937 the first-grade best and fairest medal in Sydney was retitled the Phelan Medal. 

Harry J. Hedger OBE
Harry J. Hedger was one of most influential football administrators from the time the game was organised in Sydney in 1880, and especially in its resurgence from 1903. He played around 100 matches for various Sydney teams, but it was his effort to get the game in Sydney supported by Victoria that was his legacy. In 1903 he travelled to Melbourne at his own cost to address a VFL meeting, ultimately convincing the VFL to play a game on the SCG, with the gate money raised put towards a new league in Sydney. This kickstarted the re-formed NSW Football League, with Hedger as treasurer. Hedger played a total of fifteen matches for NSW including the first-ever intercolonial game against Victoria on the SCG in 1881 and was captain in his final two games against Tasmania at the SCG in 1890. He was awarded the trophy for the competition’s best player in 1888.

Ralph Robertson
Ralph Robertson played a record 41 times for NSW including wins over Port Adelaide (1907) and South Melbourne (1909). He started his illustrious career with St Kilda in 1899 for two seasons playing before moving to Sydney in 1902 and signing with East Sydney with the reformation of the NSW ANFL in 1903. He captained Easts in 1905-1906 and moved to North Sydney in 1909 where led the red and blacks to the premiership. Robertson captained NSW on 12 occasions between 1904 and 1914, being named among the best in most matches. He was voted NSW’s best player at the 1908, 1911 and 1914 national carnivals. Robertson curtailed his playing career to enlist in the British Army as a lieutenant; he died in a flying accident in World War I. 

Haydn Bunton
Haydn Bunton was born in Albury in 1911 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time. Always a precocious talent, Bunton booted four goals in the Albury Rovers’ 1926 premiership and won the side’s best and fairest that year – he was 15 years old. Bunton would play 119 games for Fitzroy, 72 for Subiaco and 17 for Port Adelaide, winning three Brownlow Medals and three Sandover Medals. He is in the Australian Football Hall of Fame and the AFL Team of the Century (forward pocket). Despite his successes at the top level of the sport, Bunton never won a flag in the VFL, WAFL or SANFL, with consecutive premierships at Albury and West Albury from 1926-1929 his greatest team performances.  

Jack Dean
In a playing career spanning 20 years, Jack Dean played more than 400 matches including 310 games for Eastern Suburbs, 45 for Sydney Naval, 40 for Ardlethan and 25 for NSW. He was the most dominant ruck of the era and made an impact on the national stage, winning the divisional best player award in matches against Australian Amateurs, Queensland and ACT at the 1958 national carnival. Following his 1966 retirement, Jack Dean was a state selector for 12 years. He was president of Eastern Suburbs from 1970-1982 in a golden era for the club. He received an AFL Merit Award for service to the game in 1977. 
The best player each season at UNSW-Eastern Suburbs is awarded the Jack Dean Medal. 

Terry Daniher
The bulk of Terry Daniher’s 313-game AFL/VFL career was for Essendon, but before switch to the red and black the Ungarie product mustered 19 games and 22 goals for South Melbourne. Daniher was skipper of Essendon’s 1984 and 1985 premierships, its best and fairest in 1982 and twice topped the club’s goalkicking list. He represented NSW four times (all as skipper) including wins over WA, Victoria and Queensland. Daniher was named as captain of the 1988 All-Australian team at the 1988 national carnival. Like his brothers he started playing footy at Ungarie where he played in the 1974 premiership team and won the competition best and fairest aged 16. He was selected on the half-forward flank in the NSW Greatest Team. Daniher is also a member of the AFL’s Hall of Fame.

Tony Lockett
“There’s only one Tony Lockett” the crowd would cheer when the power forward turned it on for the Sydney Swans. Plugger moved from St Kilda to the Emerald City for the 1995 season and although he only played 98 of his 281 games in the red and white, he made an indelible impact on the Swans. He is the goals record holder with 1,360, a five-time All Australian, Brownlow Medallist (1987), Bob Skilton Medallist (1995), AFL Hall of Famer, and Team of the Century member for St Kilda and the Swans. Lockett kicked more than 100 goals in a season on six occasions (three times for Sydney), but it was his point after the siren in the 1996 preliminary final at the SCG to get the Swans into the grand final that was one of his fans’ most cherished moments. Another famed moment on the SCG was Plugger’s 1300th goal, which also broke Gordon Coventry’s longstanding goal record and sent fans into a pitch invasion rivalled only by Lance Franklin’s in 2022. 

Paul Kelly
Paul Kelly’s legend for the Sydney Swans goes beyond his 234 matches. Kelly spent 10 seasons as captain of the Swans, a record at the club. He is a Brownlow Medallist (1995), three-time All Australian, four-time Swans’ best and fairest, and an AFL Hall of Fame inductee. At 179cm, Kelly was not a big player on the field, but the boy from Wagga Tigers knew how to impose himself on any contest, which was recognised by his peers, voting him the AFLPA Robert Rose Most Courageous Player Award five times. There is no doubt he earned his “Captain Courageous” title, which he is still referred to more than two decades after his retirement. He was selected as vice-captain of the NSW Greatest Team. 

Richard Colless
Richard Colless became chair of the Sydney Swans in 1993 and immediately had an enormous influence on football in NSW. When he joined, time the club was in a dire position on and off the field. In 20 years as the club’s chair, he turned around its fortunes, collecting two premierships out of four grand final appearances. Colless also had a major influence on the governance of the game across the state. In 1997, he chaired a taskforce to review the game in NSW and the ACT. Following this, he was chair of the inaugural NSW/ACT Commission which reshaped the development of the game at the grassroots. Colless is a life member of the Sydney Swans, a life member of the AFL and still chairs the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame selection committee.