Good Old Collingwood Forever

The Story of Collingwood's 1953 Premiership

Introduction

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1953 was such an incredibly long time ago. This may seem like quite an obvious and redundant statement but one that I think is warranted to show just how much heartbreak we poor Collingwood supporters have gone through in the intervening 57 years. Since that drought-breaking 12th Magpie premiership Collingwood have won just a further three flags, whilst also enduring 12 bitter Grand Final loses and 2 draws, proving that the premiership is not such a cakewalk for the black and white army. However back in ’53 no Collingwood fan would ever have imagined that another premiership drought, almost twice as long as the 17 years between the 1936 and 1953 flags, was just around the corner, or that we would soon become the butt of football humour thanks to a word coined by our captain of that 1953 premiership season,  Lou Richards, who in 1970 invented the term ‘Collywobbles’. (Thanks Lou!)

Even for Lou’s team in 1953 the premiership was not that easy. The Magpies of 1953 had not won a premiership since 1936 and had endured some extremely bleak times in the 1940s. Since 1939 the Magpies had played in just one Grand Final, 1952, which they lost by 46 points to a rampant Geelong team. In the intervening 12 years they also played in two heartbreaking preliminary finals losses, succumbing to eventual premiers Carlton in 1945 by 10 points after leading all day, whilst in 1951 they were defeated by Essendon by 2 points after the Bombers’ Jack Jones kicked what would be the winning goal with just a couple of minutes to go. In 1948 they also lost another prelim’, this time to eventual premier Melbourne by a margin of 65 points, whilst in 1949 there was a first semi-final defeat by eventual premiers Essendon to the tune of  84 points. This is the full extent of Collingwood’s success from 1940 leading up to that 1953 victory.

Geelong was the form side of the early 50s, boasting one of the most impressive records from 1951-1953 in all of AFL/VFL history. In 1953 they went on to achieve the longest unbeaten run of all time. Essendon too were a great side boasting the greatest of all full-forwards in John Coleman and coached by ‘King Richard’ Dick Reynolds, whilst a young Footscray team would go on to win the Bulldogs’ only flag twelve months later. In 1953 Melbourne finished 11th on the VFL ladder, in front of only Hawthorn, but the Demons would go on to be the dominant side of the decade with many of their all time greats such as Ron Barassi making their debuts in ’53.

In 1953 there was also a special ANZAC exhibition match between Collingwood and Fitzroy, played under lights at the Melbourne Showgrounds and the mid-season interstate carnival where the VFL and VFA took on the other Australian football leagues in Adelaide in late June, which don’t usually get talked about.

1953 was significant in other ways too, which I guess helps to put into context just how long ago it was. It was the year in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin died, as well as the year in which Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne of England. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, Ian Fleming published the first James Bond novel Casino Royale, while Hugh Hefner also published the first edition of Playboy magazine.

One of the things that I have found frustrating is the lack of information on Collingwood’s 1953 Grand Final victory. Unlike other Collingwood premiership teams I believe that its’ success has been somewhat underplayed or even overlooked. Other premiership teams such as those in 1958 and 1990 seem to get a lot more credit than the team from 1953 does. Even in The Official Collingwood Illustrated Encyclopaedia by Michael Roberts and Glenn McFarlane the 1953 premiership only warrants a few paragraphs. I guess that this could be because of the fact that television did not come into Australia until 1956, although this does not explain the plethora of information on Collingwood’s ‘Machine Team’ of the 1920s and 30s. Hopefully this blog can play a small part in making this information a little more accessible and give the team the acknowledgement that they deserve. Over the next year I hope to provide an insight into what I believe is an underappreciated Magpie premiership team.

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  1. […] Sam Wells, Scott Pendlebury, St Kilda Football Club, Thorold Merrett, Western Bulldogs « Introduction 1953 Preseason » LikeBe the first to like this […]


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