AFL great dies hours before grand final in football tragedy

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Former Melbourne and Footscray player Greg Parke tragically passed away on grand final day, hours before his former teams were to square off. Picture: Twitter
Former Melbourne and Footscray player Greg Parke tragically passed away on grand final day, hours before his former teams were to square off. Picture: Twitter

The AFL world is mourning former Melbourne and Western Bulldogs player Greg Parke, who passed away aged 73 just hours before the grand final.

Parke played 119 games for Melbourne and added another 37 for Footscray, before turning his attention to the SANFL.

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He made his debut for the Demons in 1968, booting 169 goals before switching to the Bulldogs in 1974.

After 18 games for Norwood in the SANFL the following year, he made a brief return to the VFL, where he suited up for Fitzroy.

After his debut in the VFL, Parke soon built a reputation as one of the best marks of the ball in the competition, and a crucial offensive weapon for the Demons.

Parke led Melbourne's goalkicking in 1972 with a career high mark of 63, while he finished runner-up in the Demons' best and fairest vote in 1969.

A year earlier he was judged Melbourne's best first year player, and also was the club's highest polling player at the Brownlow Medal that season.

In 1970, he took the most marks of any player in the league.

Notably, alongside current Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge, Parke is one of just seven players in AFL/VFL history to have played more than 30 games for each of the Demons and Bulldogs.

Beveridge began his career with Melbourne before playing three seasons with the Bulldogs, before he finished his career with the Saints.

Melbourne Demons end long premiership drought

The legendary Ron Barassi is no longer Melbourne's most recent premiership captain, with Max Gawn leading the Demons to grand final glory for the first time since 1964.

The towering ruckman has helped break the club's 'Norm Smith curse' with Melbourne powering to a stunning 74-point AFL victory over the Western Bulldogs at Perth's Optus Stadium.

Wearing the late, great Jim Stynes' No.11 on his jumper, Gawn lifted up the cup with coach Simon Goodwin - 57 years after Barassi and Smith did it together, long before the VFL was renamed the AFL.

After being the main man in Melbourne's preliminary final smashing of Geelong, Gawn took more of a back seat as midfield star Christian Petracca ran riot in claiming the Norm Smith Medal.

But five goals, nearly all of them spectacular, in a once-in-a-career performance against the Cats was always going to be an impossible act for Gawn to follow.

The Demons, pictured here celebrating after the 2021 AFL grand final.
The Demons celebrate after the 2021 AFL grand final. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The 29-year-old endured some grim early years at Melbourne, spending nine seasons at the club before even getting a shot at finals.

He was drafted in 2009 and was not on the end of a winning ledger in a season until 2017.

But after two years out of September action following the 2018 rise up the ladder, Gawn has been a key figure in the drought-breaking triumph.

He paid tribute to key Demons figures, who are no longer alive, including Stynes, Dean Bailey and Troy Broadbridge.

"The list goes on," Gawn told Channel Seven about the fallen Melbourne greats.

"What Neale Daniher is going through at the moment, these guys are the real heroes, we are just out here and trying to play our role."

With AAP

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