Tony Lockett
1995-1999; 2002
98 games
462 goals
Best & Fairest 1995
Coleman Medal 1996, 1998
All-Australian 1995, 1996, 1998
Swans Team of the Century
AFL Hall of Fame Legend


As the song says, there's 'only one Tony Lockett'. He remains the game's greatest goalkicker and the only traditional full-forward to have won the game's highest individual honour—the Brownlow Medal – in 1987. His career is unparalleled, and his prodigious impact on the Sydney Swans will never be forgotten.

In 1994, the club had just commenced an extensive rebuilding process. Late in that season, rumours began circling that Lockett, then with St Kilda, may be looking for a change of club. Swans CEO Ron Joseph proved relentless in his pursuit of the champion full-forward, but as the AFL's trade deadline approached, Lockett denied the club's final approach. Joseph drove away, then decided on one last crack, turned the car around and returned to Lockett's home. The next time he left, Lockett was a Swan.

And a glorious new chapter began.

Lockett's love of football began with his father, Howard 'Plugger' Lockett, a legendary figure as a player and coach at the North Ballarat Football Club. The second of four children to Howard and Liz, Tony inherited his dad’s football prowess and nickname. Howard's coaching prowess became influential in creating arguably the most textbook-perfect set shot goal-kicking technique the game has ever seen.

In his autobiography, My Life, Lockett explains his early infatuation with footy. "I became even more obsessed with the game. All I wanted to do was kick the footy; I even slept with it. Every night when Dad came home from work, I would terrorise him until he eventually came outside and had a kick with me. He kept pushing the necessity of holding the ball down for as long as possible and guiding it onto the boot. At the time, I had a terrible habit of just dropping the ball."

Beginning his junior career as a ruck-rover, Lockett grew quickly and, outsizing his opponents, moved into the ruck and forward. His debut for North Ballarat at 15 drew attention, and in 1983, at 17, he arrived at St Kilda. After a short stint in the city, the Saints allowed their homesick recruit to move home and travel for training and games from Ballarat.

Lockett played 183 games with St Kilda, kicking an astonishing 898 goals. In addition to the '87 Brownlow Medal, he claimed two Coleman Medals and two club best and fairests with the Saints. When he moved to Sydney in 1995, the legendary Ron Barassi was coach. Barassi said, "Geez, he was fantastic value. He was so easy to coach. I think he was keen to fix his image up after some trouble at St Kilda. He was a hell of a footballer."

Under the guidance of chairman Richard Colless, the Swans were gaining some credibility. Fitzroy champion Paul Roos joined alongside Lockett, and after three consecutive seasons collecting wooden spoons, the Swans won eight games, finishing just outside the finals with a percentage of 100. Lockett kicked 110 goals, also claiming the Swans best and fairest award.

In Round 19 that year, the Swans faced Fitzroy at the Western Oval, and Lockett delivered a masterclass. In the 126-point victory, he kicked a club-record 16 goals straight from 18 kicks. Supporters of both teams switched ends after each quarter to get as close as possible to the exquisite display. Lockett said in typical, understated fashion, "I was lucky enough to start well. It was just one of those days, and you could play 300 games and not be able to do it again."

Lockett's close mate Paul Kelly won the 1995 Brownlow Medal to cap off a much-improved season for the Swans. The popular victory gave the team momentum heading into the '96 campaign, with rookie coach Rodney Eade replacing Barassi at the helm.

The city of Sydney truly embraced the Swans during the historic 1996 season. That year, the Swans set new records for highest season points tally, most wins, home game attendances and they claimed their first minor premiership since 1945. Lockett won his first Coleman Medal at the Swans, finishing the year with 121 goals. However, he injured his groin late in the season, missing the first-ever final at the SCG, and two weeks later, the Swans returned to face Essendon for a Grand Final berth.

"When I ran onto the SCG, I hadn't kicked a ball over 30 metres for a month," Lockett said. "Not to mention my state of fitness, which had obviously diminished greatly. However, I thought that if I could do my job reasonably well, make a target and contest whenever the ball got into my zone, then maybe some of the other boys could kick enough goals to get us home."

As the full-time siren sounded, scores were level, and Lockett lined up a set shot from 55 metres out. Defying the lingering groin issue, he launched the ball with great connection and kicked the point that carried the Swans to their first Grand Final in 51 years. Later, Lockett said, "I feel honoured to be the one who kicked that point."

Teammate Paul Roos fondly remembers 'Plugger's point'. "We had an overhyped and absolutely pumped crowd, and we had a player who I'd suggest was arguably the best player to have ever played the game kick the winning point. It was just extraordinary."

In his only Grand Final appearance, Lockett kicked six goals in the disappointing loss to North Melbourne. "That was the best day of my footy career, my whole footy life—and probably the best and worst day all in one."

Due to persistent injuries, he could only manage 12 games the following year, but he returned in 1998 to kick 109 goals, winning another Coleman Medal, passing the century mark for a record sixth time. Although the Swans played finals again in '97 and '98, they were disappointed not to progress further.

In Round 10, 1999, 'Pluggermania' struck the SCG, as Lockett closed in on the all-time VFL/AFL goalkicking record of 1299 majors, held by Collingwood legend Gordon Coventry, since 1937. Early in the match, in front of more than 42,000 supporters, Kelly looked up and delivered a low, searing pass, hitting Lockett on the chest. His kick uncharacteristically wobbled through for his 1300th goal, and Swans fans stormed the ground in unforgettable scenes.

Kelly said, "It was a wonderful experience, one of my greatest football memories. At the end of the game there was champagne everywhere. People had handed us bottles, and we squirted them all over Plugger in racing driver style while he was carried from the ground with the ball raised in the air."

Late in the season, Lockett announced his retirement. He kicked eight goals in his SCG farewell and then left the MCG for the final time following the qualifying final loss to Essendon. Well-wishers gathered in the Swans' rooms, and tributes began to flow. His coach, Rodney Eade, said, "I liked coaching Tony. I didn't realise he had as much talent as he did until I coached him. He had enormous natural talent and as good a kick as I have seen."

After a brief three-game comeback in 2002, Lockett finished his glittering 18-season career with 281 games and 1360 goals—a record that is unlikely ever to be broken. A giant of the game, he also played on the edge, appearing before the AFL tribunal 16 times. "Football doesn't owe me anything. I owe the game. I'll be indebted to it forever, like we all are. If I look back now, maybe I would change a little bit. But in the overall scheme of things, I'm pretty happy with how it all went. It was a great ride."

When Tony Lockett joined the Swans, the game changed in New South Wales. His recruitment gave the club and the game credibility during a critical time for the code, and ‘Plugger’ is now synonymous with Sydney. His legacy lives on as a Bloods Champion, full-forward on Sydney and St Kilda's Teams of the Century, and an Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend.