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Canberra hosts a true football celebration

Adam McNicol  June 5, 2013 7:43 AM

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Former Sturt and Hawthorn star Rick Davies had the crowd in stitches during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Everything has just gone according to plan
WHEN a bell started ringing halfway through Hassa Mann's speech and the numerous politicians in the audience scurried towards the exits, it became clear that this was a footy function with a difference.

The bell sounded to ensure that the pollies knew a 'division' was taking place in the House of Representatives, which was sitting while the latest batch of football greats were being inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

During the evening that same bell sounded on a number of occasions, and each time it drew the likes of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop out of their seats.

Such are the issues that arise when you hold an event in the Great Hall of Parliament House in the nation's capital.

GALLERY: Click here for the best images from the Hall of Fame

However, the bell-ringing was only a minor distraction during what never fails to be one of the most entertaining nights on the footy calendar.

Six men – Scott West, Brian Peake, Mann, Rick Davies, Bryan Sheehan and Matthew Lloyd – were inducted into the Hall of Fame, while Richmond great Royce Hart was elevated to legend status.

Although all of them made engaging speeches, and some were close to tears as they thanked the people most important to them, it was Davies, a bloke nicknamed 'Jumbo Prince' during his playing days, who stole the show.

The former Sturt, Hawthorn and South Adelaide star had the crowd in stitches as he recalled the favourite moments of his career.

He spoke about his joy at playing in Sturt's famous Grand Final win over Port Adelaide in 1976, which was played before a crowd so big that many of the spectators were allowed to sit between the fence and the boundary line.

Davies played a starring role that day, finishing with 21 kicks, 21 handballs and 15 marks.

"Well, everything just went right. A bit like tonight," he said with a grin. "Everything has just gone according to plan."

The silver-haired 61-year-old spoke with great pride about booting a then-SANFL record 151 goals for Sturt in the 1983 season.

And he laughed as he described his emotions when he was working as a radio commentator as Port Adelaide's Scott Hodges broke his record in 1990.

"He had to kick about seven, I think," Davies remembered. "And I think I was doing special comments or something like that.

"He did his knee just after half-time and I thought, 'You bloody beauty!'

"Anyway … Scotty rushes back on and breaks my bloody record.

"But I have to say it was a fantastic effort, really."

Davies revelled in explaining the events that led to him leaving Sturt midway through the 1985 season, when he switched to South Adelaide and replaced ex-Hawthorn ruckman Don Scott as the club's coach.

"Well, Mervyn Keane came over from Richmond, and he was the coach of (Sturt)," Davies said.

"At this particular point in time, I was playing full-forward and Merv spoke to me about six weeks into the season.

"He said, 'Listen big fella. You're not in the league side on Saturday. I said, 'No problems, I'll play in the reserves.

"He said, 'Mate, with your impeccable record, we don't want you to play in the reserves.

"And I said to him, 'Well I'm too old for the under-19s!' Unfortunately, that meant I had to go."

Davies lined up against his beloved Sturt in his first game for South Adelaide and kicked nine goals.

"I celebrated for about a week and a half," he chuckled. "I missed the next week."

Those weren't the only great tales told during the evening.

Former umpire Bryan Sheehan talked about his children being involved in a parade at their primary school during one Grand Final week.

"All the kids would parade around in their jumpers, Collingwood or Essendon or whatever, but my two kids would be the only ones wearing umpiring uniforms," he said.

But no one could compete with Davies' delivery and panache behind the microphone.

And no doubt his great tales continued long after the party had moved on from Parliament House.