I haven’t done a Compare the Pair article since July, so I thought I’d mix it up and do an AFL pairing for the triumphant return. It’s somewhat harder to compare two players who both wore the famous #9 for the great Hawthorn Hawks, considering they played in different eras. While they do differ, there are definitely ways to compare the duo and the incredible impact that their legacies left on the game.
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ALL THE NUMBERS
CRAWFORD – 305 games, 224 goals, 159 Brownlow votes, 22.4 disposals per game
DIPIERDOMENICO – 240 games, 130 goals, 63 Brownlow votes, 18.8 disposals per game
DIPPER struggled to find his feet in his first few seasons as a pro footballer with 99 of his first 100 games for Hawthorn coming at the reserve level. Spending so much time in the two’s hurt Diperdomenico’s career tally’s with Crawford beating him out in total games played, goals kicked, Brownlow votes while also owning a higher disposal average. Dipper’s digits were also hurt by his presence on a wing or half-back flank – quelling his opportunity to get his hands on the footy and hit the scoreboard with more frequency. Take nothing away from Crawford though, he didn’t just play for longer period of time than Dipper, he established himself as one of the best midfielders in the entire league over the late 90’s and early 00’s. Demonstrating an elite level of consistency across 16 years in the AFL helps Crawford nudge out his fellow Hawk to kick things off.
Edge: Crawford (Just)
Image from portrait.gov.au
FIVE premierships to one make this a lopsided argument in Dipper’s favour, but Crawford won’t be mad. The younger Hawks legend was able to get the fairytale finish to his AFL career – bowing out as a premiership player after Hawthorn’s triumph in the 2008 Grand Final. On the other hand, DiPierdomenico won five flags from 1978-89 with Hawthorn in one of the most dominant periods we have seen by any team in the history of football. A 7-5 finals record for Crawf and a 17-7 record for Dipper highlights just how powerful the Hawks were during the 80’s and the latter certainly deserves credit for the part he played in those epic outfits.
CRAWFORD – 2008 AFL Grand Final
NO one in the history of the AFL has played more games than Crawford did before winning his maiden premiership, finally tasting success in his 305th game. In one of the most stirring finals of the past generation, Crawf helped lead an inspired Hawks team to victory over the juggernaut reigning premiers in Geelong, who owned a 23-1 record for the year heading into the big dance. With a see-sawing contest unfolding in the first-half, Hawthron went on a run to kick 10 of the final 14 goals of the game to emerge as unlikely victors. In a wave of emotion and probably relief, Crawford accepted his premiership medal in one of the most famous podium moments and swiftly ran off into the sunset.
DIPIERDOMENICO – 1989 VFL Grand Final
IN perhaps the greatest grand final ever played Dipper was conceivably the most courageous player on the field. The 1989 Grand Final ended in a 144-138 Hawthorn triumph against storied rival Geelong – similarly to Shane Crawford’s ’08 squad. Early in the contest, DiPierdomenico was in a Collison that saw his break multiple ribs and a puncture his lung, but despite the injury, he played on and was an enormous factor in the outcome of the game. Dipper finished with the third most touches for his team and if it wasn’t for a herculean nine-goal effort from Gary Ablett Sr, we might have seen a few more Norm Smith votes go the way of the versatile Hawk.
ICING on the cake to end a glittering playing career is hard to top and Crawford’s final AFL accomplishment will always be viewed as a special one. With that being said, Dipper’s courage in the ’89 decider had a profound impact – a game widely regarded as one of the best Grand Finals in the history of the sport. That’s enough to give DiPerdomenico the edge here.
Edge: DiPerdomenico (Just)
BOTH storied Hawks are the proud owner of a Brownlow Medal, with Dipper sharing the honours with Gregg Williams in 1986 and Crawford awarded the league’s highest individual honour in 1999. The pair can also be found in the footballing Hall of Fame after making multiple All-Australian/VFL Team of the Year squads during their playing days, with Crawf holding a narrow edge 4-3 over Dipper. There is one advantage that the younger counterpart holds over the elder Hawk with Dipper failing to win a club best and fairest award in his 240-game career. Crawford, on the other hand, won four. Advantage Shane.
AS one of the greatest Italian-Australian footballers to ever play AFL, Dipper’s natural aggressive instinct was one that most modern-day fans still marvel at. Off the field, though he was a soft-spoken loveable character, becoming a fan favourite after his retirement still serving as an ambassador for a charity that aims to protect children from violence. Crawford has done his own charitable work including a 3,600 km, 22-day cycle from Melbourne to Perth named “Tour de Crawf” and an 11-day walk from Adelaide to Melbourne. Over those events, he earned upwards of $1.8 million for breast cancer research. It’s tight, but the continued commitment to charity and his ongoing work as an author makes me give Crawford the nod.
Edge: Crawford (Just)
VERDICT – SHANE CRAWFORD
ROUGHLY three of DiPerdomenico’s first four seasons were spent at the reserve level and that hurt a lot of career tally’s when comparing him to Crawford. However, with respect to the 1986 Brownlow medalist, Shane Crawford still manages to outclass Dipper in areas other than stastical superiority. There is a reason that Crawf is regarded as one of the best players from the generation past, with only three Hawks having worn the brown and gold on more occasions than the younger No. 9. Don’t let Crawford’s lack of flags compared to those that came before him deter you, he deserves the win in this debate and will always hold a special place in Hawthorn fans’ hearts.