Home » ‘The little boy from Queensland, eh?’ Dunstall elevated to Legend status in hall of fame

‘The little boy from Queensland, eh?’ Dunstall elevated to Legend status in hall of fame

Fitzroy reserves coach and former Carlton player Brian Walsh reputedly arrived at this conclusion: “The skinny kid can play, but the fat one’s no good.” The skinny one was Scott McIvor, and yes, he could play, well enough for 200 games. Besides, Decca Records once turned down the Beatles.

Six goals against Bruce Doull in the 1986 grand final served as a rude send-off to the Carlton legend in his last game and an announcement of the arrival of the Dunstall era. In the next 10 years, he kicked six centuries and never fewer than 66 in a season. He was metronomic.

Dunstall classed himself as a footballer rather than an athlete. “But I was lucky,” he said. “We never ran up and down the ground the way they do now.”

Dunstall is chaired from the field after his last game.Credit: Getty Images

Again, that is so, but does not tell the whole story. Improbable as it reads now, Dunstall kicked double figures 16 times, including 17.5 one day against Richmond at Waverley Park, one shy of Fred Fanning’s record. When the siren rang that day, Dunstall was chasing his opponent on the half-back line.

As to how he would fare in footy now, Dunstall said: “I wouldn’t get through the pre-season, to be brutally frank. I don’t know if I’d be a good enough athlete, honestly. I don’t know where I’d play because I’m too small to play midfield. I’d be a pocket or a flank.”

It’s the sort of truth that hides a lie, and Dunstall knows it. “You kind of think if you’re brought up in a different time, you’re probably physiologically a little bit different and better prepared to come into the game,” he said. “They have such great pathways now that didn’t exist in the 80s.”

Tony Lockett and Dunstall in state of origin mode in 1989.

Tony Lockett and Dunstall in state of origin mode in 1989.Credit: The Age

Greats adapt; it’s part of what makes them great. Don Bradman, asked once if he would make as many runs now as in his heyday, said that he would – but that it would take him longer.

Dunstall made one other quirky mark on the game in 1990 when an opponent’s knee cracked his skull in a marking duel and he was allowed to return to the game only by wearing a helmet. He said it prompted great mirth from fans, opponents – and teammates.

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“We’re more aware of these things now than we were 40 years ago,” Dunstall said. “It didn’t really matter then what the injury was, you just wanted to get over it and get back out there. It might have been a bigger discussion had it happened today than back when it did.”

Rising 60, Dunstall is a footy lifer. Fourteen peerless years as a player have been followed by 25 as a Hawthorn staffer, board member, media performer and teller of unvarnished truths: an influencer, you might say, though he never would.

“I still like the game. It’s changed, but the basic premise for me hasn’t,” he said. “There are still some great games to watch, and some where I think I just wasted a couple of hours of time. That’s the way forever and a day it’s going to be.”

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There’s one role Dunstall has happily foregone. A short period holding clipboards for Peter Schwab and Ken Judge confirmed that coaching was not for him. “I didn’t have the patience, honestly,” he said. “Just a little taste of it was enough for me. I couldn’t live the life of a coach. It’s too intense. They watch so much footy. That’d drive me nuts.

“I’m still obviously emotionally involved as a Hawthorn football club supporter through and through, but just to not have some skin in the game is nice.”

Dunstall’s formally a Legend now, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he can hear the inimitable voice of the inimitable man who shaped that great Hawthorn era and his own career, the late Allan Jeans. “The little boy from Queensland, eh?”

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