The Collingwood Football Club congratulates Mark Williams who has tonight been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
Few former players have managed to retain the affection of Magpie fans in the way that Mark Williams has.
Mark spent six seasons at the Club, and last played for Collingwood in 1986. Despite that, he remains a deeply-loved figure at the Magpies, particularly for those who were following the Club in the 1980s.
That bond owes less to what he did while he was a Collingwood player – as impressive as that was – and more to how he went about it. He played footy in an old-fashioned Magpie way.
He crossed to Victoria Park in 1981, having already made a big name for himself in the SANFL with first West Adelaide and then Port Adelaide. His pedigree was unmatched: his father, Fos, was an SA footballing legend as both player and coach. His mother was a ranked tennis player in SA, while his sister Jenny played for Australia in cricket, captained the country at lacrosse and also represented the State at soccer and touch football. Mark and his brothers, Anthony and Stephen, all played football, and all were very good at it.
Mark played 65 games with West Adelaide and then spent two seasons with Port Adelaide. He won All Australian selection in 1980 and, having been part of Port’s second successive flag, decided it was time to try his luck in the VFL at age 22.
He was an instant hit. In his first year at Collingwood, Williams not only won the Copeland Trophy – a super rare feat – but also selection in a Victorian side, as he and his new teammates made it all the way to a Grand Final. By the time he left Victoria Park five years later he had established himself as one of the best imports Collingwood had ever lured across the border.
Mark was not exactly a ‘pretty’ footballer. He was not an especially quick or graceful mover, did not have a huge leap and had an ungainly kicking style. But Collingwood had no more gutsy or effective contributor during the first half of the 1980s.
He was desperation personified. Wherever he played – ruck-rover, centre or on the forward line – he attacked every contest as if it was happening in the last two minutes of a nail-biter. Courageous, committed, selfless and a fierce tackler, he was the ultimate team player.
His awkward style disguised the fact that Mark was actually a highly-skilled player. He was especially dangerous around goals, even topping the Club’s goalkicking in 1984. He was also a good ball-handler, even in the wet, and had very good hands in marking contests for someone who only stood six foot tall in the old language.
“On behalf of the Collingwood Football Club, I congratulate Mark Williams on his induction to the Australian Football Hall of Fame,” Club President Jeff Browne said.
“Mark was an inspiration to his teammates at Collingwood, many of whom have always spoken highly of him. Reflecting on his career, it was no surprise he was chosen as Collingwood captain after just two seasons and that he would go on to be widely lauded as an outstanding leader across four seasons.
“Mark had an approach to football that really set him apart, being totally dedicated and professional in his preparation, play and conduct. He was years ahead of his time in the way he prepared himself.
“The Collingwood faithful loved him from the moment he first pulled on the black-and-white jumper – he gave it absolutely everything every time he played and his commitment never wavered.
“Mark’s unique approach has led to him experiencing great success as a player and coach and his induction to the Australian Football Hall of Fame is deserved recognition of his contribution to the game.”
Mark Williams at Collingwood
Copeland Trophy 1981, 1985
Leading Goalkicker 1984
Most Consistent Player 1981
Most Courageous Player 1982, 1985
Collingwood Inductees to the Australian Football Hall of Fame