North Melbourne FC
Born: 22 May 1984
Junior Club: Coolangatta
Senior Club: Broadbeach
School: Marymount SHS
Queensland: U18 (2001)
Draft Details: Selection #7 (1st round) 2001 National Draft
AFL Debut: North Melbourne v Carlton, Telstra Dome, 26 April 2003 (Rd 5)
Jumper Number: 31
AT A GLANCE: An athletic key forward/ruckman he was born to be an oarsman rather than a footballer yet, thankfully for Queensland football, is very much an AFL man and one of the State’s more prominent football products. Born in Tasmania but a Queenslander from his early childhood, his father Ted was a member of the Australian rowing ‘eight’ at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, was Australian single-sculls champion from 1976-82 and also won national championships in double sculls, quad-sculls and eights. But Hale was always going to be a footballer. He grew up near a football ground and it was his No.1 sporting love from age six.
He began at Coolangatta and in 2000 won selection in the AIS/AFL Academy squad which included fellow Queenslander Joel Macdonald and interstaters of the caliber of Luke Hodge, Luke Ball, Nick Dal Santo and Graham Polak. He switched to Broadbeach in 2001 to play in the AFLQ State League and from there won State U18 selection and was drafted by the Roos at No.7 in the 2001 AFL National Draft. It was a selection which put him in rare company since the introduction of the Draft in 1987. He is one of just four Queenslanders taken in the top 10 from the national talent pool alongside Nick Riewoldt (No.1 in 2000), Tom Williams (No.6 in 2004) and David Armitage (No.9 in 2006).
He made his AFL debut in 2003 in front of 38,000 people at the Telstra Dome, one of three senior games in his second season at the club, and added a further 11 in 2004. He ‘arrived’ as a regular senior player in 2005, playing every game, including his first final, and consolidating the No.1 ruck role. It was more of the same in 2006 as he completed another full season before an injury-plagued start to the 2007 campaign, coupled with the emergence of Hamish McIntosh as an All-Australian contender in the ruck, saw him play more as a key forward, with an occasional run on the ball.
Strong and mobile for a big man, he was something of a public face of the Kangaroos push into the Gold Coast market in 2007, writing a weekly column for the Gold Coast Bulletin, and was selected in the inaugural 2007 Queensland Team of the Year, chosen for the first time on State of Origin guidelines. Had a career-best 2008, when he finished 4th in the North B&F, kicked a career-best and club-high 37 goals, including a career-best eight goals against the powerhouse Geelong defence at Kardinia Park in round 21, and topped 100 AFL games. Slipped a little in ’09, losing his spot in the senior side late in the season after signing a contract extension mid-year that ruled him ‘off limits’ to the new Gold Coast AFL franchise, but is still regarded as a critical figure in the club’s long-term prospects.