Another anniversary I missed last week – It’s 75 years since Fred Fanning’s 18 goal game

I had this marked down a few weeks ago but managed to toss it away somewhere…

In addition to being the anniversary of Michael Schumacher’s maiden Grand Prix victory, August 30 marked the 75th anniversary of a VFL/AFL record that continues to stand the test of time…

On August 30, 1947, in the 19th and final round of the 1947 VFL season, Melbourne played wooden spooners St Kilda at the Junction Oval, and Demons full-forward Fred Fanning, playing on Saints defender Stan Le Lievre, wrapped up his fourth Leading Goalkicker title by discombobulating the Saints to the tune of 18 goals and 1 behind, surpassing Gordon Coventry’s record of 17 goals for Collingwood in Round 12 of 1930 to acquire one of the most hallowed records in football…


The Age from September 1, 1947
The Herald newspaper, August 30, 1947

As the famous story goes, Melbourne were already set to miss the finals in ’47 (Finished 6th in the days of the Top 4), and a 25-year-old Fanning had already accepted an irrefusable offer to captain-coach the Hamilton Football Club in the Western Districts, which means that Fanning’s 18 goals simultaneously gives him the record for the most goals in a farewell game, a fact that popped up again when Josh Kennedy kicked 8 in his last game last month:

Of course, the other facet to Fanning that not many people look at is that outside of his 18 goal game, he won 4 VFL Leading Goalkicker awards in 5 years (1943-45 + ’47), making him one of 8 players to win 4+ Leading Goalkicker/Coleman Medals, he was a Premiership player for the Demons in 1940, won the Best & Fairest in 1945, and finished his VFL career by playing for Victoria and being named as an All-Australian full-forward…

But by hook or by crook, his name will forever be synonymous with being the answer to the question ‘Who holds the record for the most goals kicked in a VFL/AFL game?’

Some near misses over the last 75 years, featuring the game’s greatest spearheads:

The closest any player has come to matching or surpassing Fanning’s record in the 75 years since is ‘The Chief’ Jason Dunstall, who kicked 17.5 for Hawthorn against Richmond in Round 7 of 1992, costing himself the record through a couple of misses, and (By his own admission in 2018) following his direct opponent Scott Turner up the ground in the last quarter:

Tony Lockett kicked 16 straight goals for Sydney against Fitzroy in Round 19 of 1995, and Plugger coulda woulda shoulda broken Fanning’s record if he didn’t spend 10 minutes on the bench in the 2nd Quarter, after being taken off by coach Ron Barassi so he wouldn’t get reported for belting Mark Zanotti.

Peter McKenna kicked 16.4 for Collingwood against South Melbourne in Round 19 of 1969, and in the same season Peter Hudson kicked 16.1 for Hawthorn in Round 5 against Melbourne, while in addition to his then-record 17-goal game in 1930, Gordon Coventry also kicked 16 goals against Hawthorn in Round 13 of 1929.

Coleman Medalist + Brownlow Medalist Kelvin Templeton kicked 15.9 for Footscray in Round 13 of 1978 against St Kilda, which remains the record for the most scoring shots in a game by a player (24), with the Bulldogs fans at the Western Oval charging the ground after Templeton kicked his 15th:

And Gary Ablett Snr kicked 14 goals in a game for Geelong 3 times, one of which was his memorable 14.7 against Essendon in Round 6 of 1993, a game that Geelong still lost thanks to Paul Salmon kicking 10.6 for the Bombers in one of the best shootouts ever seen:

But through 75 years of legendary goalkickers, from John Coleman through to Lance Franklin, Fred Fanning is still the answer to the question…


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