HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Neil Elvis (Nicky) WINMAR
|Date of Birth||25th September 1965|
Games: 317 (South Fremantle 1983-1986 58, St Kilda 1987-1998 230, Western Bulldogs 1999 21, WA 8)
Goals: 425 South Fremantle (1983-1986), 98 St Kilda 1987-1998, 283 Western Bulldogs 1999, 34 WA 10
Honours: All Australian 1991,1995
St Kilda Fairest and Best 1989, 1995 St Kilda leading goalkicker 1988
AFL Night Series Premiership 1996 (Michael Tuck Medallist)
First indigenous player to play 200 games
The astute editor of Westside Football’s “Who’s Who in Western Australia 1983” demonstrated significant prescience when he said of South Fremantle’s young indigenous recruit from Pingelly, Neil (Nicky) Winmar “A clever little player with fine ball skills. Has a big career in front of him”. Seventeen seasons, 317 senior games, 425 senior goals and multiple awards later he could feel fully vindicated. Winmar took some time to adjust to city life initially, but after debuting in Round 9 (May 28) 1983, he displayed rare talent in many of his 13 debut-season games, playing mainly on a wing or at half-forward. He was later used as a rover with excellent goal sense and in 58 WAFL games over four seasons he demonstrated his wizardry in a number of outstanding games. He was, however, troubled by a groin injury and by inconsistency and played only 12 games in 1986 to be overlooked for the initial West Coast Eagles squad.
Recruited by St Kilda, Winmar moved to Melbourne in 1987 and the advance in class brought out the best in him. After a solid first season he was runner-up in the club best and fairest to Tony Lockett and again finished second in 1988 before winning the award in his third season. Displaying the versatility that had been nurtured in the WAFL he was played as a forward (being the Saints’ leading goalkicker in 1988), across the centre and as an attacking half-back flanker and exhibited a superb array of skills. Spectacular high-flying marks, long accurate kicks, pin-point passes by hand and foot and fierce and effective tackling were all on display and by the early 1990s he was regarded as one of the elite players in the AFL competition. In early 1993 Winmar was in scintillating form when he famously reacted to overt racism from the Collingwood crowd at Victoria Park by lifting his guernsey and defiantly pointing to his skin. A contractual dispute with his club shortly after cost him a month of football and his club’s finals aspirations sank after an excellent start.
A second club best and fairest award was captured in 1995 and this was followed up with a dominating performance in the 1996 pre-season competition when the Saints captured the cup and Winmar was awarded the Michael Tuck Medal for best-afield in the night grand final. Unfortunately, he suffered serious knee damage a few weeks later and missed half the season, but the following year he became the first Aboriginal player to reach 200 VFL/AFL games and helped the Saints finish the regular season at the top of the ladder. Winmar gave outstanding performances in the club’s two finals wins on their way to the grand final, but the death of his father to cancer a day before the big game undoubtedly affected his form as well as that of many of his teammates and Adelaide won its first AFL premiership.
Winmar was delisted by the Saints at the end of the 1998 season, but was re-drafted by the Western Bulldogs and gave them a good season before retiring after missing the second week of finals with injury. Twice an All Australian and eight times a WA representative, Winmar will be remembered as a brilliant and pioneering footballer who demonstrated all the greatest features of the game.