Main content

The top 10 contemporary father-son combinations

Gary Ablett Senior hugs his son Gary Ablety Junior after the 2009 Toyota AFL Grand Final between the St Kilda Saints and the Geelong Cats at the MCG.
And many of us thought there'd only ever be one Gary Ablett.
WHEN Hawthorn travels to Gold Coast on Saturday night, there's a good chance the Ablett-Langford rivalry could be re-born. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, it was Chris Langford and Gary Ablett snr matching up as fullback and full-forward, and this weekend it could easily be the pair's sons – Will and Gary jnr – rekindling the family rivalry with the young Hawk tagging the veteran Sun. With this in mind, writers got their heads together to come up with the top 10 current father-son combinations in the game.

No.1 Gary Ablett snr (Hawthorn, Geelong 1982-1996: 248 games, 1030 goals); Gary Ablett jnr (Geelong, Gold Coast 2002-current: 256 games, 339 goals)
Few, if any, players have surpassed the heights Ablett snr soared to in the '80s and '90s, but his eldest son might just be one of them. As hard as they are to separate for star quality, the Abletts were completely different players. Gary snr was a high-flyer who did most of his damage in attack, Gary jnr his generation's most damaging on-baller. Gary snr was part of four losing Geelong Grand Final teams and never won the game's highest individual honour, the Brownlow Medal. But Gary jnr has righted those family wrongs, winning two flags and two Brownlows. - Nick Bowen

No.2. Tim Watson (Essendon 1977-91, 93-94: 307 games, 335 goals); Jobe Watson (Essendon 2003-current: 176 games, 97 goals)
The Watsons are two of the best midfielders in the modern era. Tim burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old sensation, but Jobe took several seasons to find his feet. Tim was more explosive and hit the scoreboard more often, but Jobe has become just as damaging as one of the best stoppage players in the game. Together, they have won seven Essendon best and fairest awards (Tim four, Jobe three), but Tim was also a three-time premiership player. But where Tim was the beaten favourite in the 1989 Brownlow Medal, Jobe saluted in 2012. - Nick Bowen

The Watson's have won plenty of fans both on and off the field. Picture: AFL Media

No.3 David Cloke (Richmond, Collingwood 1974–1991; 333 games; 323 goals), Travis Cloke. (Collingwood 2005–current; 199 games; 353 goals)
Two big brutes, the Clokes storm in at number three with their combination of power and athleticism. David was a star at both Richmond and Collingwood, winning two premierships and being named All Australian as a Tiger as he mixed time between the ruck and forward. Travis has lost nothing to his old man, with his 2010 premiership and two All Australian selections. He is the best contested mark in the current era and still a barometer for his team's success. - Michael Whiting

No.4 Ken Fletcher (Essendon 1967-1980; 264 games; 55 goals), Dustin Fletcher. (Essendon 1993–current; 381 games; 69 goals)
The Fletchers not only have the record for most games as a father-son combination (645 and counting), but are also an Essendon institution. Different players altogether, Ken was versatile and did his best work at half-back and on the wing, while rangy Dustin has forged a reputation as one of the best modern-day fullbacks with his 'Inspector Gadget' arms that can get in and spoil from anywhere. With Dustin's two flags and two All Australian selections, it's hard to look past this combination in the top-five. - Michael Whiting

Dustin has instilled the Fletcher name at Essendon for ever.  Picture: AFL Media

No.5 John Kennedy Jnr (Hawthorn 1979-1991; 241 games; 210 goals), Josh Kennedy (Hawthorn, Sydney 2008-current; 113 games; 67 goals).
No name is more revered at Hawthorn than Kennedy. The legend began with captain turned three-time premiership coach John Kennedy senior, and grew in status when his son John junior played in four flags in the 1980s as a tall wingman/half-back. It caused great disappointment within his family, but Josh Kennedy's 2009 trade to the Sydney Swans was a beneficial one. He has developed into one of the league's best midfielders, and in 2012 earned All-Australian honours, a club best-and-fairest and twisted the knife at Hawthorn as the Swans won the flag against his former club. A superstar football family. - Travis King

No.6 Ray Shaw (Collingwood 1974-81; 146 games; 200 goals), Rhyce Shaw (Collingwood, Sydney 2000-current; 195 games; 42 goals) Heath Shaw (Collingwood, GWS 2005-current; 175 games; 37 goals).
With two premierships and a Copeland Trophy between them, the Shaw family deservedly features in the top 10. Ray only tipped the scales at 70kg, but he finished his career as a cheeky rover, captain and club champion at the Pies. His sons had mixed fortunes at Collingwood. Rhyce Shaw has blossomed at the Swans since 2009, maturing in the backline to become a key cog in the Swans' 2012 premiership team. Heath was a vital part of Collingwood's 2010 flag, but fell foul with coach Nathan Buckley and was a prized recruit for GWS. Adding a third flag is certainly not out of the question for this famous family. - Travis King

The Shaw boys have enjoyed premiership success that eluded their father, Ray.   Picture: AFL Media

No.7: John Murphy (Fitzroy, South Melbourne and North Melbourne 1967 – 1980; 246 games; 374 goals), Marc Murphy (Carlton 2006 – current; 168 games; 134 goals)
It's easy to see why the Brisbane Lions chased Marc Murphy so hard as a father-son selection, but the classy midfielder turned them down to go as the No.1 pick in the 2005 NAB AFL Draft. His finest year to date was 2011, winning the Blues' best and fairest, AFLCA Champion Player of the Year Award and earning All Australian selection. Murphy's father, John, turned down a father-son offer at Hawthorn to start his career at Fitzroy. He played 158 consecutive matches after debuting in round one, 1967, and finished top three in his clubs' best and fairest 10 times, winning the award on six occasions. A star centreman and half-forward, he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2006. – Nathan Schmook

No.8: Graham Cornes (North Melbourne 1979; 5 games; 10 goals), Kane Cornes (Port Adelaide 2001 – current; 271 games; 91 goals)
A champion centre half-forward with SANFL club Glenelg, Graham Cornes moved to the VFL late in his career. A brilliant coach, his sons Chad and Kane were destined to be stars in the AFL. Both were integral members of Port Adelaide's 2004 premiership team, and Kane has extended his career into a 14th season. One of the game's premier run-with players at his peak, he has finished top three in the Power's best and fairest nine times, winning the award in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. He was named All Australian in 2005 and 2007 and continues to mix it with the game's best midfielders. – Nathan Schmook

The Cornes' South Australian football legacy is still being written.  Picture: AFL Media

No.9 Tony Liberatore (Western Bulldogs 1986-2002; 283 games, 95 goals), Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs 2011-2014; 58 games, 11 goals)
Tony Liberatore became one of football's great against-the-odds stories, overcoming rejection and doubts to win the 1990 Brownlow medal. He was unplaced in the club best and fairest that season but followed up by winning the award the next season, and then was placed in the Bulldogs best and fairest in six of the next eight seasons. Sadly, the combative opponent never made a Grand Final but he left the game a hero to Bulldog fans. His son Tom has enormous talent. He is taller than his dad and more skilful but he is just as dogged in the contest. A brilliant stoppage player he is already one of the best in the competition. In five years he might push the Liberatores near the top of the father-son list. - Peter Ryan

No.10 Jack Hawkins (Geelong 1973-1981; 182 games, 20 goals), Tom Hawkins (Geelong 2007-current: 126 games, 225 goals).
'Jumping' Jack Hawkins was a high-flying centre half-back for Geelong during a tough era for the Cats. He played eight finals and finished 12th in the 1976 Brownlow medal. His son Tom has played in a golden era at Geelong and has become a star. Hawkins took time to get going but his performance in the 2011 finals stamped him as a player. He has played in two premierships (kicking a crucial last quarter goal) and won the 2012 best and fairest. Back problems made last season tough but he seems to have returned in fine form. - Peter Ryan

Tom Hawkins' habit of crucial plays will be making his father proud.   Picture: AFL Media