HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Garry Thomas SIDEBOTTOM
|Date of Birth||21st November 1954|
Games 233 (Swan Districts 114, St Kilda 54, Geelong 7, Fitzroy 43, Western Australia 15)
Goals 395 (Swan Districts 227 St Kilda 86, Geelong 6, Fitzroy 53, Western Australia 23)
Honours: Swan Districts Fairest and Best (Swan Medal) 1976, 1985 SD Leading Goalkicker 1985 (78 goals) St Kilda Captain 1980 St Kilda Leading Goalkicker 1979 Swan Districts Team of the Century 1934-2000 SDFC Life Member (2000)
BIG, strong, talented, volatile and highly controversial are some of the terms used to describe Garry Sidebottom, who bestrode West Australian football like a colossus in the mid-1970s and was a key figure in the remarkable first 10 years of State of Origin football.
Born in Midland into a strong Swan Districts football family, Garry Sidebottom showed early that he possessed outstanding football talent and he debuted in the Swans league team aged 18 in 1973. His size, strength and aerial ability made him equally effective at centre half-forward or in the ruck where his palming ability and around the ground strength created many opportunities for team mates. He was a splendid team man and lifted his colleagues with his tremendous enthusiasm, but could also frustrate with inconsistency and lapses of discipline. In his second league season he was selected at centre half-forward in the state games against South Australia and Victoria, contributing strongly and polling Simpson Medal votes against the Vics. Shortly after that clash however he suffered a severe injury setback when struck in the back of the head in a game against Claremont. In hospital with suspected brain damage and paralysed down one side of his body, he missed the final eight games including two finals before emerging 26 kg lighter.
In 1975 Sidebottom was again involved in controversy suffering concussion in a Round three game against East Fremantle and being a regular tribunal witness. He maintained superb form however and played against the Vics at VFL Park and in Swans two finals. He had one of his best seasons in 1976, being a consistent star in the ruck, playing state football and winning his first club fairest and best award. He was also attracting strong interest from Victorian recruiting officers by this time, but stayed for another (unfortunately injury interrupted) year in 1977, missing a block of 11 games with a debilitating groin strain. He hit top form in the final six games however, kicking 31 goals from centre half-forward and being an automatic selection in the inaugural State of Origin game in October.
The inevitable move to Victoria came in 1978 and ‘Sidey’ quickly became a key player at St Kilda, topping their goalkicking in 1979 with 56 goals and being elected captain in 1980. He was regarded as one of the most valuable footballers in Australia at this time, but lost form after a personality clash with new coach Alex Jesaulenko. After a high profile transfer to Geelong for the 1981 season he again struggled for form and missed (through no fault of his own) a team bus to the preliminary final against Collingwood. A beneficial move to Fitzroy then followed and under the coaching of Robert Walls, Sidebottom regained outstanding form and played some of the best football of his career and participated in 3 finals games in 1983 and 1984.
In 1985 ‘Sidey’ returned to Swan Districts and had an outstanding season to kick 78 goals at full-forward and capture his second club fairest and best award. He played the final two of his 15 state games and produced one of the finest individual performances in a WAFL final round game in the first semi-final against West Perth, kicking nine goals in an astounding display of prodigious strength and skill. After being limited to only 9 games in 1986 by a knee injury and a suspension and to Round one of 1987, Sidebottom retired to country football, but he remained a proud Swans man and reappeared as the reserves coach in 2007. He was named, unsurprisingly, at centre half-forward in Swans Team of the Century in 2000.
Even when his form was down in the VFL, Sidebottom was a regular selection for WA in State of Origin football, his mere presence in WA teams providing confidence to his team mates that the Vics could be taken on and beaten. He played superbly in two of the most brilliant of all SoO games in 1983 and 1984, kicking six goals in the latter and providing an enormous contribution of strength and enthusiasm at full-forward.
Garry Sidebottom was a big-game player whose skill and strength gave him the rare ability to transform a game with his own individual effort. Although sometimes lacking consistency at club level, his grand contributions for Western Australia in state and State of Origin football over an 11-year period stamped him as one of the finest talents of his era.