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Ackerly overwhelmed at Hall of Fame honour

Ackerly inducted into Hall of Fame David Ackerly speaks to SwansTV after being inducted into the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame.
The names you’ve mentioned, like Peter Bedford, Tony Lockett and Brett Kirk, are all in a different league to me. I couldn’t ever imagine being mentioned in that company. I’m so proud to even be considered for the Swans Hall of Fame.
David Ackerly

As the youngest Swan in history to have claimed a Club Champion honour, a winner of two Club Champion awards, a veteran of 138 games and a member of the South Melbourne side that relocated to Sydney in 1982, David Ackerly has every reason to feel right at home in the Sydney Swans Hall of Fame.

But Ackerly, who donned the red and white between 1979 and 1985 before joining North Melbourne, says he was “overwhelmed” to even be thrown into the same ring of Hall of Fame candidates as names like Peter Bedford, Tony Lockett and Brett Kirk.

Ackerly was one of three Swans champions added to the esteemed Hall of Fame honour roll at the club’s Guernsey Presentation and Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at The Star on Wednesday night.

And the former defender, now 58, said being inducted into the Swans Hall of Fame made for a surreal moment.

“It’s really humbling. I don’t really see anything I did as a player was particularly special, and I certainly played with a lot of footballers who were better than I was. So I’m overwhelmed by it all,” Ackerly told SwansTV.

“The names you’ve mentioned, like Peter Bedford, Tony Lockett and Brett Kirk, are all in a different league to me. I couldn’t ever imagine being mentioned in that company. I’m so proud to even be considered for the Swans Hall of Fame. Words are really difficult at the moment, and I’m just terribly, terribly proud." 

But while Ackerly did his best to downplay his place in the Swans Hall of Fame, a look at the history books reflects a man whose rise to stardom was rapid.

Ackerly claimed his first Club Champion award in 1980 aged just 19 years and 308 days, with Bloods Legend and Swans Team of the Century captain Bob Skilton – for whom a bronze statue was installed at Lakeside Stadium last year – sitting in second at 19 years and 326 days. 

Swans Team of the Century member Ron Clegg rounds out the podium at 20 years and 318 days, while Swans Team of the Century duo Herbie Matthews and Mark Bayes are also among the many admired names in the top 20 youngest Club Champions.

Ackerly said he was full of pride when revisiting his time in red and white.

“I think I achieved as much as I possibly could – and that’s what I’m most proud about,” Ackerly said.

“There were a lot of players who were more skilful and stronger, but what I did was make the most of what I had.

“To still be the youngest best-and-fairest winner in club history is very special to me. And to have won it twice, as I grow older and share it with my kids it will resonate for a long time for them and me.”

Ackerly featured in the Swans’ first match in history at the SCG, a 63-point loss to Geelong in Round 12, 1980.

He then played a key role in the Swans’ first win at the hallowed Sydney venue, which saw South Melbourne defeat Collingwood by 18 points in Round 17, 1981.

He then helped the club to a 29-point victory over Melbourne in the opening round of 1982 in the Swans’ first post-relocation match at the SCG, while he also collected the first post-move Club Champion award.

Ackerly says the importance of the club’s relocation from South Melbourne to Sydney cannot be underestimated.

“The move from South Melbourne to Sydney laid the foundation for what is now the AFL. All the players who were a part of that can take great pride in the fact that we helped establish the club the Swans are today, as well as indeed the competition it is today,” Ackerly said.

“Trend-setting and base-building was what it was all about, and it was challenging, but at the same time it was a great adventure.”