At the Australian Football Hall of Fame event on Tuesday night, Hawthorn champion Jason Dunstall officially became the 32nd player elevated to Legend status.

Dunstall kicked 1254 goals to be the third greatest VFL/AFL goalkicker of all time and a four-time premiership hero with Hawthorn in a decorated 269-game career between 1985 and 1998.

In a touching speech, the champion full-forward spoke about his new status in the Hall of Fame, some of his best Hawthorn memories and what the sport as a whole means to him. 

On how Legend status sits with him and his first few years at the Hawks 

“It was interesting listening to Ayresy’s words (Gary Ayres). There’s a lot of work that has gone into it, I must admit. I didn’t exactly knock everyone over with my athletic ability when I came down. I think our very first session, the first time I started, we did a five-kilometre time trial which was 12 and a half laps of a 400-metre circumference at Glenferrie Oval and I got lapped by everybody and half a dozen lapped me twice which immediately meant I was in the extra running group. They would have extra groups on the weekend. Back then in pre-season, you’d train five nights a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be running groups and on Tuesday and Thursday, you’d work on your skills. But for those who missed a session, you’d have to do an extra running session on the weekend and I immediately got put into that group despite the fact I was doing the five (sessions) during the week. We’d go down to Sandringham and run through the bushes, there’s trails up on the cliff and you’d do sprints down the ramps and back up and the first time I went there, I got lost. I had to actually work my way back to the road to get back to the carpark where we started. Even when I’d gone, I’d gotten an absolute bake from Allan Jeans that I was wasting his time, so it’s fair to say I was coming from a long way back.” 

On being a forward in his era 

“We stayed at home, we didn’t travel a lot out of our zone. When the game was first becoming scientific, I’ll never forget it, they studied one of our games and they tracked how far Johnny Platten was doing in a game and it was about 18 kilometres and they also clocked me, and I ran 1.2 kilometres. My greatest fear was that may have included the warm-up, but what people don’t understand is that there was an incredible intensity with which I attacked the 1.2km! We never left the 50-metre arc, it was just a completely different game. You stayed home, you got your one-on-one opportunities and you had some amazing players kicking the ball to you.”


On his 17-goal game 

“It was just one of those days where the ball bounced into your hands. I got a couple of free kicks from the umpires, which we never ever got back then, and things just went really, really well. I remember the scoreboard at Waverley flashed up when I got to 16 (goals) and it said that’s a Waverley Park record and I thought ‘That’s nice’ but I didn’t realise 18 was the actual record, not that it would’ve made any difference because I was completely rooted by the end of the game, I couldn’t have run another yard if need be, so it didn’t quite pan out. We actually had Fred Fanning (who kicked a record 18 goals in a game) down during the week to have a chat at training and he said: ‘17.5, that’s not bad. Geez, you were inaccurate!’ He kicked 18.1 so 17.5 - I think if you’re kicking more than three goals per behind, that’s a 75% success rate which is pretty elite but he’s just potting me about 17.5, which was amusing. It was a great thrill but we didn’t play for records, we played for premierships and I was fortunate enough to play with a great club at a great time.”

On the 1989 premiership 

“That was just one of those classic games where they went in incredibly hard at the man and were physical early. We just played the ball as much as we could, we built up a good early lead but I’ve got to tell you, in that last quarter, there was a lot of clock-watching going on. You didn’t get signals from the bench on how long there was to go or anything like that. The longer the game went, the more trouble we were in. We had a few that were down, a couple that were hanging by a thread and the Cats were coming hard so it was a classic game on all fronts. You had Gary Ablett doing Gary Ablett things which was just ridiculous but when the siren went, it was a great thrill, it was a classic game and one that we’ll never forget.”

On the 1996 ‘Merger Game’ and reaching 100 goals for the season

“There was a lot going on at the time. We could have very well been looking at the two teams that were going to be one the following year. We needed to win that game to make the finals and I think I was nine short of 100 and there was a lot of talk about the financial state of both clubs and what was going to happen. We ended up winning by a point, it was an incredible game. There were some special acts in it but the most poignant part of it all was to see Chris Langford as we were walking off, take the jumper off and hold it to a crowd of 63,000. There were 63,000 there on a night game between Melbourne and Hawthorn who were both out of the eight which was a lot more than you would ever expect for that game. It was enormous. Mind you, if I looked like ‘Langers’, I would’ve taken my jacket off and waved it to the crowd too! It was really, really powerful. We made the finals, and went out the next week but that was the beginning of a turnaround for the club.”

On his own farewell game

“I’d broken a collarbone and missed the last eight weeks. Ken Judge was the coach and he said to me, ‘Mate, do you want to play on? Do you want to retire?’ I knew how bad my body was. I would sit during games early that year with ice packs on both knees and I’d be sitting there saying, ‘Make sure you remember how bad you feel right now because this should influence your decision.’ So I said to him (Judge): ‘Mate, I need to retire, I’ve got nothing left in the body’ and he said: ‘You better play a send-off game.’ I hadn’t trained for eight weeks. I already told you how good my fitness was. So after eight weeks of not training at the end of the season, I was no good. But we were playing Freo out at Waverley and that’s a game that would’ve attracted about 15,000 people but some incredible Hawthorn fans, about 40,000 of them, turned up which was great. I kicked the first goal of the game because I’d only just recovered from the stitch I got in the warm-up. I didn’t touch it for the rest of the game. In actual fact, we weren’t winning the way we should have and I said to Ken Judge: ‘Mate, don’t be afraid to take me off because I knew how badly I was going.’ He just put me in front of the others and he said: ‘He wants to come off. I’m not going to let that happen.’ The boys then kicked 10 or 12 goals in the last quarter and it was a fantastic win. It was a great way to go out. The show of respect from all of my teammates was brilliant.” 

On what footy has given to him

“It’s given everything. It’s given me a life I never thought I’d have. I stumbled into this 40 years ago and I’m still here. I’m incredibly thankful for that. I never expected it, I wasn’t aiming to do that, it’s just something that happened along the way so I hope I’ve given as much as I’ve taken from the game. It’s been an enormous part of my life.” 



Playing career: 1985-1998
Games: 269. Goals: 1254

Player honours

  • 2nd (equal) Brownlow Medal 1988, 1992, 3rd (equal) Brownlow Medal 1989
  • Hawthorn Best & Fairest 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993
  • Hawthorn captain 1995-98;
  • Premierships 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991
  • Club leading goalkicker 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998
  • Coleman Medal 1988, 1989, 1992
  • Hawthorn Team of the Century
  • All Australian 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994
  • State of Origin - Victoria (3 games, 14 goals); Queensland (4 games, 10 goals); Allies (1 game, 0 goals). E.J. Whitten Medal, 1989
  • Queensland Team of the Century