TO VICTORIANS, the story of Barry Cable, the 24th and latest official Legend of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, is one told in three distinct chapters, each several years apart. For anyone remotely familiar with West Australian football, they, however, are only an edited version of one of the greatest tales the game has seen.
In the first, the man who would become known as the ''Little Master'', was North Melbourne's star West Australian recruit, a blond genius rover who arrived at Arden Street at the peak of his powers in 1970 to give a perennially unsuccessful club some badly needed cachet. He didn't just have an immediate impact, he won the club's best and fairest and finished fourth in the Brownlow. And, after one season, was gone again.
The Cable Victorians saw for a second time arrived back at North for the 1974 season, by now a triple Sandover medallist, a seven-time winner of Perth's best and fairest and, at the age of 30, the complete master of his craft, the greatest exponent of handball football had known. For North Melbourne, along with Malcolm Blight, he also represented the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle coach Ron Barassi had begin to assemble the previous year.
The Kangaroos had stormed the upper reaches of the ladder with the services of Barry Davis, Doug Wade and John Rantall, narrowly missing a finals berth in 1973. Cable and South Australian star Blight were the ingredients to take them further.
Cable would spend four years at Arden Street this time, during which the Roos would reach only their second grand final in 50 VFL seasons, then in 1975, land a historic first flag.
They made it a double in 1977, playing five finals - including a grand final tie with Collingwood - to get there, Cable now 34, but still one of North's driving forces. He would end his VFL playing days with 115 games, 133 goals and two flags.
In the third VFL instalment, Cable returned to North this time on an SOS mission as coach, as Blight's stint captain-coaching the club in 1981 ended disastrously mid-season. Cable returned the Roos to finals action the following year, and had them finishing the 1983 home and away season on top before bidding Victoria farewell one final time at the end of the 1984 season.
That is enough of a legacy to have seen him selected in the Kangaroos' Team of the Century. But there is so much more, and not only in purely football terms, including another 13 seasons and 267 games with WAFL clubs Perth and East Perth, four WAFL premierships, the last famously won for East Perth as captain-coach against his old club, and 20 state guernseys.
Cable was brought up in a family of 10 by his part-Aboriginal mother after the death of their father, battling his lack of size (168 centimetres) to make an indelible mark on the indigenous football code with his razor-sharp vision and reflexes, helping turn handball from a football practice frowned upon to one synonymous with attacking football.
But the greatest challenge of his life would be presented in late 1979, when Cable was caught beneath the spinning wheel of a tractor.
He almost died, his right leg torn to shreds. He pleaded with surgeons not to amputate. After fighting infection, and recovering from several bouts of surgery and massive skin grafts, Cable recovered.
He would walk with a limp, and his football career was finished. But his famed fitness didn't desert him, completing a series of rides for charity.
He would help usher in the new era of AFL football with a role as an assistant coach with the newly formed West Coast, and watch with pride his son Shane turn out for the Eagles.
Cable's is a story to which Victorians have been privy only to a limited part, but a football tale which sits comfortably alongside those of the Hall of Fame Legends with whom he now keeps company.
AFL Hall of Fame
Nth Melb 1992-2007. Games: 311. Goals: 143.
NORTH Melbourne has boasted a few stars whose talents were more lauded than those of Glenn Archer. But few eyebrows were raised when the Kangaroos several years ago announced him as their "Shinboner of the Century", such was the aura which had grown around the gritty and courageous Kangaroo defender. At his peak, Archer could not only thwart the best opposition forwards, but be sent forward in a "shock trooper" role, always with the uncanny knack of making things happen when his side most needed them to. He loved the big occasion and saved arguably the best performance of his career for the biggest - the 1996 grand final. He helped subdue a rampaging Sydney spearhead Tony Lockett and landed North its first premiership for 19 years, and in the process win himself a Norm Smith Medal.
Nth Melb 1979. Games: 5.
Glenelg 1967-82. Games: 312. Goals: 339.
South Adelaide 1983-84. Games: 47.
CORNES was one of a handful of South Australian stars who left his run at a VFL career a little too late and, after five games with North Melbourne under Ron Barassi, headed back across the border. But his record in SA is the stuff of legend, winning three best and fairests with the Bays and famously helping the club to its first SANFL flag for 39 years in 1973 with a towering mark and goal in the dying seconds of the grand final. He earned 21 state guernseys with SA, and would go on to forge a distinguished coaching career, including becoming the inaugural AFL coach of Adelaide in 1991.
Games: 305. Goals 224.
FOR much of Crawford's career, he appeared to have been cast as a victim of bad timing, his arrival at Glenferrie coinciding with the temporary end of Hawthorn's long reign as a VFL then AFL power. That didn't prevent him quickly establishing a place among the AFL's upper echelon of on-ballers. A popular Brownlow Medal win in 1999 was fitting reward for his efforts, coinciding with one of four club best and fairests. Coach Alastair Clarkson's arrival at the club in 2005, however, kept alive his ultimate dream of team success, the 16-season veteran eventually bowing out in the most memorable fashion possible, his last game in a famous grand final win when the Hawks upset Geelong in 2008.
Western Bulldogs 1990-2007
Games: 341. Goals: 554.
GRANT survived a traumatic introduction to league football when it appeared the club which had drafted him was about to merge. The Dogs, however, would not only survive but prosper, as did the slightly built key forward, who became the youngest player in league history to kick 50 goals in a season. Grant's tremendous athleticism, strong marking and fine reading of play always served him well, a feature of the Bulldogs' regular finals campaigns during the 1990s. He won two best and fairests, three All-Australian nominations, and was cruelly denied the 1997 Brownlow Medal, when he polled the most votes but was precluded from winning for a controversial mid-season suspension.
St Kilda 1989-2008
Games: 383. Goals: 215.
FEW, if any, players of the modern era can match the St Kilda ruck-rover for consistency of performance over such a long period, hardly any of his 383 games resulting in anything less than a pass mark, and a vast majority in which he was inevitably one of his side's best handful of performers. Harvey's sheer endurance was his trademark, coupled with his ball-winning ability which regularly saw him leading the possession count. Such consistency was rewarded with consecutive, highly popular Brownlow Medals in 1997-98. Harvey won four St Kilda best and fairests and eight All-Australian nominations, and was still a damaging on-baller up until his retirement at the age of 37.
Games: 140. Goals: 267.
East Fremantle 1962-66
Games: 106. Goals: 359.
Subiaco 1967 Games: 19. Goals: 34.
A LANKY ruckman and dangerous forward, "Big Bob" was a leading light in Melbourne's greatest era, playing in seven grand finals and winning five flags. Supremely confident, Johnson was equally adept at the bounces, or playing part of a forward tandem, twice winning Melbourne's goalkicking. At 27, Johnson headed to Western Australia, where as captain-coach he took East Fremantle to four successive grand finals and the 1965 flag. He returned to Victoria in 1970 and led Oakleigh to the 1972 VFA premiership.
Compiled by ROHAN CONNOLLY