120. Darrin Pritchard

LEGEND – Player Inductee

Sandy Bay/Hawthorn, Wingman, 1983-97

211 games, 94 goals for Hawthorn, 1987-97
38 games for Sandy Bay, 1985-86
Hawthorn VFL/AFL premierships, 1988, 1989, 1991
VFL ‘Team of the Year’, 1989 (wing)
Six State of Origin matches for Tasmania, 1988-93
Tasmanian State of Origin captain v Victoria, 1990
Lefroy Medal for best Tasmanian State of Origin player, 1993
Victorian State of Origin representative, 1989
One State of Origin match for ‘The Allies’, 1995
Tasmanian ‘Team of the Century’, 2004 (interchange)

A dashing wingman who broke into the powerful Hawthorn combinations of the late 1980s at a young age, Darrin Pritchard continued the great legacy of strong and pacy Tasmanian wingers left by Rodney Eade.

Born in March 1966, Darrin Pritchard started his football career with Sandy Bay in 1983 at the age of 16, playing in a premiership in 1983 and taking out a Best and Fairest in 1984 with the Seagulls’ Thirds (formerly Under 19’s) before making his senior debut in 1985. Over the next two seasons he would play 38 senior games for the Seagulls, finishing runner-up to Andy Bennett in the senior Best and Fairest award in 1986, and at the end of that season he was one of two Sandy Bay youngsters recruited to the VFL through the inaugural National Draft, chosen by the Hawks at Pick 26.

Debuting in Round 8 1987, Pritchard soon found himself a regular in the powerful Hawthorn side of the late 1980s, playing 16 games, including the Hawks’ grand final defeat at the hands of Carlton. The following year saw the departure of four-time premiership wingman and fellow Tasmanian Rodney Eade to the Brisbane Bears after 229 games, and Pritchard stepped into the now vacant wing position seamlessly opposite Robert Dipierdomenico. The 1988 campaign would bring the first of three premierships at Glenferrie for Pritchard, but his finest performance in the big dance was the following season in one of the most brutal grand finals of all time, the 1989 epic against Geelong. Pritchard gathered 20 disposals and was one of the most influential players on the ground, and had it not been for Gary Ablett’s superhuman nine-goal effort for the Cats, Pritchard would have almost certainly taken out the Norm Smith Medal as best on ground. 1989 on the whole was arguably Pritchard’s finest individual season, with selection in both Tasmanian and Victorian State of Origin sides and selection in the VFL’s ‘Team of the Year’.

1990 saw Hawthorn miss the grand final for the first time since 1982, but Pritchard’s own star continued to shine brighter and brighter. He played all 23 games and for the third consecutive season gathered more than 500 disposals in a season (a more impressive accomplishment than now) and represented Tasmania in his home state’s famous 33-point victory over Victoria in Hobart. The following season saw Hawthorn back on the last Saturday in September, this time opposite the talented West Coast outfit under Mick Malthouse in the only grand final ever held at Waverly Park. After a tight first three quarters the Hawks ran away with the match in the last, and again Pritchard starred, blanketing West Coast champion Peter Matera and sealing the win with his second goal of the day in the final quarter. At this point many experts were labeling Pritchard one of the finest and most exciting wingmen in the country.

Hawthorn fell away after their 1991 premiership, but it was by no means due to any drop in performance from their champion wingman, with Pritchard missing only four of the 67 matches the Hawks contested between 1992 and 1994. After playing the first 10 games of 1995 Pritchard suffered a badly broken leg in Round 11 against Essendon at the MCG, meaning that he missed the rest of the season. He made his return to senior football in Round 1 1996, but it soon became clear that Pritchard wasn’t the same player he had been before the injury. He nevertheless continued to perform creditably, passing the 200-game milestone early in 1997, before retiring at the end of that season after 211 senior games, three premierships and a name as one of the finest modern footballers Tasmania has produced. While the senior team failed to make the finals it was appropriate that Pritchard’s final match in brown and gold was in another grand final, this time in the reserves; the result was not ideal however, as the Hawks were thumped by Richmond by 44 points.