More than statues revealed in Northampton AFL honours

Edward ScownMidwest Times
Josh Kennedy signs autographs for fans on November 13, 2021 in Northampton (Mooniemia), Australia. Northampton’s AFL stars were celebrated on Saturday when nine metal figurines were unveiled on the town’s main street outside the Miners Arms Hotel.
Camera IconJosh Kennedy signs autographs for fans on November 13, 2021 in Northampton (Mooniemia), Australia. Northampton’s AFL stars were celebrated on Saturday when nine metal figurines were unveiled on the town’s main street outside the Miners Arms Hotel. Credit: The West Australian

Some of these men were bitter rivals on the field, but they were brought together on Saturday to celebrate the town that lifted them to the heights of the AFL.

The nine footballers were immortalised in steel on the main street of their hometown. When asked how it felt, they all had the same response. Humbled, and weirded out at the same time.

For a town as small as Northampton to produce one AFL footballer is huge. To produce nine is astounding. For those nine to have won five premierships between them — no wonder the fanfare.

Still, to the parents and coaches that raised them, these men — who tower over the rest of the crowd — are just local boys.

Mrs Hasleby certainly had no hesitation in telling Harry Taylor off for walking around while people were trying to take photos. The 193cm Taylor knew his place too, dutifully returning beside his statue, tail firmly between his legs.

The players were swarmed with fans while the statues were still under wraps. Kids asked politely for an autograph, old coaches getting a photo, locals just happy to see old mates.

It’s that community spirit Josh Kennedy said he owed his success to. Whether it be volunteering as a goal umpire, giving a lift when parents couldn’t make it, or helping to run the canteen, he said it took a village to raise every one of them.

The shape of the metal figures comes from action shots. This was unfortunate for Liam Anthony, whose crouched handballing stance makes his statue a few inches shorter than him, much to the amusement of the other players.

The unveiling ceremony was attended by everyone in town who could spare the time. As the players’ achievements were read out, and their statues revealed, Andrew Lockyer made his way down the line each time to shake hands.

Later in the night, it was revealed his elder statesman attitude was no act. In the wake of Seroja, he was credited by the players for bringing them together, and sorting out how they were going to raise the eventual $260,000 they did to help rebuild.

The night was where the real fun was had.

About 300 locals packed out the community centre basketball court, as the players spoke candidly about their careers, their time growing up, and their plans for the future.

Before each player was called up, a highlights package appeared on the projector. Watching footy highlights is a good time. Watching them while the player is in the room is something else. Tarkyn Lockyer was the only one of the nine who couldn’t make it. Stuck in Victoria, a valiant effort was made to bring him to the party by video chat, but the gods of internet connection were not on side.

Catching the attention of Police in recent years, Daniel Chick spoke especially honestly about his post-career struggle with addiction. He made no bones about his mistakes, and said thanks to friends and family, he’s found his way back on the straight and narrow.

Josh Kennedy’s stories were less reserved.

Legend has it a young Kennedy once drank an entire block of Emu Export to himself without needing the toilet. He didn’t outwardly confirm the story, but he didn’t deny it either.

Paul Hasleby’s broadcasting chops came in handy late in the evening as all the players were brought back for a panel discussion. Not many people could bring out the hilarious stories and banter with the very well media trained modern AFL players.

Getting that level of candour might happen once in a blue moon, with a special event in Perth. Northampton got that nine times over.

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