Devonport/East Devonport/Collingwood/Burnie Dockers/Brisbane/Hawthorn, Wingman/Defender/Recruiting Manager, 1986-2016
> 201 games, 107 goals, Collingwood, 1988-98
> Around 25 games, East Devonport, 1987
> 25 games, Burnie Dockers, 1999-2000
> Collingwood AFL premiership, 1990
> Brownlow Medal Runner-Up, 1990
> Named wing in the All-Australian team, 1990
> East Devonport Best and Fairest, 1987
> State of Origin match for Tasmania vs. Victoria, 1990
> State of Origin match for Victoria, 1990
> State of Origin match for ‘The Allies’, 1996
> Springvale senior coach (VFL), 2004
> Brisbane Lions recruiter, 2004-06
> Hawthorn east coast Recruiting Manager, 2007-10
> Hawthorn Recruiting and List Manager, 2011-16
A dashing and damaging wingman, Graham Wright enjoyed a distinguished career with Collingwood during the 1990s and was one of the club’s premier players during the drought-breaking premiership year of 1990. He has subsequently gone on to become one of the most successful and respected recruiting and list managers in the national competition.
Born in 1968, Wright first played the game with Devonport, where he was a star at the Under 19 level and also played senior football. In 1987 he moved to East Devonport, winning the Swans’ senior Best and Fairest award in his one and only season at the club. At year’s end he was recruited to the VFL by Collingwood, taken at Pick 3 in the 1987 National Draft. Making his debut for the Magpies in Round One of 1988, Wright enjoyed a sensational debut season at Victoria Park, playing 23 of a possible 24 games, winning the Harry Collier Trophy as the club’s best first-year player and kicking 38 goals to finish runner-up in the club’s goalkicking behind Brian Taylor.
After an interrupted year in 1989 that produced only 14 games, 1990 was without question Wright’s finest season. He finished equal third in the Copeland Trophy for Collingwood’s Best and Fairest, was selected in the All-Australian side and finished only one vote behind Footscray’s Tony Liberatore in the Brownlow Medal count. His greatest achievement, however, was as a member of the Collingwood side that finally put to rest the dreaded ‘Colliwobbles’ with their 48-point grand final win over Essendon. Wright gathered 15 disposals in the victory. That same year Wright also featured in State of Origin football for the first time, representing Tasmania in their famous victory over Victoria at North Hobart Oval, and then Victoria in their shock loss to NSW. Incredibly the two matches were only three days apart.
In the aftermath of the 1990 premiership Wright continued to establish himself as one of the finest wingmen in the game, and as a result there was enormous shock when he announced at the end of 1992 that he wanted to return to Tasmania. He was ultimately convinced to stay by Collingwood coach Leigh Matthews, but it was soon clear that the highpoint of his career had come and gone. Other than being awarded Collingwood’s Best Finals Player in 1992, the personal accolades dried up. Wright’s efforts were not helped by a serious illness over the 1993 off-season and a knee injury in 1996 that required a reconstruction, robbing him of much of the trademark pace that had made him so damaging early in his career. Nevertheless Wright continued to persevere, transforming himself into a highly effective defender during the latter stages of his career, and making enough of an impact to be selected for ‘The Allies’ during the 1996 State of Origin series. He brought up his 200-game milestone in the Round 21, 1998 match against Carlton, and he retired from AFL football the following week after the Pies’ 12-point loss to Sydney. His efforts in his final season were rewarded with Collingwood’s ‘Best Clubman’ award.
After retirement Wright returned to Tasmania to play with Burnie in the TFL Statewide League, however a spate of soft tissue injuries restricted him to just 25 games in his two seasons with the club. After returning to Victoria in 2001 and serving time as coach of North Ringwood in the Eastern Districts FL (2002-03) and Springvale in the VFL (2004), Wright took up a position with the Brisbane Lions as a recruiter/scout, in the process reuniting with Leigh Matthews and Graeme ‘Gubby’ Allen, two of the key off-field engineers of Collingwood’s 1990 premiership. Wright completed his MBA at Deakin University and after two seasons with the Lions, he moved into a recruiting job with Hawthorn in late 2006, and it was here that he would make a huge impact on the AFL landscape, particularly after taking on the role as the Hawks’ Recruiting and List Manager in 2011.
With an unmatched ability for identifying talent and a keen sense for the trends of the game, Wright proved one of the key architects of Hawthorn’s period of dominance through the first half of the 2010s, playing a crucial role building the phenomenally strong Hawks list of the time. Garnering particular praise were the players taken late in national drafts – including Brad Hill, Ben Stratton, Luke Breust and Taylor Duryea – and the recruitment of established stars from other clubs of the calibre of Shaun Burgoyne (Port Adelaide), Brian Lake (Western Bulldogs), Josh Gibson and David Hale (North Melbourne) and Jack Gunston (Adelaide), all of whom were integral players in Hawthorn’s premiership hat trick of 2013, 2014 and 2015.