Every AFL player has a story about their debut – even those who never played again. Part three of our One-game Wonders series is an ex-Hawk who got dropped after booting three goals in a win.
No one in VFL/AFL history has kicked four or more goals on debut and never played again.
But there are eight footballers who have booted three majors in their sole match at the elite level – and Luke Lowden is one of them.
In round 12, 2014, the 206cm ruckman registered 12 disposals, 15 hit-outs and three goals for Hawthorn in its 44-point win in Launceston over a West Coast side that featured All-Australian giants Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.
A week later, Lowden was dropped when David Hale returned from injury and never got another opportunity – not with the Hawks, who made it back-to-back flags that season, or Adelaide, where he was listed in 2015 and 2016.
“I think a couple of goals I was a little bit lucky to get on the end of and they weren’t too far out from the actual goals itself,” Lowden, now 28, says of his one game.
“The main focus really was to compete as hard as I could against Dean Cox and Naitanui, rather than trying to kick a goal.
“To walk off with three goals to your name in your first AFL game, I was very, very, very excited.”
Knowing Hale was in the mix to come back into the team, Lowden had a funny feeling he would get dropped the next week.
“It was right at the point where Hawthorn were top of the ladder, dominating teams and in a premiership window, but it just is what it is,” he says.
“I was obviously super disappointed.
“I had no idea, obviously, that would be the last time I walked off (after an AFL game).”
Lowden had spent six years on the Hawks’ list before getting that senior call-up.
Hawthorn recruited him from Sandringham Dragons with pick 63 in the 2008 national draft then he had to bide his time in the VFL with Box Hill, as Hale, Brent Renouf, Max Bailey, Jonathon Ceglar and Ben McEvoy kept him out of the AFL side.
There was almost an opportunity in 2011 but stress fractures in Lowden’s back delayed his chance and ruled him out for the rest of that year.
When Hale had his own back problem ahead of the West Coast match three seasons later, Lowden finally got his opportunity.
And to this day Lowden still does not know who picked him – Brendon Bolton, the Hawks’ caretaker coach in Launceston, or Hawthorn mastermind Alistair Clarkson, who missed the Eagles game due to Guillain-Barre syndrome.
“Clarko was not actually there at the club at all … but I imagine Bolts would’ve been speaking to Clarko during match committee,” Lowden says.
“I can’t imagine Clarko would be sitting at home not having an impact on an AFL game.
“So I think Clarko would’ve picked me and he would’ve dropped me.”
After the 2014 campaign, Lowden and Hawks teammate Kyle Cheney were traded to Adelaide – news they learnt the news while in a Los Angeles nightclub on an off-season trip.
Lowden was optimistic he could play alongside Sam Jacobs at the Crows but endured a “disaster” of a first season, battling injury and inner demons.
So tough were Lowden’s mental health struggles in 2015, he wishes he took a mid-season break.
“I think with how players take time off now for three or four weeks or six weeks, they’re comfortably doing that,” he says.
“Four years ago, it wasn’t that prevalent but if I had my time again I would’ve just taken a break, just for a month, just to get myself going again because I was really battling and I needed some time off.
“My second year I felt a lot better … and even though the writing was on the wall, I was pleased with how the second season went.
“I was positive about thinking ‘this is it’ and moving onto the next stage.”
Lowden rarely talks about his one game but every now and then others bring it up and they remember his three goals.
These days, Lowden works in commercial property at Colliers International in Melbourne and plays for Sorrento in the Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League
He gets a regular reminder of his time at Hawthorn when he drives past Waverley Oval on the way to work.
“It feels like a complete world away but it was only a few years ago,” says Lowden, who remains friends with several ex-Hawks and Crows teammates.
“You move on pretty quickly with your life and you’ve got to because footy doesn’t last forever.
“But to be around those people at that time was super, super special.”
The other seven players to kick three goals in their only game are: Daryl Gilmore (Carlton, 1983), David Wilkie (Essendon, 1934), Syd Smith (Fitzroy, 1919), Alwin Dalitz (Fitzroy, 1922), Frank Steane (North Melbourne, 1946), Michael Nunan (Richmond, 1971) and Les Neal (Footscray, 1942).