Bazza a genuine Hall of famer

Barry Hall in in the twilight of his career with the Bulldogs in 2011. Photo: AAP Image
Barry Hall in in the twilight of his career with the Bulldogs in 2011. Photo: AAP Image

 

MOST of you would have been introduced to the real 'Bazza' by now. He's the gentle giant who has been endearing himself to television audiences of late.

Be it as part of the Fox Footy team, as a contestant on last year's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and now All Star Family Feud, or even starring in a commercial for Kleenex tissues, Barry Hall has been winning over fans with his cheeky, fun-loving nature.

Long gone is the 'Big Bad Bustling' persona borne out of an outstanding 16-year playing career in the AFL that was at times steeped in controversy.

 

Barry Hall has found his calling as a part of the Fox Footy team. Photo: Fox Footy.
Barry Hall has found his calling as a part of the Fox Footy team. Photo: Fox Footy.

 

While the powerfully-built 194cm, 104kg key forward was both revered and feared for his skill and aggression, he was also often the focus of opposition supporters' ire.

And it was something that did not sit well with the down-to-earth country lad who preferred to stay out of the spotlight.

The now 39-year-old admits his family, particularly parents Ray and Helen, "did struggle" with being subjected to the abuse directed at him from over the fence.

"If people were going at their son they didn't know how to handle it," Hall told Australian Regional Media. "Like any parent, the first thing you do is stick up for your own.

"I can understand where they were coming from, (but) they couldn't get it through their head that not saying anything is the best option.

"Mum, in the end, didn't really go to the footy. There are a lot of negative supporters out there, bagging you and getting personal, and she didn't really want to be hearing that.

"It's unfortunate, but that's how it is - you either deal with it or you don't go ... and she didn't in the end."

From humble beginnings - the tiny Victorian town of Broadford, just north of Melbourne - Hall would indeed bustle his way to conquering Australia's biggest city, deep in the heart of rugby league territory, after arriving from St Kilda.

An 11-time club leading goalkicker and four-time All-Australian, he etched his name into the history books in 2005 by becoming the Swans' first premiership captain since their relocation from South Melbourne.

But, putting AFL onto the front pages of Sydney newspapers wasn't always a positive.

 

Barry Hall celebrates winning the premiership with the Sydney Swans in 2005. Photo: AAP Image.
Barry Hall celebrates winning the premiership with the Sydney Swans in 2005. Photo: AAP Image.

 

While he would make 289 appearances in total - with the Saints (88), Swans (169) and Bulldogs (39) - there were also well-publicised tribunal appearances. One in particular, stemming from 'that' king-hit of then West Coast Eagle Brent Staker, resulted in a ban of seven weeks.

With time healing all wounds, Staker thanked Hall for "putting him on the map" when retiring as a Brisbane Lion last year.

"I've obviously seen him around. I was lucky he does have such a good sense of humour," Hall says. "I'm happy to cop my whack because I did it. But, probably the thing I regret the most about the whole thing is that he has to live through it."

Hall was pushed out of Sin City a year later, in 2009, after a similar incident involving Adelaide defender Ben Rutten.

Despite his "brain snaps", Hall was welcomed at the Bulldogs and was able to end his career on a high - even becoming a favourite of the club's No.1 ticket-holder, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who couldn't get enough of him.

Hall had endured a false start at a boxing career, which ended because "things happened behind the scenes I wasn't happy about". "I was trained up and ready to go … (but) if I wasn't going in there with a solid team behind me I wasn't going to do it," he recalls.

But, pulling the pin before entering the ring may have been a blessing in disguise, with Fox Footy calling soon after.

And while Hall is still a big figure - and perhaps a little bigger than his playing days (but don't tell him I said that) - he's proven to be more of a big softie, such as when he dressed up as the Geelong Cats mascot to entertain kids at a hospital during a Fox Footy segment.

 

Barry Hall with fellow member of the Fox Footy team, Cam Mooney. Photo: Fox Footy.
Barry Hall with fellow member of the Fox Footy team, Cam Mooney. Photo: Fox Footy.

 

"Out on the footy field they (fans) see you play aggressively and they think that's how you are," Hall says.

"I think people get to know you a bit better when you're on TV, they can see your personality come out a bit more."

A decade ago, Hall would never have contemplated a career in front of the camera after hanging up the boots.

"No, not at all," says the now boundary rider, commentator and panellist, who as well as appearing on Fox Footy's League Teams has also joined the Bounce line-up, taking part in light-hearted Yesterday's Heroes challenges with Cameron Mooney.

"When I played I didn't like to talk to the media at all. I certainly never thought I'd be in this situation."

But, he adds, "We're pretty blessed to be in the industry, talking about what you love and getting paid for it - it's not a bad gig.

"It is a cut-throat industry though. I've been in it four years, and I must say I'm surprised because I thought there would be other players retiring and coming in. I thought I would've been and gone by now.

"I'm thankful I'm still here."

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BARRY STILL HAS SOFT SPOT FOR THE BULLDOGS

BARRY Hall is the only player in VFL-AFL history to have kicked 100 goals at three different clubs. St Kilda gave him his start (1996-2001), Sydney his best years (2002-09) and the Bulldogs a second chance (2010-11).

His allegiance is with the Swans "first and foremost", but he says he had "two enjoyable years at the Doggies", adding "I used to barrack for them as a kid".

And he loved watching them rise to play finals in 2015. "They were almost the story of the year, jumping up and playing some of the most exciting footy we've seen. It looks like it's going to continue."

Hall says the Swans, with Lance Franklin back and still possessing an "elite midfield", can challenge again, but reckons North Melbourne, having recruited well, is "primed and ready to go" for a flag tilt, while reigning premier Hawthorn is "going to be thereabouts again".

 

 



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