Four Quarters – From AFL to Gippsland

Handy inclusion: Hawthorn premiership ruckman Max Bailey played for Rosedale in 2015. photograph gippsland times

THE announcement of Logan Austin as Bairnsdale coach last week caused a few in local footy circles to go “didn’t he use to play for Port Adelaide and St Kilda?”
Indeed the Redlegs new coach did play for the Power and the Saints, clocking up 20 games in six seasons between 2015 and 2020.
With Austin making the move to Gippsland, the Four Quarters team thought it would look at some other former AFL players over the years that have somehow made their way to Gippsland.
To set some parameters we have discounted former AFL players with ties to Gippsland returning home (Jason Winderlich, Jay Neagle) and also players who have made one-off or cameo
appearances such as Brendan Fevola (Traralgon), Jason Akermanis (Morwell) and Brodie Holland (Gormandale).
While it would be easy to rattle off any number of well-known AFL players to have played in Gippsland like Bernie Vince (Moe), Ronnie Burns (Woodside) and Mal Michael (Nilma Darnum), for the sake of this exercise we are concentrating on players of the Austin-ilk, those who if you were to play word association names like Clint Bizzell, Steven Salopek and Rhett Biglands might come up.
Here are four ex-AFL Gippsland players we could find that would perhaps best fit the ‘random AFL players you no longer think of’ category.
1. Barry Brooks (Yallourn Yallourn North).
MENTION the 2001 AFL draft and it is likely the majority of football followers will mention the word ‘super draft’.
After all, it is hard to go past the profile and contributions some players in the top 20 had on the game – Jimmy Bartel at pick eight, Nick Dal Santo at 13 and David Hale at seven.
And who can forget the top three? The names of the first three players chosen in that year’s draft rattle off like days of the week: Hodge, Ball and Judd.
There is another name however that appears in the top 20, the top 15 even, that has some connection to Gippsland – Barry Brooks.
Brooks played for Yallourn Yallourn North for a couple of seasons, coming to then Bombers as a 30-year-old six years after playing his last game for St Kilda.
The 198 centimetre Brooks managed 10 games in five seasons for the Saints after being traded from Port Adelaide.
Hailing from King Island, Brooks had a small yet vital hand in landing the Power a Norm Smith medallist as Port Adelaide received pick six and 31 from St Kilda in exchange for his services.
Port Adelaide then on-traded pick 31 to North Melbourne to help secure Byron Pickett who went on to win ‘Norm’ in 2004.
Known as ‘The Cactus’, Brooks struggled to get a game in a strong St Kilda side, but did kick three goals in a game against the Brisbane Lions in 2006.
St Kilda played finals every
season from 2004-06 during Brooks’ time, and given he fell in behind dual Coleman Medallist Fraser Gehrig as the teams key forward and Trent Knobel as the number one ruckman, his opportunities were limited.
Somewhat ironically, Knobel would also end up playing football in Gippsland after moving to Maffra in 2015.
That same year Brooks kicked 44 goals for Yallourn Yallourn North as the then Bombers reached the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League grand final.
His best effort was six against Morwell East in Round 9, followed by two bags of five.
While one might have expected an ex-AFL player to be more of a dominate force in country footy, Brooks shared the workload and formed part of a three-pronged attack with Tim Phillips and Tom Hutton that season, who each kicked 64 and 40 goals respectively.
Strangely enough, Brooks played in the EJ Whitten Legends Game in 2013 – the same year he played at The Rock.
2. Max Bailey (Rosedale).
THE feel-good story of Hawthorn’s 2013 premiership became one of the talking points of Rosedale’s flag two seasons latter.
Bailey endured an absolutely horrific run with injury during his time at the Hawks, playing just 43 games in eight seasons.
Those numbers only tell half the story though, as in among all that was three ACL’s, leading him to play a mere six games in five seasons from 2006 to 2010.
Come 2013 however he strung together 19 games and ended his AFL career on a high as part of Hawthorn’s team that defeated Fremantle in the grand final.
In 2015, Rosedale showed the benefits of networking in helping land not only Bailey, but fellow ex-Hawthorn player Tim Clarke.
The Blues were able to land the pair through a childhood
friendship between Rosedale assistant coach at the time Brad Caldwell and former St Kilda footballer and Traralgon local Andrew McQualter.
The trio played enough games to qualify for finals that season and took a place in the Rosedale team that went on to win its first senior premiership since 2001.
Wearing the number 71 guernsey, Bailey kicked two goals in the 12.22 (94) to 5.6 (36) victory over Heyfield.
3. Brad Fisher (Dalyston).
SIMILAR to Bailey at Rosedale, former Carlton player Brad Fisher came to Dalyston as a result of being a ‘mate of a mate’.
Dalyston’s Peter Dunlop was the man responsible for securing Fisher’s signature, as the pair had known each other from their younger days.
The Fisher recruitment to Dalyston came about through quite a process in the years beforehand, as the club looked to climb the ladder after some lean years.
Fisher played 99 games for Carlton between 2003 and 2010, kicking 127 goals as a small forward noted for his ‘one grab’ overhead marking.
Away from football he was also highly regarded, serving as the Blues delegate on the AFL Players Association.
In his first season in Gippsland Fisher kicked 78 goals in the 2013 season.
To think how quickly time flies, Fisher’s first season was played in a league that no longer exists (Alberton) and his best haul was against a club that hasn’t fielded a team since 2018 (Fisher kicked 10 against Devon-Welshpool Won Wron-Woodside).
He followed it up in 2014 with 48 goals and was then part of the Dalyston team which won the premiership the following season.
More goals followed with 38 in the 2017 West Gippsland season, with a bag of nine against Bunyip the highlight.
Fisher played his last game for Dalyston in 2019.
4. Arryn Siposs (Wonthaggi).
TECHNICALLY he never played a game for Wonthaggi, but happy to include him under the ‘random AFL player tag’.
Siposs played 28 games for St Kilda between 2011 and 2015 and was signed by Wonthaggi as a playing assistant for the 2018 season.
However, not long after signing with the Power he was offered a scholarship from Auburn University in the USA to punt for the college team.
As anyone in his position would, Siposs took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, while Wonthaggi was simply forced to say ‘there’s not much we can do about that’.
The Power was hopeful Siposs would play for the club before leaving for the USA mid-season in 2018, but that never eventuated.
These days Siposs is punting for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL after playing with the Detroit Lions.
Like Siposs, a few other Gippsland footballers have tried their hand at punting. They are Tom Hutton (Yallourn Yallourn North), Jordan Sandy (Traralgon) and Hayden Burgiel (Maffra).
Have we missed anyone?
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Going back to the bush: Former Carlton player Brad Fisher in action for Dalyston. photograph south gippsland sentinel-times