Albert ‘The Great’ John Thurgood

Albert Thurgood was Australian Football’s first icon; many believe he was the greatest footballer of all time. He was named Champion of the Colony three times and was regarded as the greatest player of the late 1890s and 1900s, excelling in two states as a brilliant goal kicker.

He played in five premierships in six seasons. Tall and magnificently built, Thurgood could play in any position on the ground and was extraordinarily fast.  It was said that he could run 100 yards in even time. His high marking was superb, his ground work robust, and he was said to be as nimble and agile as a hare.

Like a true champion he rarely had an off day and he could kick brilliantly with every type of kick imaginable. After finishing school at BGS he joined Essendon (1891 to 1894, 1899 to 1902, 1906) in the Victorian Football Association (VFA) during its run of four successive premierships from 1891 to 1894.

At 182cm and 76.2kg, Albert was a versatile key position player with a brilliant kick. Usually playing at centre-half forward, he could regularly punt-kick over 70 metres and drop-kick over 82.3 metres while one place-kick at the East Melbourne ground on 22 June 1899 was measured at over 107 yards (98.48 metres) – regarded as the longest kick of all time. During an era of low-scoring games, in Albert’s second season he became the first player to kick more than 50 goals (1892) and in one game against Richmond in 1893 scored 12 of the team’s 14 goals, then followed up with nine out of 10 goals the next week – a remarkable feat.

Between 1895 and 1898, Albert left Essendon to seek work in Western Australia and played equally well for Fremantle. Albert produced his finest performance in 1901 when he is credited with winning the premiership for Essendon. In the semi-final he kicked five of the team’s six goals from centre half forward to win the game. Then, in the Grand Final against arch-rival Collingwood, he kicked half of his team’s six goals.

That same year, he was voted Champion of the Colony for the third time, previously winning it in 1893 and 1894. Albert played eight seasons with Essendon and in that time he headed the goal kicking list in every full season he played. Overall, he played 209 games and kicked a mammoth 714 goals at a time when goals were hard to find. In May 1927, Alfred was killed in a car accident in Melbourne. The Argus wrote, “There have been many great players, but none more deserving of the title of champion than Albert Thurgood.

If the defence required strengthening then it became Thurgood’s job. If a desperate effort in the ruck was necessary, Thurgood’s weight and power were thrown into the breach. In fact, there was no position on the field in which he did not excel. As a footballer he was a superman”. In 1996, nearly a century after he finished playing, Albert Thurgood was inducted as an inaugural member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

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