In Jim Main's series, 'Swan Songs', on great players from the past, this week he talks to one of the Swans greats from the 90's, Dale Lewis...

Dale Lewis
Born: May 4, 1969
Played: 1990-2001
Games: 182
Goals: 186

It could be suggested that Dale Lewis, one of the classiest utilities to play for the Swans, was bullied into wearing the red and white.

Lewis moved with his family from the northern Victorian town of Swan Hill to Ballarat when he was eight years of age and virtually became an itinerant footballer.

He played junior football with North Ballarat and made his senior debut with the Roosters in 1988 before spending two summer seasons playing with Darwin club St Mary’s, alongside future Essendon champion Michael Long.

Lewis in 1989 played alongside brother Wes in the Torquay Tigers’ premiership side and returned to North Ballarat for the 1990 season.

By this time almost every AFL club was aware of his prodigious talents and lined up to secure his services in the mid-season draft.

And this is where Lewis takes up the tale of how he became a Swan after spending his entire youth as a fanatical Hawthorn supporter.

He explained: “I had calls from just about every club and I would always be called to the phone to say that Footscray, or Carlton or Richmond was on the line.

“On my twenty-first birthday, I was told Peter Knights was on the phone and, because one of my best friends was named Peter Knights, I answered ‘g’day mate, how are you?’

“It was not my mate but the Hawthorn legend, who wanted to speak with me about the possibility of me joining him at Tasmanian club Devonport.

“I also had a call from the Brisbane Bears’ Shane O’Sullivan who told me they wanted to take me as the number one selection at the pre-season draft.

“Although I was desperately keen to play in the AFL, I told him I was not interested in moving so far from home and that I wanted to play with a Victorian club.

“The Swans then showed interest in me and I had a meeting with footballer manager John Reid in Melbourne, and he didn’t mince words.

“He told me in no uncertain terms that if the Bears did not list me, the Swans would and if I didn’t like it I could stand out of League football for two years. Like it or lump it, I was told. I had no choice. The Bears named South Australian Laurie Schache and the Swans, true to their word, named me at number two.”

The Swans’ tough talking paid enormous dividends as Lewis was one of the greatest bargain pick-ups for years and had a stellar career with the Swans.

He made his debut against Footscray at the Western Oval in round 17, 1990, and scored a goal with his first kick in the AFL. He recalled: “I took a handpass from David Murphy and teammate David Bolton told me I was lucky because Murph didn’t handball that often near goal.”

Lewis played on a wing, against Leon Cameron, in that debut match, but filled almost every position in his long and successful career with the Swans.

“I even played at full-back on Melbourne’s Allen Jakovich in one game at the MCG,” he laughed. “But I liked playing across the centre, especially on a wing, best of all - as long as I could kick a goal or two.”

Lewis played in the Swans’ losing 1996 Grand Final against North Melbourne and, despite the defeat, rates this as one of the highlights of his career.

“At least I can call myself a Grand Final player, even if not an AFL premiership player,” he mused.

Unfortunately, Lewis’ final three seasons were marred by severe injuries as he broke his left arm in both 1999 and 2000 and his right arm in 2001.

He retired in 2001 and joined brother Wes at Victorian country club Woorinee. Lewis then played a handful of games with Palm Beach before ending his playing career with Sea Lake.

He was coach of SANFL club Norwood in 2005 and still lives in Adelaide with wife Angie, daughter Evie (three and a half) and son Owen (18 months) as part of the Triple M radio breakfast show and as an AFL commentator.

Does he still follow the Swans? Lewis replied: “Yes, I am a Swan, even though I half-heartedly tried to return to barracking for my first love of Hawthorn when I retired. But I just couldn’t do it as I am a Swan. I am proud of the fact that I am a one-club player and a life member of the Swans. How good is that?”