Kelvin Templeton in action during a match between Footscray and Fitzroy in the 1970s. Picture: AFL Photos

The induction of Kelvin Templeton into the Australian Football Hall of Fame is not only long overdue, but finally brings in from the cold a player who should have been included many years before.

Templeton is one of only five players in League history to have topped the goalkicking table (since 1955 they have been awarded the Coleman Medal) and won a Brownlow Medal.

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Malcolm Blight (since elevated to Legend status) and Bernie Quinlan were initial inductees when the Hall was launched in 1996. Des Fothergill, a Collingwood star in the 1940s, was a catch-up inclusion in 2000, while Tony Lockett, now also a Legend, went in as soon as he was eligible in 2006.

But Templeton, the 1978 and 1979 Coleman medallist, and the Brownlow Medal winner in 1980, has had to wait much longer to receive the call from the AFL.

Like all those who sheepishly pick up the phone when AFL chairman Richard Goyder is on the line, Templeton was at once overjoyed and overwhelmed when receiving the news.

But he was aware that many believed his inclusion was an historic oddity and with the passing of time, a glaring oversight. His name was raised in pre and post Hall of Fame commentary every year.


"I'd sort of wondered," he admitted to the AFL Record, when the Hall of Fame would come and go each season. 

"I think that in more recent times I'd just sort of forgotten about it. But, well, even if it's been a while, I'm glad it's occurred."

Templeton was the best full-forward in the game in the latter part of the 1970s. Recruited to Footscray (now the Western Bulldogs) from Traralgon in 1974, having already played senior football in the tough Latrobe Valley competition for his hometown team as a 16-year-old, he played 26 games and kicked 54 goals in his first two seasons in the VFL.

But he blossomed in 1976, kicking 82 goals in what was really the only semi-decent team he played for in his entire career. The Dogs finished fifth that year, losing an elimination final to Geelong.

After an injury-interrupted 1977, he bounced back in 1978 with 118 goals. He followed up with 91 majors in 1979 despite barely doing a pre-season.

In his Brownlow year he kicked 75 goals, but that came after an early-season move to centre half-forward.

He was 23 at the time and just reaching the peak of his powers. He was the first key-position forward to win the Brownlow.

Kelvin Templeton with his Brownlow Medal in 1980. Picture: Supplied

What made his football all the more remarkable were some of the hurdles he had to overcome. For starters, the Bulldogs were terrible in 1980, losing their first 11 games and winning just five for the year.

"It didn't help at all," he laughed, "that the ball was down the other end of the ground."

And then there was the Western (now Whitten) Oval where the Dogs played their home games. It was long, narrow and windswept. It was the ground that so often humbled even the best full forwards, but Templeton knew all the tricks.

"Yeah, it was a difficult ground even for us who played there because that wind just blew straight down the ground. And towards the Williamstown end when it was really blowing, you really had two quarters to score most of your goals. And so it wasn't easy for us, but we sort of learned how to play it better and that was an advantage."


Templeton also played during what was a golden age for key defenders. Kelvin Moore (Hawthorn), Geoff Southby (Carlton), David Dench (North Melbourne) and Harvey Merrigan (Fitzroy) were variously considered to be the best in the game at that time.

He played on Dench in his first season and watched helplessly one day as he ran off him, made his way down the ground and kicked a goal.

"He kicked one before I did!" he said.

When he moved to half-forward, he had the likes of Peter Knights and Ross Glendinning for company.

"Often the best defenders in the era played at centre half-back," he said.

Nevertheless, Templeton developed a terrific relationship with midfielders such as Ted Whitten jnr, Geoff Jennings and a young Doug Hawkins.

"If they had the ball, especially if they had a little bit of space, they'd hold it and they'd wait to see what I was going to do and we had hand signals and all sorts of understandings. I knew the likely result was going to be the ball going exactly where I wanted it to be."

Kelvin Templeton playing for Victoria against South Australia in the 1970 State of Origin match. Picture: AFL Photos

What made his Brownlow Medal year all the more remarkable was how little instruction he received about how to play further up the ground, even though his coach that season was Royce Hart, the Richmond superstar and Hall of Fame Legend who was one of the greatest centre half-forwards of all time.

As Templeton tells it, Hart was not one of the great communicators and his simple instruction for his new centre half-forward was to do what he wanted and go where he felt he was needed to best help the team.

But he remembers one night of match practice where Hart, despite his knees being totally shot, absolutely dominated.

"It was a masterclass and I remember going home that night writing down all the things that I observed … how he ran in from the side, the classic way that he did it."

And what of his own game? Templeton knew where to be at the precise moment the ball was going to get there. And he had great hands. Be it playing deep or further up the ground he could take a mark, although perhaps the most famous mark he took was not a mark at all.

It was in 1978, when he was seeking his 15th goal in a game against St Kilda at the Whitten Oval. Late in the final term he leapt high and fumbled the ball in mid-air; he never had control but the charitable umpire paid the mark anyway. He kicked the goal and has been hearing about it ever since, especially these days given how readily the highlights are available on YouTube.


"Yeah, that last mark was highly dubious, but you could go back earlier in the game. There are others that you could say, well maybe they should have gone the other way." Spoken like a true full-forward.

Sadly for Templeton, his career flagged badly after the heights of the 1980 Brownlow. He hurt his knee in the final minute of the last practice game the following year and came back for six matches at the end of the year. He then battled through 14 games in 1982 after which he became yet another Footscray Brownlow medallist to depart the club.

Kelvin Templeton after injuring his knee in 1981. Picture: Supplied

Through the 1970s, the Bulldogs had five current or future Brownlow winners on their books including Templeton. Gary Dempsey won the medal in 1975 but finished his career at North Melbourne. Quinlan and Barry Round tied in 1981 while respectively playing for Fitzroy and South Melbourne, while Brian Wilson was shown the door by Hart in early 1980 and won a Brownlow two years later with Melbourne.

"It was a lost opportunity given the talent that was there," Templeton reflected. "If there would've been a stronger culture or any sort of culture and desire to look after players better and not let great players go, then it could have been quite different."

Footscray's failings were foremost in his mind when post his playing career, he became chief executive of the Sydney Swans.

"The main thing I got out of those years at the Bulldogs was to do the opposite," he said. "It was to really make sure that the Swans had a strong culture and that the players were looked after, which they were."

Seeking a fresh start, Templeton joined Melbourne 1983, brought to the club by Ron Barassi together with another Brownlow winner, Collingwood's Peter Moore, in a bid to restore the famous club to its former glory. But he had little left to give – all sorts of leg injuries kept him to just 34 games in three years and he was finished for good. He was 27 when he retired.

Kelvin Templeton playing for Melbourne. Picture: Supplied

The Hall of Fame induction provides some consolation for a player who never really got the chance to play his best football from age 25 onwards, an age and stage when so many key forwards begin to reach their prime.

Templeton was a great player and certainly Hall of Fame worthy, but injury likely prevented him from becoming a once-in-a-generation talent.

These days, Templeton is back in Melbourne after having lived in the Middle East for many years. He has soft spots for the Demons and the Swans but has delighted in watching the evolution of the Western Bulldogs into the large, stable and successful club it has become. He is particularly active in the large and vibrant past players group at the Whitten Oval.

He will share the celebrations at the Hall of Fame event with his sister, one of his daughters (the other lives overseas and can't be there) and some former teammates from the Bulldogs.