Like Mark Ella was to union and Johnathan Thurston is in rugby league and Geelong great Polly Farmer was to Aussie Rules, Chad Wingard is a rare class of player who you often see just once in a generation.
He is a true match winner, who can and has changed the course of games.
His highlight reel was further enhanced on Saturday night, with his third quarter hanger against St Kilda – the favourite for Mark of the Year.
Earlier this year Hawthorn five-time premiership great Dermott Brereton made an interesting assessment of Wingard’s talents.
“He is unique,” Brereton exclaimed.
“He’s actually a ground level player, who can play tall and pull down a big mark like he did in the last quarter against Fremantle.
“It is hard to compare him with any other player in AFL history.”
Wingard’s outstanding junior career included two years of representative under 18s football, the second as SA captain, and was preceded in 2009 by an A grade country premiership for the Murray Bridge Imperials in the rough and tumble of River Murray football.
“He would have started but only being 60kg and just 16-years-old at the time, we thought it was more prudent to start him on the bench,” his flag-winning coach at Imperials, Tony Fielke said.
“He came on 19 minutes into first quarter – kicking five goals, including three of most freakish you’d wish to see, in the style you are now enjoying him produce at AFL level.
“I mentored Chad through his early years and had no doubts about his ability.
“The only question mark in my head was whether he’d cope with the emotion side and media pressure.”
That fear has proven to be unfounded.
“Along with being an excellent footballer, he is just an extraordinary young human being.
“His parent Julie and Trevor should take a lot of credit for the type of young man that Chad is.
“You’ll note that he is always measured and precise in his responses at media conferences.”
Wingard’s ability to change a game first came under serious notice in a 2011 national under 18 game against Victorian Country at Adelaide Oval.
With the visitors in control at half time, Wingard’s heroics in the third quarter lifted his team and sent them on the road to what had seemed a highly unlikely victory.
His coach was the SANFL talent manager Brenton Phillips.
He explained that the match was the only time he had seen a player at that level so obviously influence the result of a match.
“He was always clear in his own mind about what he wanted to do and where he was going to go,” Phillips said.
“I never saw any ego, although he is a man of his own mind.
“Chad is tracking towards being a 200-game player, who has already shown he can stand up in big games.
“Around goals I don’t think that opposition sides can hold him down.
“He strikes me as the type of player – the bigger the stage, the better his performance will be.
“If the Power continues on the same trend as they have over the two years, expect Chad to play a lot of exciting major round football.”
Despite Wingard’s consistent performance at both national underage level, and having already played SANFL league football, he was ignored by the Greater Western Sydney Giants who had the first five picks in the 2011 AFL national draft.
Wingard, who is yet to turn 21 (his birthday is on July 29), has already achieved more than most in his first two and a half seasons, winning the Jack Cahill medal as Port Adelaide club champion and All Australian honours.
In a decade’s time, he could stand among the greatest players of any era.
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