E. J. Whitten Legends Game
|Sport||Australian rules football|
|Broadcasters||Seven Network, Fox Footy (2016–)|
|Stadiums||Docklands Stadium (2003–17)|
Adelaide Oval (2018)
AAMI Park (2019)
|Most wins||Victoria (12)|
|Largest victory||All Stars – 24 points (2015)|
|Largest goal scoring||Victoria, All Stars – 275 points (2019)|
|Longest win streak||Victoria – 3 games (2012–14)|
|Current win streak||Victoria – 1 game (2019)|
The E. J. Whitten Legends Game is an annual charity Australian rules football All-star game, where retired star players are reunited, along with selected non-footballing celebrities, in a State of Origin interstate game, between Victoria and the All Stars (representing the rest of Australia).
E. J. "Ted" Whitten, a former Footscray Football Club player who died of prostate cancer in 1995, was regarded as one of the greatest ever players of the game. He was also passionate about State of Origin football. With his enthusiasm and ability to keep in the media spotlight, Ted had kept State of Origin going for many years, and his emotional farewell at the Victoria vs South Australia game at the MCG in 1995 will long be remembered as a symbol of State of Origin passion. Shortly after his death, the concept was brought into question and the last such game was played in 1999.
When he died, his son, Ted Jnr, launched a foundation for research into prostate cancer, and the Legends Game raises money for the foundation. So far, more than $750,000 has been raised for the E. J. Whitten Foundation.
The first ever Legends Match was played at the Western Oval, home of the Footscray/Western Bulldogs, EJ Whitten's club. Most of the games have been televised free-to-air in Victoria and South Australia. Due to popularity of the event, later games were moved to bigger venues. And since 2003 the game has been held at Etihad Stadium (formerly known as Telstra Dome).
In February 2016 it was announced that the Seven Network had secured the rights to televise this match for the next five years; in addition, the match was moved to the football-free weekend between the final round of the premiership season and the first week of the finals series.
|1996||Whitten Oval, Footscray||10.13 (73)||13.9 (87)||All Stars||14|
|1997||Whitten Oval, Footscray||10.11 (71)||7.10 (51)||Victoria||19|
|1998||Whitten Oval, Footscray||8.6 (54)||7.10 (52)||Victoria||2|
|1999||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||7.12 (54)||8.8 (56)||All Stars||2|
|2000||Shell Stadium, Geelong||6.2 (38)||5.8 (38)||Draw||0|
|2001||Optus Oval, Melbourne||6.11 (47)||7.5 (47)||Draw — All Stars||0, won by goal kickoff|
|2002||Optus Oval, Melbourne||10.3 (63)||10.8 (68)||All Stars||5|
|2003||Telstra Dome, Melbourne||1.10.7 (76)||3.6.12 (75)||Victoria||1||18,611|
|2004||Telstra Dome, Melbourne||3.7.7 (76)||1.12.4 (85)||All Stars||9||18,301|
|2005||Telstra Dome, Melbourne||3.9.6 (87)||0.10.9 (69)||Victoria||18||13,000 (approx.)|
|2006||Telstra Dome, Melbourne||1.12.7 (88)||5.5.13 (88)||Draw — Victoria||0, won by goal kickoff (0.3.1 to 0.2.2)||13,000 (approx.)|
|2007||Telstra Dome, Melbourne||1.9.7 (70)||0.13.7 (85)||All Stars||15||12,897|
|2008||Telstra Dome, Melbourne||1.10.9 (78)||0.12.8 (80)||All Stars||2||24,452|
|2009||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||0.13.9 (87)||0.11.6 (72)||Victoria||15||20,883|
|2010||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||0.12.12 (84)||2.11.7 (91)||All Stars||7||25,347|
|2011||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||4.12.3 (111)||2.13.7 (109)||All Stars||2||25,086|
|2012||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||1.15.3 (102)||2.12.6 (96)||Victoria||6||26,221|
|2013||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||1.11.10 (85)||0.12.7 (79)||Victoria||6||24,087|
|2014||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||0.15.6 (96)||2.10.10 (88)||Victoria||8||27,800|
|2015||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||0.11.5 (71)||2.11.11 (95)||All Stars||24||26,309|
|2016||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||0.21.9 (135)||2.17.15 (135)||Draw — Victoria||0, won by goal kickoff (3.0 to 1.1)||18,074|
|2017||Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||4.19.6 (156)||0.24.11 (155)||Victoria||1||13,106|
|2018||Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||2.12.7 (97)||1.15.10 (109)||All Stars||12||8,000|
|2019||AAMI Park, Melbourne||33.23 (275)||31.17 (275)||Draw — Victoria||0, won by goal kickoff (3.0 to 2.0)||6,000|
- Timeline of results
Wins: All Stars: 11, Victoria: 12, Draws: 1 (4 drawn at the final siren, of which 3 were decided by kick-offs)
Biggest Win: All Stars by 24 points in 2015.
Highest Score: All stars and Victoria (275), both in 2019.
Lowest Score: All Stars and Victoria (38), both in the drawn 2000 match.
The 2006 event was held on 14 June at the Telstra Dome. Among the celebrity guests was Tasmanian Todd Russell, one of the miners rescued in the Beaconsfield mine collapse. He did not play in the match though, because he still had injuries from the accident.
A male streaker was arrested by security guards in the third quarter.
The shootout at the end only featured 4 kickers per side, unlike the 5 stated by commentators.
2008's game was held on 1 July 2008 at the Telstra Dome. Celebrity players included radio comedy duo Hamish & Andy, with Hamish playing for the All Stars and Andy playing for Victoria. Andy managed to score 2 goals, while Hamish scored a spectacular goal, shaving the ball off the outside of his boot to trickle in for a goal. Bryan Strauchan made his second appearance for Victoria and kicked 3 goals. Underbelly star Rodger Corser made his debut for Victoria. Chris Connolly coached the Victorian team and Neale Daniher coached of the All Stars.
Darryl White, the former Brisbane defender, won the best on ground award.
|2009 EJ Whitten Legends Game|
|Tuesday, 30 June (7:45 pm)||Victoria||def.||All-Stars||Etihad Stadium (crowd: 20,888)|
|Umpires: Ray White|
Television broadcast: Nine Network
|Strauchan 3, Martyn 2, Murphy 2, Johns 2, Lee||Goals||Blake 2, Modra 2, Hudson, Raftery|
|Strauchan, Lee, Loewe||Best||Blake, Phil Matera, Raftery|
|The All Stars team|
|B:||Martin Pike||Mal Michael||Paul Barnard|
|HB:||Craig McRae||Shane Wakelin||Michael McLean|
|C:||Peter Matera||Sam Gibson (c)||Mark Ricciuto|
|HF:||Richie Vandenberg||Nick Holland||Ronnie Burns|
|F:||Phil Matera||Tony Modra||Troy Luff|
|Foll:||Ben Holland||Darryl White||Brodie Holland|
|Int:||Richard Champion||Damien Oliver||Hamish Blake|
|Paul Hudson||Marcus Seecamp||Dale Kickett|
|Shaun Smith||Scott Cummings||Blair McDonough|
|Coach:||Neil Balme (Assistant coaches: Terry Daniher, Mark Kleiman)|
|Runners:||Nathan Brown, Russell Gilbert|
Man of the match was Sam Newman, who kicked four goals despite playing only for a quarter of the playing time. Bryan Strauchan, Damian Monkhorst, Tony Modra and jockey Craig Newitt also scored well. During the last quarter it was picked up on television Nathan Brown (a runner for the Victorian team) exchanging words to Nathan Thompson and stated that it was a "A legends game, mate. You shouldn't be playing;" however, nothing became of the exchange.
The game ended in controversy after Ryan "Fitzy" Fitzgerald kicked a goal on the siren. However, Garry Lyon, the judge of the final score, deemed that the goal had been kicked after the siren had blown, and therefore was discounted. This decision was made in direct contradiction to the laws of the AFL, which state that the match is over when any of the field umpires hear the siren. There was also much controversy about an All Stars mark directly in the goal-square that was not awarded by the umpire. After original thoughts that the All Stars had won, there was then a claim that there would be a shoot-out before finally it was announced that Victoria had won the match. The All-stars' Brodie Holland, formerly of Fremantle and Collingwood, had won Man of the Match. In the final minutes of the match, Victorian runner Shane Crawford was "substituted" on to the ground, and coach Sam Newman put 24 players on the ground, instead of the legal 18. It is speculated that the All Stars had as many as 22 players on the ground, although there was no coverage of their interchange bench, so this was not confirmed.
The 2017 E.J. Whitten Legends game would be a record-breaking game with a controversial finish; due to new quarter-time formats, scores were higher than past games, with the 156–155 result being the highest score by a single team, as well as the biggest match aggregate. With Victoria trailing by 5 points with seconds left, Adam Yze attempted a running banana kick, with his kick going across the face of the goal and being marked by Jonathan Brown as the siren sounded; however, Brown's mark clearly came after the siren but was nonetheless was paid by the umpire. Brown would kick a drop punt from the pocket to win the game for Victoria 156–155. Brown was also awarded Man of the Match for his 7-goal performance, one of which being a super goal.
The game was also noted as not featuring any celebrities, just former players.
|2018 EJ Whitten Legends Game|
|Friday, 31 August (7:30 pm)||All Stars||def.||Victoria||Adelaide Oval (crowd: 8,000)||Report|
|EJ Whitten Medal: Andrew Jarman (All Stars)|
Television broadcast: Seven Network, Fox Footy
|Motlop||Super Goals||C. Johnson, Smith|
|Modra 4, Jarman 2, Motlop 2, Ebert, Lake, White, Staker, Mooney, McLeod, McGrath||Goals||Smith 3, Lappin 3, B. Johnson 2, Brown, Bolton, Liberatore, Giansiracusa|
In 2019 the series returned to Melbourne, and saw a significant change to the game's format. Departing from the traditional Australian rules football format, the game was played at AAMI Park — a stadium with a rectangular surface — in a variation of the AFLX format used for the AFL pre-season competition of the same name. Dubbed 'EJX', the format saw a reduction in the length of quarters to 15 minutes, with super goals increased from 9 to 10-points. Power players were substituted on for the final 5 minutes of each quarter, where each of their score efforts were worth double.
As with the previous two matches, both teams largely featured former AFL footballers. However, both teams substituted two celebrities as their 'power players' — Steve Price and Jason Richardson for Victoria, and Byron Cooke and Anthony Lehmann for the All Stars. Cooke, a radio personality from 101.9 The Fox's Fifi, Fev & Byron breakfast show, was notable for a number of errors, including missing a goal from a distance of only one metre.
The match was the highest scoring in the history of the competition, eclipsing the record set in 2017. With scores locked at 275-all at the end of regular time, the match was decided with a goal kick shootout. Victoria defeated the All Stars 3 goals to 2 in the shoot out, with Matthew Richardson missing the final crucial kick that would have equalised the contest.
The game was met with mixed reviews. The Roar declared it a "total circus", "bordering on embarrassment", and accusing the AFL of "no longer [taking] the game seriously", while the Herald Sun cited social media reaction from viewers, asking "do we all need to lighten up a bit?". Attendance was down significantly on 2017's figures, with a reported crowd figure of only 6,000. Television ratings, however, increased marginally on 2018 figures for the Seven Network, with an average of 403,000 viewers watching in the 5 capital cities. Additionally, an average of 82,000 viewers nationally watched the game on Fox Footy, down from 98,000 in 2018.
|2019 EJ Whitten Legends Game|
|Friday, 30 August (8:00 pm)||Victoria||def.||All Stars||AAMI Park (crowd: 6,000)||Report|
|EJ Whitten Medal: Stephen Milne (Victoria)|
Television broadcast: Seven Network, Fox Footy
|Richardson 3, Cloke 3, Price||Power Goals||Richardson 4, Krakouer 3, Lehmann 2|
|Bartel 2, Brown||Super Goals||Akermanis, Krakouer, Ricciuto|
|Milne 7, Fevola 3, Richardson 3, Brown 2, Johnson 2, Ling 2, Crowley, Dixon, Cloke, Koutoufides||Goals||Richardson 6, Wanganeen 4, Cummings 4, Akermanis 2, Koschitzke 2, Krakouer, Lehmann|
|Milne, Crowley, Harvey, Koutoufides, Harford||Best||Richardson, Wanganeen, Krakouer, Cummings, McLeod|
- Guthrie, Ben (16 February 2016). "Channel Seven, AFL unite to broadcast EJ Whitten Legends Game". Australian Football League. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- X, Mr (31 August 2016). "EJ Whitten Legends Game teams announced" (PDF). Australian Football League. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
- Gaskin, Lee (31 August 2018). "All Stars get revenge in legendary style". AFL Media. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
- "Get ready for 'EJX': Legends game gets new format and new home". Australian Football League. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
- EJ Whitten Legends Game : EJ Whittens Legend Game Archived 15 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "Record Breaking Crowd at the Ray White EJ Whitten Legends Game". Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
- Fevola lights up Legends game | AFL | Fox Sports
- Hamish and Andy seek survival for E.J. Whitten Game
- de Kretser, Chris; Timms, Daryl (30 June 2009), "The legend lives on", Herald Sun, p. 65
- "Player List 2015" Archived 14 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine | Retrieved on 13 July 2015
- "All the big moments from the EJ Whitten Legends Match, with Jonathan Brown kicking the matchwinner". Fox Sports. 1 September 2017.
- "E.J. Whitten Legends Game 2019 guide: Start time, how to watch, players, what is EJX?". Fox Sports. 30 August 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
- "E.J. Whitten Legends Game 2019: Radio personality Byron Cooke has the worst five minutes of footy you'll ever see". Fox Sports. 30 August 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
- AFL [@AFL] (30 August 2019). "It's all square! Instead of a boundary count, there will be a shoot out to decide the winner. #EJWhittenLegendsGame" (Tweet). Retrieved 30 August 2019 – via Twitter.
- Cohen, Marnie (2 September 2019). "The EJ Whitten game makes a mockery of a legend". The Roar. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
- Broad, Ben (30 August 2019). "Fans savage EJ Whitten Legends match on social media". Herald Sun. Retrieved 5 September 2019 – via The West Australian.
- "EJ Whitten Legends Game". Austadiums. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
- Knox, David (31 August 2019). "Friday 30 August 2019". TV Tonight. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
- Knox, David (1 September 2018). "Friday 31 August 2018". TV Tonight. Retrieved 5 September 2019.