While boxers like Deontay Wilder can punch extremely hard and former soccer greats like Roberto Carlos could strike the ball with immense power, a selection of tough athletes has managed to showcase their robustness in the AFL over the years. In fact, it’s these types of players that fans enjoy watching most of the time.

The AFL has certainly done its best to try and sanitise the sport in recent times, though. Even away from Aussie rules football, other sports are receiving similar treatment. For example, in soccer, heading the ball is being scrutinised more than ever before after numerous head and brain-related issues with retired footballers. Likewise, there have been ongoing concerns at the amount of potentially destructive head shots boxers continually take before the referee steps in to end a particular bout. In the AFL, hard knocks to the head are certainly discouraged these days too, resulting in an undoubtedly safer but ultimately softer overall product.

With the AFL taking this stance, some of the aforementioned hard nuts of old probably wouldn’t have been able to perform to the same violent standards of old. For some, it’s about time. For others, though, the sport just isn’t what it used to be. Now, some AFL fans are turning to other sports, with many indulging in online betting around the UFC or attending any boxing fights ahead a title decider. The AFL’s hardest-ever men are therefore most definitely missed from the sport, with the harder hits and the tough game of years gone by being largely missed by most diehard supporters. With that in mind, let’s salute some of the AFL’s toughest men. Make no mistake about it; they’re a dying breed.

Leigh Matthews

Kicking things off with an undisputed hard nut, Leigh Matthews is the best player to have ever played the sport, according to many fans and pundits out there. Known as ‘Lethal’ Leigh Matthews, his stocky build resulted in some of the hardest hits the sport has seen, with plenty of power coming from the barrel-chested rock. While some of his behaviour was distasteful, ultimately, most fans would love to have him in their team. A player who certainly took no prisoners, some of Matthews’ victims include the likes of Ken Hunter, Barrie Cable, Peter Giles, Stuart Trott, Barrie Robran, and Neville Bruns.

Barry Hall

A boxer as a youngster before discovering the sport, Barry Hall is one of the AFL’s biggest-ever hard men. Not only did he seem to adore confrontation, but Hall was a battler who had an extremely ugly side. Another player you’d want in your team if it came down to it, his aggressive behaviour was perhaps best showcased in 2008 when he managed to deliver a clear knockout punch to Brent Staker. One thing’s for sure, not many players fancied their chances when coming up against Barry Hall.


Ron Andrews

In all sports, athletes occasionally have to tweak their game’s as injuries become a hindrance and medical professionals have their say. Like Tiger Woods having to adjust his swing due to a catalogue of horrific injuries, Ron Andrews had to do the same after a serious knee injury in 1978. The former Essendon hero had to focus on causing pain after suffering from it himself, with his knee rendering him useless when it came to his turning ability. As such, Andrews had to play the game in straight lines and enforce his physical style on any victims that came in his path. He was successful at it too, with Andrews being suspended for a total of 24 games due to the dark arts he employed.

Robert Muir

A much-loved Saints player in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Robert Muir was a fierce competitor who, like many before and after him, clearly transformed as soon as they stepped on to the field of play. Muir was prone to becoming incredibly fired up, with his evident power enabling him to crush most opponents that got in his way, no matter their size. While there are some rather depressing reports around Muir being subjected to bigotry during his playing days, there is no doubting just how devastating he could be. The sport needs players like Muir.