Michael Taylor in action for Collingwood.

WORD had reached one of the big clubs in Adelaide that a young footballer from Reedy Creek, 30km or so out of Kingston in SA's south-east, was showing exceptional promise.

A letter was forwarded to the parents of Michael Taylor, only boy of seven children on the family farm running 6000 sheep and 800 cattle, inviting him up to the big smoke in Adelaide to complete his schooling, start in the junior ranks and have the opportunity to become another great of this club's proud SANFL history.

Parents Kathleen and Stan considered the letter and, while young Michael was exceptionally keen to go to the club he supported from afar, they ultimately said no.

He was 13.


The family ruled he was not yet ready to join Port Adelaide at such a tender age and follow in the footsteps of his hero John Cahill.

Fast forward two years and with Taylor now already playing senior football in the country, this time arch rival Norwood came knocking.

Legendary club administrator (and AFL Life Member) Wally Miller sat down to outline to his parents how the Redlegs would look after young Michael in the city, placing him in the care of a newly established house specifically built for country recruits and overseen by the mother of one of the other young players at the club.

Michael Taylor played 289 games for Norwood in the SANFL between 1972-80 and 1985-87.

A young boy in the city would be found employment and never left to his own devices, and the pitch won over Kathleen.

The Taylors said yes this time.

And so Norwood claimed a player who sits as one of just four official onfield Legends of its own storied 144-year SANFL history, and 30 premierships for the Red and Blue of the Parade in Adelaide's inner eastern suburbs.

Taylor enters the Hall of Fame as a six-time club best and fairest (the record at the Parade), multiple state representative when it was the pinnacle of the game and member of two of the club's most famous premiership sides.

HALL OF FAME HUB Full list of inductees

He was a star state defender in the 1975 team that ended a quarter-century drought, prevailing despite kicking into a stiff breeze at West Lakes in the last quarter against a Glenelg side that had set all manner of scoring records that year, including a still-record senior score of 49.23.317.

By 1978, he was in the centre controlling the midfield as captain for a flag claimed by one point in the club's centenary year, after the Redlegs trailed Sturt by 29 points at the last change, knowing they had lost to their foes three times already that year.

Michael Taylor holds the premiership cup aloft after Norwood's victory over Sturt in the 1978 Grand Final.

In every year at the club, he played finals and was simply never out of the best players. Across the home and away season, his duels with the likes of Ebert, Cornes and Bagshaw were the reason to go to the footy.

Taylor says he was blessed by the game, both to encounter the friends he met from the first day at the club and to play under the coaches he had, who developed fully what God initially gave him.

SANFL Hall of Fame member Robert Oatey led him first, emphasising skill, skill and more skill, with his later league mentors being Bob Hammond, Neil Balme, Tom Hafey and Cahill himself, respectively teaching and emphasising hardness, leadership, relentless and durability.

"Every one of my coaches was a great of the game, which was so lucky for me, and I was a sponge for what they told me.

"On my arrival in the city, Norwood put me up at the house they built for the country lads – Carmel Court – and I met John Wynne, who changed my life," Taylor remembers.

Carmel Court housed up to 16 teens and young men at any one time, with a disciplined, respectful house run by Ann Carman, the attentive and kindly mother of the spectacular and unpredictable Phil.

Wynne had come to Adelaide hoping to make his way to the VFL after a premiership with West Perth, but found Norwood to his liking amid a troupe of talented youths keen to better their football and stayed for a decade, transforming the club as captain after Oatey's departure.

Taylor was a willing young disciple, as Wynne gave new life to a club that had lost its way since its most recent flag in 1950.

"John Wynne was a natural leader and we wanted to follow him. That house in Carmel Court produced 12 separate players who were part of Norwood premierships in the 1970s and 1980s and we just lived for footy."

Of average height and not blessed with exceptional speed or a magnificent leap, Taylor was very quickly great because of everything else he did on and off the field.

In his own words, "a wild over-trainer", he was relentless with his preparation and devotion to his skills and had endurance that would run every other player into the ground.

"The longer a game went, the more I knew I could punish my opponent and be getting the ball and doing something with it," Taylor recalls.

"Doing something with it" humbly describes pinpoint disposal on both sides by hand or foot, from packs or in the open, and an ability to read the play matched by few. A safe and reliable mark under any pressure, Taylor was a player who always knew the best decision to make with the ball in his hands, and then made it.

Michael Taylor during his playing days at Collingwood.

Blessed with a photographic memory of his opponents, he knew how to exploit them and knew where they would seek to have the better of him.

"I studied the game relentlessly, always asking my coaches and other players and anyone I could get for information to be learning about what opponents did, and what I would have to do against them. The only time I would get really nervous before a game was when I was facing someone new, and I didn't know what he may do. But once I'd seen them for a quarter or two, I felt I knew their game and would never forget it."

A midfielder throughout his junior days, like most young stars, Taylor's arrival in league footy in 1971 saw Oatey place him in defence to learn. He was best and fairest in year two (1972) and three (1973) and soon being elevated to vice-captain behind Wynne.

Hammond, a member of the Hall of Fame himself and a triple premiership player at North Adelaide, arrived at the Parade in 1974 with the task of turning very talented young players into hardened premiership men.

"Bob Hammond moved me up the field and then I really started to take off.

"He was a hard coach, which I loved.

"Under him, I always felt my next game could be my last, because you never know what can happen in footy, and I played like that.

"But Bob also thought about the game so much and had ideas that were revolutionary. I wish he'd coached us more but the premierships in 1975 and 1978 remain lifetime highlights."

In the mid/late 1970s, the SANFL was a strong competition with excellent crowds and Taylor loved it, as one of its stars.

His best and fairest tally had quickly expanded out to five and been central to the pinnacle of team success with two flags, one of them being captain.

Michael Taylor in his early days at Norwood.

After a narrow Grand Final loss in 1980 to a truly great Port Adelaide team of that year (a tough admission for a Norwood fan), his new coach of one season in Balme challenged him again.

Not to be fitter, or develop a new skill, or take on more leadership, but to leave the club and head east and test his footy at another level in a different league.

"Neil Balme said I should play in the VFL for myself, to find out how I would go. I'd played 10 seasons by then and more than 200 games and thought I had done most things, but I absolutely loved my four years in Victoria."

After the experience of Hafey and Cahill as coaches, and the regular excitement of huge matches in front of the Magpie hordes, Taylor returned home to Adelaide and promptly claimed another best and fairest as he considered his sunset days as a player.

Ready to retire from league ranks at the end of 1987, despite being within sight of the first Redleg to reach 300 senior games, even with nearly 90 games with Collingwood, a call out of the blue enticed him back to Victoria Park as Leigh Matthews' playing assistant.

He spent three years on-field teaching the Magpies' reserves what to do and where to run during games, including several future premiership players, and at times had Matthews considering him for senior promotion, which he refused.

Taylor was at Matthews' side for the thrill of another drought-breaking premiership in 1990, leading then to coaching stints with the Adelaide Crows, the SA state team and heading up his own team at West Adelaide.

Footy has been central for more than 50 years of his life.

"I am eternally grateful to the game. Footy was the gateway for my life.

"The whole picture of my life was set up by Norwood and I'm in a happy place thanks to them," Taylor says.

It seems remarkable he has waited this long for entry when considering his football CV, but the call from chair Richard Goyder was a daunting experience for the humble Taylor.

"I was sitting having a morning coffee when the phone rang from Richard Goyder. It was totally out of the blue and I just never expected it may come for me," he thinks back on his call in March.

"It was a real wow moment and just happiness. Your mind races through everything that has happened to you in footy and it took me back to my early days of starting to play footy and all the good times in the game I've been fortunate to have.

"You do feel sometimes it was a different person that this happened to, that my playing days were so long ago as a kid in the country who would travel up to 160km in a day for games, after being up at 5am to play. I owe so much to my mum and dad, my sisters and the Norwood Football Club.

"I've just loved it the whole way."

Michael Taylor's career honours

  • 289 games for Norwood 1972-80 and 1985-87, 126 goals
  • 94 games for Collingwood 1981-84, 28 goals
  • 13 games for SA
  • 2x Premierships 1975 1978 (captain)
  • 1x National Champions 1977
  • 6x Best and Fairest 1973 1974 1978 1979 1980 1985
  • 9x SA team of the year 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1986 1987
  • Captain 1978-80
  • Norwood FC Hall of Fame Legend
  • SA Coach 1993-94, West Adelaide Coach 1996-2000

Norwood's Carmel Court Golden Generation – 12 players participating in 24 flags

Neil Button (3), Neil Craig (2), Danny Jenkins (3), Stephen Kerley (2), Mike Poulter (1), Glen Rosser (2), Wayne Schmaal (1), Ian Stasinowsky (1), Michael Taylor (2), Jim Thiel (2), Greg Turbill (3) and John Wynne (2).