Nicky Winmar in action for St Kilda. Picture: AFL Photos

Hall of Fame Legend Tony Lockett provided the induction to welcome Nicky Winmar into the Australian Football Hall of Fame. While Lockett has stepped back into private life since his playing days, here is the backstory behind his willingness to talk about the brilliance of his team mate Winmar.

IT WAS an exploratory text message, sent in the hope to ask if the most prolific goalkicker in VFL/AFL history would be happy to induct his former teammate, Nicky Winmar, into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

STAR SAINT St Kilda great and icon Nicky Winmar inducted into Hall of Fame

Tony Lockett, who has lived quietly in private life since he ruled the goalsquare for St Kilda and the Sydney Swans in the 1980s and 1990s, responded in a matter of minutes.

Nicky Winmar chaired off by his St Kilda teammates after a clash against Brisbane in round 17, 1997. Picture: AFL Photos

While he stays away from most games and big industry events such as Hall of Fame nights, he would be available if it was to make an induction special for a greatly loved teammate.

But he was succinct as always.

"No problems.

"Call you tomorrow.



From there, a short chat to confirm location details for filming, and it was settled. We were to be ready with a film crew inside a week in southern Queensland and Plugger would drive up to meet us near Coolangatta airport, chat about Winmar, and then head home again.

"10.30 next Thursday sounds good.



HALL OF FAME HUB Full list of inductees

In the warm Queensland weather, he arrived in shorts, polo shirt and thongs and was ready to go dead on time, just as promised.

Once the first question on Winmar was posed, the words spilled out and barely stopped, until we were done.

"One of the most skilful footballers that I've ever seen.

"He could do it all. He could kick on both feet, he'd take hangers, he'd never fumble and he covered the ground so well.

"He could play forward, play midfield and you know he could play back, but you wouldn't waste him there."

Nicky Winmar runs with the ball during St Kilda's meeting with Hawthorn in round 21, 1996. Picture: AFL Photos

As Plugger talked of the days at Moorabbin, and a St Kilda side of the time that turned from an outfit that had claimed four successive wooden spoons to one knocking on the door for high honours, the most noticeable thing was his hands.

They never stopped moving as he talked of Winmar.

The hands sometimes went to a marking pose, when talking of leading in front of Winmar and his bullet passes, or they waved excitedly as he recounted a piece of play where the No.7 would win the ball and look up towards the No.4.

Nicky Winmar looks to get a kick away for St Kilda in 1992. Picture: AFL Photos

He clapped his hands together loudly to recreate the sound of the ball hitting Winmar's boot at training, and how pure a kick he was.

"Some of his performances at Moorabbin, when he was turning it on, the crowd would just erupt and it was just the most spectacular place to play footy.

"There would be times where I'd be thinking I'm not sure how he can get it to me here, but he'd get the ball through a gap that I couldn't see.

"Other times on a lead, it was kicked that hard and fast that you wanted to know your hands were sure as the ball would smack you in the face if you weren't careful.

"Whoever had to come to Moorabbin and play on Nicky as his opponent, well, they knew they were in for an afternoon of football," he laughs.

Nicky Winmar smiles during a game between the Western Bulldogs and Geelong in round 17, 1999. Picture: AFL Photos

The words and memories bounce out for some 25 minutes until we are done and they draw a thanks from one crew member, for agreeing to talk about Winmar and being so expansive.

"I'm honoured to speak about Nicky," he says simply.

"He was a great player and a great teammate. I loved playing with him and they were special days."

As an obvious follow-up question then, where does he rate among those you played alongside, Plugger?

"I don't ever want to single out one player from my teammates. I call them 'the group' because they were the group of great players I saw up close – (Robert) Harvey, (Stewart) Loewe, Winmar, (Nathan) Burke, (Paul) Kelly.

"To me, they are all on the same level and they are 'the group' of great players."

Upon finishing, it was a quick shake of the hand and a photo for one unabashed St Kilda fan, and he was on his way.

There can be no higher honour for a player when a Legend of the Game goes out of his way to induct you into the Hall of Fame.