Glenn Archer - By Denis Pagan

Call me biased, but I can’t think of a player who epitomises everything that is great about Australian Football more than Glenn Archer. Embodying the spirit of that wonderfully unique institution that is the North Melbourne Football Club, Glenn’s mantra has always been that the team comes first.

When it comes to lauding Glenn the footballer, what is there to add that hasn’t already been said or written? A ferocious competitor and inspiration to so many, Glenn is as fearless and courageous as anyone who has ever played football at the highest level.

What I am able to do is share some personal insights into Glenn and the qualities that have made him a champion individual who is universally admired across the AFL competition.  

I first met Glenn when he was one of 100-odd hopefuls that then recruiting manager Greg Miller had assembled for the first night of under-19 pre-season training in 1990. At that stage Glenn was reserved, possibly even a touch shy and wasn’t exactly the fittest individual I had encountered. It’s hardly a secret that Glenn initially struggled with the demands of training to the extent that after a few weeks he decided he’d be better off back at Noble Park playing with his mates.

Yet in this brief time he was with us something set Glenn aside from the other players. Whether it was his smouldering determination, volatile emotions, or rebel-without-a-cause defiance, I can’t be sure. Whatever it was that pricked my instinct, I kept at Glenn to give North Melbourne another try and fortunately he relented. Nearly 18 years later Glenn has eclipsed Wayne Schimmelbush as the games-record holder, an accolade most befitting of the Shinboner of the Century.

This might sound strange coming from somebody who has coached as many as 1000 footballers over 28 years, but I often think of Glenn during trying times. His strong life principals and family values, the manner in which he stands up for what he believes in and sense of loyalty and selflessness provide an example for us all.

The late John Scholes used to say that Glenn was one of the few people you could truly count on when times got tough. Scholes, a champion district cricketer, State player, and Kangaroos assistant coach was forever singing Glenn’s praises and would often hold up him and his great mate Anthony Stevens as role models when coach of the Victorian cricket team.

Nothing is ever too much trouble for Glenn. He gives freely of his time and is blessed with that rare ability to make everyone he comes into contact with feel important. What amazes me most with Glenn is his generosity towards those less fortunate than himself. Without question his greatest fan is Marenepe Wilcox, a young man afflicted with cerebral palsy. The bond the two share is special and it is well documented that along with his great mentor Ron Joseph and a group of others, Glenn worked tirelessly to organise the purchase of a new home for Marenepe following the sudden and tragic passing of his mother and primary carer.

Glenn’s uncompromising and ruthless demeanour on the field belies his compassionate nature off it. One such instance that remains etched in my mind involved the tragic tale of a newlywed who was diagnosed with a terminal illness days upon returning from his honeymoon. Glenn had never met the dying man, but upon learning of his circumstances visited the Kangaroos fan in hospital and stayed by his bedside as he drifted in and out of consciousness. As a mark of respect for the man following his passing, Glenn placed an obituary notice in the newspaper on behalf of the players and staff of the North Melbourne Football Club.

There’s a lighter side to Glenn and as his coach for more than a decade he provided me with plenty of humorous moments. With Glenn, what you see is what you get. I’ll never forget the night after training in the early ’90s when I pulled up at the traffic lights, only to glance across to catch Glenn puffing away on a Winfield Blue in the car beside me. The look of shock on Glenn’s face as he realised the coach had sprung him was absolutely priceless.

Then there was the time Glenn was unable to find a parking spot when running late for a medical appointment in the city. Just as a spot became available, another motorist cut Glenn off and took the space he felt was rightfully his. After insults were traded, both motorists stepped out of their vehicles as the stalemate escalated. What happened next resembled a scene from a Jackie Chan movie as Glenn’s adversary stunned him with a karate kick to the jaw. True to form, Glenn quickly regained his composure, dusted himself off and was able to assume a position of ascendancy. Realising his miscalculation, the protagonist promptly scurried to the safety of his vehicle and was last seen enrolling in a refresher course at his local Kung Fu academy.

Just before the finals the Kangaroos made a special presentation to Glenn in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the club over 16 seasons. The intimate gathering was held in the Arden Street change rooms, with only players and football department staff in attendance. Never entirely comfortable as the focus of attention, Glenn spoke from the heart about what North Melbourne meant to him and how players shouldn’t leave the game believing their club owed them anything.

Glenn Archer is a special individual. He has been a champion player, a wonderful ambassador for football and an icon of the North Melbourne Football Club. Remarkably, the many accolades, the adulation heaped on him and his stature in the game have not changed him. I was privileged to have been Glenn’s coach and wish him, his lovely wife Lisa and their children Madison, Abbey, Jackson and Remy the very best as they prepare for the next phase of their lives.

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