There are a multitude of ways to write yourself into club history and folklore. Players who win premierships, best and fairests, Brownlow Medals or captain the club become ingrained in the fabric of North Melbourne.

There is only one man, however, to achieve all of the above. Keith Greig, our 631st Shinboner.

One of just eight North Melbourne legends, Greig turns 70 on Saturday, October 23, marking nearly half a century since the remarkable exploits of his playing career in royal blue and white.

Recruited from Brunswick in the VFA, the zoning rules of the time meant he very nearly ended up at Whitten Oval, not Arden Street, after his family moved to Doncaster before his arrival at North.

The Kangaroos held on to their future champion though, with a then 19-year-old Greig earning his debut in Round 1, 1971, finishing with 17 disposals and two goals.

Victorian representation came after just eight senior appearances, as he was quickly becoming recognised as one of the silkiest and most exciting players the VFL had to offer.

He won the Brownlow Medal in only his third season of senior football at the age of just 21, polling 27 votes to finish ahead of Essendon ruck Graham Moss and Hawthorn rover Leigh Matthews.

03:42 Mins
Published on

Keith Greig feature (Sandy Roberts)

Footy commentator Sandy Roberts celebrates the career of Keith Greig, who turned 70 on October 23, 2021.

Published on

History would be made the next year, with the North wingman becoming just the fifth player at the time to be named a back-to-back Brownlow Medalist, this time edging out Melbourne defender Gary Hardeman and Richmond’s Kevin Bartlett to have his name sitting comfortably amongst all-time greats like Haydn Bunton Sr, Dick Reynolds, and Ian Stewart.

In those early years of Greig’s dominance though, North was an underwhelming side, finishing ninth in 1971, bottom in 1972 and sixth in 1973. The recruitment of the likes of Doug Wade, John Rantall and incoming captain Barry Davis changed that. 

After a second-place finish in 1974, North suffered defeat in the Grand Final against Richmond, before rebounding in 1975 to win its first VFL premiership.

Greig had got his hands on football’s ultimate prize, and was named behind Brent Crosswell and Rantall as North’s best player on the day.

After taking over as club captain, the injury bug would bite, with Greig requiring surgery on an ACL and MCL rupture in his knee in 1977, a year where stand in captain David Dench went on to lift the premiership cup in Greig’s place.

Upon his return in Round 1, 1978, just ten months after surgery, he was moved to the half back line so as not to place stress on his still recovering knee.

While North’s flying wingman may have lost some of his trademark run and drive, he was still an exceptional player in defence, revelling in the one on one nature of the position, and he was by no means finished.

He added his only Syd Barker Medal to his pair of Brownlows in 1980, before earning his sole All-Australian selection in 1983.

His final game was a semi-final defeat to Footscray, his 294th appearance for the club.

Accolades would follow Greig into retirement as he became one of the inaugural 136 inductees into the AFL Hall of Fame, before being named on the wing in the AFL Team of the Century.

As part of the club’s 150th year celebrations in 2019, he was named as the second greatest player in club history behind Wayne Carey.

Legendary club administrator Ron Joseph says Greig is an all-time great of the game.

“He’s remembered more for his last eight years of football, which was ’77 onwards, after his knee reconstruction,” Joseph said.

“Every year after ’77 he had a knee operation. It was never anything major, but every year he needed surgery.

“People just don’t remember how bloody good he was when he walked out of Association football into the North Melbourne side, played eight games and then was never out of the Victorian side, then won two Brownlow Medals and a premiership.

“He was a great player.”

Keith Greig profile

Born: October 23, 1951
Player: 1971-1985
Number: 27
Games: 294
Goals: 48
Shinboner number: 631

- 1x Premership (1975)
- 2x Brownlow Medal winner (1973, 1974)
- 1x Syd Barker Medal (1980)
- 3x Syd Barker runner-up (1971, 1974, 1975)
- 3x Syd Barker third place (1972, 1976, 1985)
- 1x All-Australian (1983)
- North Melbourne captain (1976-1978)
- AFL Hall of Fame (inducted 1996)
- AFL Team of the Century (wing)
- North Melbourne Team of the Century (wing)
- North 150 (second greatest player ever)
- North Melbourne Legend