Paul Vander Haar
Essendon: 201 VFL games, 278 goals

Paul Vander Haar played for the Essendon Football Club in the AFL.

Known as the ‘Flying Dutchman’ due to his heritage and spectacular high marking, Vander Haar was considered one of the most exciting players of his era.

Vander Haar was one of five children born to Dutch migrants Bernardus Josef (Ben) and his wife Judith. Growing up in the eastern suburbs, he played his junior football at Ringwood Football Club. During his playing career, his surname was normally spelled as three words: Van Der Haar.

Vander Haar joined the Bombers in 1977, and he was named as the VFL’s Recruit of the Year. He also won the club’s Best First-Year Player award and was runner-up in the Crichton Medal, Essendon’s best and fairest award.

In 1978, his form was negatively affected by neck and back injuries resulting from a trail-bike accident. He returned from this serious injury to be one of Essendon’s star players, achieving State selection for Victoria and was runner-up in Essendon’s best and fairest in 1982.

Vander Haar played much of his football in the key position of centre half-forward but was also used in defence.

Vander Haar was one of the most important players in the champion Essendon team of the 1980s, which played in finals in 8 of 11 years. This included grand final appearances in 1983–1985 and back-to-back premierships in 1984 and 1985.

In 1985, Vander Haar kicked a career-best 46 goals, 9 of them in a single game in round 21. Despite his goal-scoring feats, he played as a defender in their Grand Final victory that year. Vander Haar was runner-up (for the 3rd time in his career) in the Essendon best and fairest in 1985. He also represented Victoria in 1985.

Injury again struck early in 1986 when he broke his leg. He only managed a total of 10 games in his next two seasons. His playing career was hampered further in 1987 and 1988 by numerous injuries.

Vander Haar’s final match was the 1990 AFL Grand Final, which Essendon lost to Collingwood by 48 points.

In Kevin Sheedy’s book Sheeds: A Touch of Cunning, Sheedy wrote “He (Vander Haar) was one of the most courageous footballers I ever saw”. Sheedy also wrote “The best four players I coached in the early days were Terry Daniher, Tim Watson, Simon Madden and Paul Vander Haar, in no particular order”.

In June 2015, Vander Haar was inducted into the Essendon Hall of Fame.

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