120 games for St Kilda, 52 goals
184 games for Hawthorn, 82 goals
Russell Greene was in many ways the typical 1980s footballer. Blessed with an elite running capacity, he debuted as a 16-year-old in 1974 and made his name as a nimble wingman and occasional ruck-rover.
In Round 8, 1980, Greene played his final game for the Saints. He was named in St Kilda's team the following Thursday before he was told of his clearance to Hawthorn on the Friday, and selected in Hawthorn's team to play North Melbourne at VFL Park on the Saturday
As the story goes, his friend Steven Icke spotted him in the carpark and thought he was at the wrong game.
Greene went on to captain Victoria and play in three premierships and six Grand Finals with the Hawks, and has since embarked on a teaching career since his retirement in 1988.
How did you arrive at the Saints?
My coach when I arrived in 1973 was Brian Muir, who is a fantastic man. I turned 16 during the course of the year but I was officially 15 when I got recruited. It was under 19s in those days and I was 65 kilograms and playing against these blokes who were bigger and stronger than me. It was quite scary actually, but it was great fun.
Do you think it’s a shame players can’t be drafted that young anymore?
I think if you are good enough you’re good enough and should be able to play. The systems they go through now are extensive. They have the TAC Cup, Vic Metro, Vic Country etc. Whereas we were just drafted from our zones, so it’s a completely and utterly different world now to what it was when I played.
What are your favourite memories playing at St Kilda?
My first game was fantastic. We played Fitzroy at Moorabbin and won which was a great experience. I was 16 at the time.
I just remember thinking ‘this is really strange,’ because there were all these people there watching. The year before I was watching all these other people being interviewed on Football Inquest, and then all of a sudden I was being interviewed on it. I remember they asked me a question and I just froze – I must have looked like a real goose.
Being a football nut from a very early age, it was great to play with blokes like Cowboy Neale, Billy Mildenhall, Robbie Elliott and Gary Colling who was my captain. It’s great to catch up with those guys nowadays, because as Jeansy (Allan Jeans) always said, “Once it’s finished, all you have left are your memories.”
What do you enjoy about today’s game?
The aerobic capacity of today’s players is far superior to when we played. With the 120 interchanges each team is allowed, blokes will come off, recharge their batteries and come back on. They know they are only going for six or seven minutes at a time so it is just flat out.
Because I was an on-baller, I had to have a petrol tank which could allow me to play 120 minutes, so it’s completely different. Today the players focus on speed and endurance, whereas we really just trained our endurance levels so we could last the match.
Yes, speed was important if you had it, but above all you had to have good endurance. I would have loved to have been playing today because they are just so professional. We used to work, go to training, come home, go to bed and then go to work again.
Who was the best player you played with at St Kilda?
Well we still had the greats like Cowboy, and Ross Smith came back and played for a year too. I would have to say Trevor Barker. He was probably 5.11 but used to jump about five feet in the air. He always played on the big power forwards, as they call them today – he was fantastic.
How closely are you involved in footy nowadays?
I’m involved in a business at the MCG. We have two boxes there and I host those boxes all the time, but the only unfortunate thing is St Kilda only plays there once or twice per year. I’m at the G for most games.
Who is your favourite modern day player?
I love Patrick Dangerfield – he’s a freak. But there are so many gun players in today’s game. I must admit, I don’t like watching it when it gets all cluttered up. When I played, if we had 40 tackles we would never lose, but they get 40 tackles per quarter now! I don’t know how they do it.
What are you doing now?
I’m still teaching. I’m in Cranbourne at the moment at a high needs school called Marnebek, but I taught at Melbourne Grammar’s Grimwade campus for years.
But the kids I teach now are kids who are autistic, have Down Syndrome or have been physically or mentally abused. It’s a real challenge but it is good fun.