HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Mark William BAIRSTOW
|Date of Birth||24th July 1963|
Games 196 (South Fremantle 40, Geelong 146 WA 10)
Goals 219 (South Fremantle 32 Geelong 172 Western Australia 15)
Honours: Sandover Medal 1986, South Fremantle Fairest and Best 1986, Four time All Australian team selection (1987, 1989, 1991, 1992), Three AFL Grand Finals (1989, 1992, 1994)
South Fremantle Captain 1986 Geelong Captain 1992, 1993 and 1994
By today’s standards, Mark Bairstow was a mature age entrant into senior football but he more than made up for the late start with immediate and sustained success at both WAFL and VFL/AFL level. An extremely fit on-baller, a prolific ball winner, and a deadly kick for goal anywhere within 50 meters, Bairstow was extremely unlucky not to celebrate at least one AFL premiership.
From a Lake Grace farming family, Bairstow was an established country football star when he commenced his WAFL career at the of 22 in 1985. With more than 150 senior games for Lake Grace including 5 club fairest and best awards and successive Leo Graham Medals in the Upper Great Southern Football League, he arrived at South Fremantle via a trade deal with Claremont as he lived in a Claremont zone. At South, Bairstow was an immediate success, representing Western Australia in a state match against South Australia after just 9 games, winning the WA Media Guild's Footballer of the Future award, coming second to Wally Matera in South Fremantle's best and fairest award and equal third in the Sandover Medal. After 19 games in his outstanding first season he was named South Fremantle captain in 1986, one of the least experienced players to attain this honour. Despite his inexperience he lead from the front, twice more representing WA and going on to win both the Sandover Medal and South Fremantle's best and fairest award.
As a hot VFL prospect, Mark Bairstow signed with Geelong on 26th September 1986, five days before the 12 VFL clubs voted to allow a WA based team to join the competition. With his prolific ball gathering and highly effective disposal skills, Bairstow was an instant VFL star as a ruck rover. In his debut season he averaged 24.3 possessions per game, gained All Australian selection and a reputation as one of the premier midfielders in the game. In his 3rd season Bairstow played in the epic losing 1989 grand final against Hawthorn and achieved All Australian status for a second time.
Commitment to the family farm saw Mark Bairstow walk away from the AFL in 1990. He played in another losing Grand Final for Lake Grace but was coaxed back to Geelong the following year and produced some of the best football of his career to average over 26 possessions a game and earn All Australian selection in both 1991 and 1992. By the time of his retirement in 1994 after the resignation of coach Malcolm Blight, Bairstow had played 146 VFL/AFL games and captained the Cats in his last three seasons. These included a further 2 losing grand finals in 1992 and 1994.
As a proud West Australian, Mark Bairstow represented his state in every State of Origin game between 1986 and 1993 except 1990 (when he was back on the farm) and 1992 and was invariably amongst the best players. Subsequent to his football career, Bairstow has been engaged in his passion for racehorse training in Bunbury and has seen his son Toby graduate to senior football at South Fremantle. Richly deserved induction into the West Australian Football Hall of Fame might go some way toward erasing the pain of multiple grand final defeats for this champion product of West Australian football.