Good Old Collingwood Forever

The Story of Collingwood's 1953 Premiership

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The Opposition – Essendon

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Essendon finished 4th in 1953, losing their semi-final to Footscray by 8 points.The Bombers had many champions in their side, the two most known being Bill Hutchinson and John Coleman. They won the VFL Premiership in 1950 and were runner-up to Geelong in 1951.

Essendon were coached by the legendary Dick Reynolds. He debuted in 1933 and did not retire until the 1951 Grand Final after 320 games. King Richard captained the club between 1939 and 1950 and coached the team between 1940 and 1960. He won their best & fairest award seven times and the Brownlow Medal three times and was brave and brilliant, with tremendous ball skills. He captained/coached the Bombers to 4 premierships and is ranked as the greatest player to pull on the black and red. Off the field, he was a shy and private man, noted for his humility about his footballing achievements.

Bill Hutchison

Bill Hutchison captained Essendon in 1953. He also won the Brownlow Medal and Creighton Medal as Essendon’s best & fairest. His coach Dick Reynolds said that Hutchinson was the best player he ever saw play, while many other observers believe he was one of the greatest rovers to play the game. In 2002 he was voted the 4th greatest Essendon player behind Reynolds, Coleman and James Hird. Hutchison won back to back Brownlow Medals in 1952 & 53, was runner-up in 1955 and third in 1948 and 51. He won the Bombers best & fairest 7 times.He was a tireless player with dazzling pace and a fine stab kick. He was an accurate shot for goal. He played in 10 grand finals. He captained Victoria in 1953 and 1956. He was a fair player who was deadly accurate around goals, Hutchison had great anticipation and tremendous pace.

John Coleman
John Coleman

Many people judge John Coleman as the greatest full-forward of all-time. In just 98 games he kicked 537 goals, averaging over 5 goals a game. In 1953 he kicked 97 goals but started the season brilliantly, scoring 31 goals in the first 3 games of the season. His best haul of the year was 11 in round 2 against South Melbourne, a game that the Bombers lost. He is considered the 2nd greatest player to play at Windy Hill. Injury forced him to retire in 1954. He was a freakish high mark and excellent ground player. He was a deadly accurate shot for goal. He was best & fairest in 1949 and topped the VFL goal kicking in 1949, 50, 52 and 53. He went on to coach Essendon and guided them to the 1962 & 65 premierships.

Norm McDonald

Norm McDonald spent 7 years playing on Essendon’s half-back flank and was the first indigenous player to make it big in the VFL. He was an excellent mark and kick and was known as a big occasion player. He won the 1951 Creighton Medal as Essendon’s best player and was also brilliant in the 1949 & 50 premiership teams. He was also the Bombers’ best player during their 1948 finals series and judged by many as best afield in the 1950 Grand Final. Ben Kerville wrote in the Sporting Globe that…

“…McDonald……is league football’s best half back flanker; a veritable Mandrake at the business of befuddling and bewitching rival half forwards.  Football becomes ballet when interpreted by this fleet-footed will-o’-the-wisp.  There’s the rhythm and grace of the ballerina in his weaving evasive manoeuvres.”

He played 128 games and kicked 3 goals in his distinguished career.

Hugh Mitchell played 224 games between 1953 and 1961 and kicked 301 goals in his career. He was a versatile playing who had few equals as a ruck-rover. Mitchell won Essendon’s
best and fairest award in 1959, a season in which he also finished 3rd in the Brownlow Medal. Mitchell was a prolific kick-winner who headed Essendon’s goal kicking tally three times, he also was chosen to play with Victoria on 6 occasions.

John Gill was an Essendon ruckman between 1951 and 1957 who could dominate with his marking. He was a reasonable kick who finished 3rd in the 1954 Brownlow Medal but won Essendon’s best and fairest.In his 107 games for the Bombers he was known for his fairness. He represented Victoria in 1955 and 1957.

Geoff Leek was one of the VFL’s top ruckmen who played with Essendon between 1951 and 1962. Early in his career he was an atrocious left-footed kick and there were attempts made to change him to a right-footer, which were met with even more disastrous results. Leek worked hard on his game and eventually became a regular player. He was a clever palmer of the ball who was made vice-captain in his final season 1962.

Bob Syme

Jack Clarke played 263 games for the red and black between 1951 and 1967 and was one of the most brilliant footballers to ever pull on an Essendon guernsey. He was named Bomber’s captain in 1958 and remained in that position until 1964, and was captain of the 1962 premiership team. He also coached the team between 1968 and 1970. A superbly balanced and courageous player, he also captained Victoria on 6 occasions and was named in the All-Australian team 3 times.

Jack Jones

Bob Syme was a ruckman with Essendon who played 116 games in two stints from 1944-1945 and 1947-1953. He was a tough and fearless follower with a good leap and plenty of fire. He was one of the Bomber’s best in the 1949 and 1950 premiership sides.

Jack Jones was a fine contributor to the black and red during their glory years of the late 40s. He was fast for a big man who was equally at home in the ruck as he was on a half-forward-flank. He was a fine mark and a long kick and played 133 consecutive games for the Bombers, which is a record for Essendon. He never played in the reserves throughout his 175 game career that began in 1946 and ended in 1954.

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1953 Copeland Trophy

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Australian rules footballer Bob Rose

Magpie legend Bob Rose

September 30, 1953

In 1953 Bob Rose won his fourth and final Copeland Trophy as Collingwood’s best & fairest player, a feat only surpassed by Nathan Buckley who has won the award six times, and Len Thompson who has won the award five times. In fact 1953 was the third time in a row that Rose had won the Copeland, something that only he, Phonse Kyne , Buckley and Dane Swan have achieved for Collingwood.

Another member of the Magpies Hall of Fame, Neil Mann finished second in the award on 35 1/2 votes to Rose’s 41, following up on his great third placing in the Brownlow Medal of that year. Des Healey finished third on 19 1/2 votes to cap off a brilliant season by him where he was judged by many observers to have been best on ground in Collingwood’s Grand Final victory.

Copeland Trophy – Bob Rose

R. T. Rush Trophy –  Neil Mann

J. J. Joyce Trophy – Des Healey

After winning the award Bob was kept busy in his sports store by lots of congratulatory visits and phone calls from members of the Magpie Army. (1) He said that he was very proud to win the Copeland Trophy and graciously thanked his team mates for helping him to win it. He also thanked Collingwood’s supporters for their generosity and the club for their liberal treatment of the players. (2)

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1 – The Argus – October 1, 1953 – page 3

2 – The Argus – October 1, 1953 – page 3

The 1953 Brownlow Medal

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Essendon skipper and 1952 & 1953 Brownlow Medalist Bill Hutchinson

September 3, 1953…

A Collingwood player did not win the Brownlow Medal in 1953, that award went to Essendon skipper Bill Hutchinson, but two of the Magpies’ greats filled the second and third placings. Bob Rose capped off a brilliant season by taking second place in the award on 22 votes, just four votes behind Hutchinson, whilst Neil Mann finished third on 17 votes. The Argus summarised that Hutchinson was aided by the fact that Collingwood players polled so heavily and took votes off each other. (1) Both Rose and Mann were judged best on ground five times apiece, whilst the Magpies’ took the umpire’s three votes in 16 of the 17 matches where votes were awarded. (2) Sadly skipper Lou Richards polled no votes at all and was the only one of the VFL‘s skippers to not score a single vote on the night. (3) Overall it was still a great result for the Magpies.

In other news

3AW recorded the count and rebroadcast parts of it on their radio station to their listeners, which was a first.(4)

Results

  1. W. Hutchinson (Essendon) – 26 votes
  2. R. Rose (Collingwood) – 22 votes
  3. N. Mann (Collingwood – 17 votes
  4. B. Smith (Geelong) – 16 votes
  5. R. Clegg (South Melbourne) – 14 votes (5)

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1 – The Argus – Thursday September 3, 1953 – page 32

2 – The Argus – Thursday September 3, 1953 – page 32

3 – The Age – Thursday September 3, 1953 – page 9

5 – The Argus – Thursday September 3, 1953 – page 1

Bob Rose

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As A Player

Debut – 1946
Retired – 1955
Games – 152
Goals – 214
Copeland Trophy – 1949, 1951, 1952, 1952
Brownlow Medal – Runner Up 1953
All Australian -1953

As A Coach

Coach Collingwood – 1964-1971, 1985-1986
Coach Footscray – 1972-1975
Member of Collingwood’s Hall of Fame
Member of Collingwood Team of the Century

According to Gordon Carlyon many observers thought that Bob Rose was ranked as the best footballer to have ever played with Collingwood, while many others consider him to be the best footballer of his time, an era that included all-time greats such as Alan Aylett, Bill Hutchison, John Coleman, Roy Wright, Alan Ruthven and John Kennedy Sr. After the 1953 premiership victory Jock McHale was moved to announce that, “Bob Rose must be acclaimed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player to ever wear the black and white uniform.” whilst Hec de Lacy wrote in the Sporting Globe that “… the greatest team builder in Australian football is – Bobby Rose… he vitalises defences, rucks or attacks as the occasion demands.”He was without doubt Collingwood’s most inspirational player and is still the most revered figure at our Club. Bob Rose is probably one of the greatest players to never win a Brownlow Medal, although Bob had won four Copeland trophies by the age of 27 before leaving Collingwood for the country.

On the field Bob was one of the toughest and most courageous players of his day, with lots of speed and superb ball handling skills. He was a magnificent long kick but even better short passer. Bob would not tolerate any rival player winning possession of the ball ahead of him, although some followers of the game thought his tough approach trod the fine line between football and thuggery. Bob often sustained needless injuries by preferring to crash through packs rather than dodge his way out of trouble.

At the end of the 1955 season Bob decided to leave Collingwood to captain and coach Wangaratta Rovers in the Ovens and Murray Football League. Sadly back then country clubs could offer players greater incentives than Collingwood were willing to. Bob was offered £35 a week and accommodation by Wangaratta Rovers and they would also assist him in establishing a sports store. He led the Wangaratta Rovers to premierships in 1958 and 1960. Rose was the League’s leading goalkicker in 1960. Rose was also the Morris Medal winner in 1958 and 1960 for best player in the Ovens and Murray Football League.

In 1964 Bob returned to Collingwood after the ousting of Phonse Kyne as coach. He is often remembered as perhaps the unluckiest coach in VFL/AFL history, taking Collingwood to within 10 points of victory in each of the Grand Finals of 1964, 1966 and 1970. In 1972 he took over as coach of Footscray,while in 1985 he briefly returned to coach the Magpies before handing the reigns over to Leigh Matthews.

At the end of  a torrid 1975 season Bob stood down as coach of Footscray to look after his son Robert, who had become a paraplegic after a car accident earlier that year. Bob also had to contend with one of his Footscray players, Neil Sachse, becoming a quadriplegic after damaging his spinal cord in a sickening on field collision with Fitzroy’s Kevin O’Keefe.

In 2003 Bob passed away from cancer and several people from within the football community paid tribute to him. Ron Barassi, who coached against Bob in the infamous 1970 grand final, was devastated when told that he man he idolised as child had died. “Footy just lost one of its greatest people. He was a dashing player, the most unlucky coach and a superb human being,” he said. “I’ve never spoken to him about it,” Barassi said… “He was very gracious. He was a very good loser and honourable. ” The AFL’s chairman Ron Evans simply said  “Bob Rose was Collingwood, and Collingwood was Bob Rose.”

As a player and a coach Bob Rose set the example for how Collingwood would like its footballers to play on the field, and conduct themselves off it. No one has been more loved and respected at Victoria Park – not only for the way he played and what he achieved, but for the man he was and the way he carried himself.  Bob Rose epitomised all that is good about Collingwood, and about football. The legacy he has left will be a lasting one.

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Acknowledgements

Lou Richards

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Lou's caricature by Jim Edema appeared in the Sun before the semi-final clash with Geelong

Debut – 1941
Retired – 1955
Games – 250
Goals – 423
Captain – 1952-1955
Collingwood’s Leading Goalkicker – 1944, 1948, 1950
R.T. Rush Trophy – 1947, 1950 (Runner Up Best & Fairest)
J.J. Joyce Trophy – 1951 (3rd Best & Fairest)
Member of Collingwood’s Hall of Fame (Inducted 2004)

Out of all the champions who have donned the famous black & white jumper Lewis Thomas Charles Richards is perhaps the most famous of all. Unfortunately it is for his deeds off the ground, as football’s first multi-media star that Lou is remembered rather than his great contributions to the Magpies as a player and premiership captain. While Lou never won a Copeland Trophy he was placed three times, coming runner-up in 1947 and 1950 and third in 1951. He also led Collingwood’s goalkicking on three occasions in 1944, 48 and 50. In 1947 he was named the Herald’s Player of the Year. In that year he also polled the most Brownlow Medal votes of all the Magpies (10) to finish 14th. Phonse Kyne who won that year’s Copeland Trophy finished a further three votes behind Lou, as did teammates Ray Horwood and Ray Stokes. With the exception of the 1953 premiership year in which he did not poll a single vote, Lou was usually one of Collingwood’s best polling players on Brownlow night.

Lou as pictured in The Argus, September 1951

While Lou was an immensely courageous rover with a ton of cheek, who was rugged, tough and determined. He also was ferociously competitive and had a fierce will to win. In 1951 on Phonse Kynes’s retirement as a player he forced his brother Ron to nominate him for the captaincy of the Magpies, but was overwhelmingly rejected in favour of Gordon Hocking. Neil Mann was appointed vice-captain to Hocking, something which really annoyed Lou as he did not have the experience of Richards. However rather than dwell on this misfortune he decided to reflect on what he perceived as his biggest flaw, his open criticism of his teammates, both on and off the field. Lou decided to change his style and became encouraging rather than critical and by 1952 he was appointed captain after filling in for Hocking and Mann on occasion in 1951. Des Healey claimed Lou was the best captain he had played under saying that “He was a magnificent team man and a real great Collingwood player – he culd almost win matches for Collingwood on his own by getting the other players in. Thorold Merrett claimed, “He was always firing you up, telling you to get up if you were hurt and urging you from start to finish.” whilst his deputy Neil Mann said “Louie was a terrific captain, always giving you lots of encouragement.” Bob Rose rated Lou as the best rover of his era, alongside Essendon’s Bill Hutchison and Fitzroy’s Alan Ruthven. Lou’s greatest triumph was leading the team to premiership glory in 1953.

After retiring from the game in 1955 Lou was given two options. The first was to coach Collingwood’s seconds with a view to becoming senior coach some time in the future, while the second was to join the media and to write articles for the Argus. Deferring the decision to his beloved wife Edna, Lou decided to set himself on the road to multi-media mega-stardom by refusing the coaching job and writing for the Argus. Despite his reservations Lou proved a natural, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone since during his playing career he was a media darling, giving extensive interviews for all of Melbourne’s daily newspapers on occasions. He was also a favourite of newspaper cartoonists such as The Age’s Sam Wells and The Herald’s WEG, who often depict him as a loud-mouthed chimpanzee. He would go onto being the game’s greatest media personality on radio, television and the newspapers.

In Collingwood’s 2010 premiership year Lou was once again in the headlines over the AFL’s refusal to elevate him to Legend status in the AFL’s Hall of Fame. The AFL argued that due to their rules which states Legends must be players and coaches at the “very pinnacle” of the game onfield, despite being one of the few to have captained Collingwood to a premiership and despite being the most-loved and greatest character that the game has produced.

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Acknowledgements

  1. Roberts. M & McFarlane. G -The Official Collingwood Illustrated Encyclopedia – Updated Edition – 2010 The Slattery Media Group
  2. Holmesby R & Main J. – The Encyclopedia Of AFL Footballers – Seventh Edition – 2007 Bas Publishing
  3. Richards L. & Phillips S.- The Kiss Of Death – 1989
  4. Stevens M. – Lou Richards rejects AFL Hall of Fame offer – http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/its-all-or-nothing/story-0-1225713271416
  5. Carlyon. G – Gordon Carlyon’s Scrapbook Number 2 – 2002 Gordon Carlyon
  6. Roberts. M – A Century Of The Best – The Stories of Collingwood’s Favourite Sons – 1991 Collingwood Football Club

The Opposition – St Kilda

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1953 can be considered a reasonable season for the perennial cellar dweller when compared to their usual St Kilda standards, when they finished in 9th position with just five wins. St Kilda did have some great players in their team in the early 50s but unfortunately those who were running the club were small businessmen who seemed to have little idea of what they were doing. Things would eventually get better for St Kilda, with three of their players winning the Brownlow Medal by decade’s end, although they would not reach the finals until 1961. In 1965 the Saints would dominate the home & away season before going down to Essendon in the Grand Final, while we all know about what happened 12 months later.

In 1953 St Kilda was coached by Col Williamson. He had played with St Kilda between 1937 and 1946 and was a tall, strong ruckman and utility player who was safe and trusty and never let the side down. It was not his fault that the Saints did not succeed in his two seasons as coach. In 1954 he was replaced as coach by ex-North Melbourne champion Les Foote.

Keith Drinan

The Saints’ captain for 1953 was Keith Drinan, who had developed into one of the Saints’ best ever full-backs, he also won St Kilda’s best & fairest award in 1953, as well as in 1956. A player with a big heart but little flair, his effectiveness was undoubted. When he was appointed captain of St Kilda in 1951 he was just 26 years old and the youngest captain in the VFL. He played 134 games fo St Kilda between 1944 and 1957. In 1954 he was controversially replaced as captain by ex-North Melbourne champion Les Foote, who had returned to Melbourne after a stint playing in country New South Wales. After Foote departed at the end of the 1955 season Drinan was reappointed captain. He a did apply for the Saints’ vacant coaching position but this went to Allan Killigrew. Drinan was the last returned serviceman to play VFL football.

Neil ‘Coco’ Roberts was in his second season with St Kilda in 1953 and had not yet developed into the superstar footballer he was to become. After his first two seasons it seemed that he was going nowhere as a footballer until he was switch from the forward line o centre-half-back. In 1955 he established himself as a star by winning the St Kilda best and fairest and winning a spot in the state team. He also finished third in the Brownlow. In 1958 while deputising for injured skipper Brian Gleeson Roberts proved to be an inspiring leader and won the Brownlow Medal by 2 votes. He was appointed full-time captain in 1959 and in 1962 he led St Kilda into the finals for the first time in 22 years. He represented Victoria 11 times during his career.

Brian Gleeson would have to be considered one of the unluckiest players to play VFL football. He played just 71 games between 1953 and 1957. He won the Brownlow Medal in 1957 and was appointed captain of St Kilda for 1958 but he injured a knee in a practice game and never played again. Gleeson had a great high marking ability and developed into a fine ruckman with the knack of directing hit-outs unerringly.

Jim Ross

Jim Ross is one of the best players to have played for the Saints. A St Kilda stalwart, he played 139 between 1946 and 1954 and won the best and fairest award three times, in 1949, 1951 and 1952, a feat that has been bettered only by Nick Riewoldt and Robert Harvey and equalled by Nathan Burke and Darrell Baldock. He is also member of St Kilda’s Team of the Century and in 1954 he topped the Saints goalkicking. Ross was a classy footballer and one of the few quality players that St Kilda had in the 1940s and early 50s. He played at either centre half forward or in the ruck and could intelligently palm the ball to his rovers. He was a grand mark with great dash and anticipation. He should have won his fourth best and fairest award in 1954 but for the pettiness of the St Kilda committee. Despite having a fine season the award went to newly appointed captain-coach Les Foote, with few people doubting that Ross’ request for financial assistance at the start of the season angering chairman of selectors Bert Day, who told him he could have a clearance on the spot if that was what he wanted. Ross quit the Saints at the end of the 54 season at the age of 26 to captain-coach a Tasmanian side. In 1958 he won All-Australian selection.

Bruce Phillips

Bruce Phillips won St Kilda’s best and fairest award in 1950 playing at full-back. In that stand out season he also won the Herald’s best player award and came equal third in the Brownlow Medal. In 115 games between 1947 and 1955 Phillips proved to have uncanny anticipation and liked to charged out in front of the opposing full-forwards and send a long kick downfield. He represented Victoria in 1950 and 1953, he was forced to retire at 26 after he injured a knee in a practice match in 1956.

Jack McDonald

Jack McDonald was a left footer with great pace who played in the forward line for the Saints between 1948 and 1956, who had the ability to kick the ball long. He could devastate opposition defences but was also very moody In his 113 games he led St Kilda’s goalkicking three times.

Peter Bennett was an accurate full-forward who played 103 games in two stints in 1944 and between 1947 and 1953, his football career interrupted by war service. He led St Kilda’s goalkicking in 1947, 1948, 1950, 1951 and 1953, but is best remembered as the captain of Australia’s water polo team at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. He retired from football in 1954 to concentrate on his Olympic career.

The Opposition – Carlton

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In 1953 Carlton would miss out on playing finals football, finishing 5th, 3 wins less than 4th placed Essendon. In 1952 they finished fourth but lost their semi-final against Fitzroy by a single point. The 1950s were a dark period of time for Carlton as they only reached the finals three times and lost all of their finals matches.

The Blues were coached by Percy Bentley, who is Carlton’s second longest-serving coach after David Parkin. He was a star player with Richmond in their champion sides of the 1920s and 30s, and coached the Tigers from 1934, the year they beat South Melbourne in the VFL Grand Final. He was one of the greatest players of his era. In 1941 he was lured to Carlton as a coach, bringing the Navy Blues premiership glory in 1945 & 47. He would coach the Blues until he retired in 1955. He then served on the Carlton committee for many years.

Ken Hands

Carlton was captained in 1953 by Ken Hands, a member of their team of the century and one of their greatest ever players. He was a complete footballer who was tough and an inspirational leader of the Blues who was willing to protect the Carlton small men.  He played 211 games with the Blues and kicked 188 goals and was a member of their ’45 & ’47 premiership sides. In 1953 Hands won the Blues’ best & fairest award. Hands would go onto captain and coach Victoria in 1954 & 1957 and represented his state on 12 occasions. Hands would also coach Carlton between 1959 and 1964. He was a great ball handler with excellent balance who possessed one of the best drop kicks in football.

Carlton’s leading goal-kicker in 1953 was John ‘Jack’ Spencer. He kicked 32 goals for the season. He only played VFL football for three seasons and in his 44 game career kicked a total of 67 goals but had a great career in the VFA before he joined the Blues.

Carlton’s second highest goal-kicker in 1953 was their vice-captain Jack Howell. Chooka, as he was known, kicked 28 goals for the season. He played 137 games for the Blues in a career that spanned from 1942-1954. He was a member of the 1947 premiership team and represented Victoria. He is another of Carlton’s greats.

John James, one of Carlton’s all-time greats debuted in 1953. He would go one to win the Blues best & fairest 3 times as well as the Brownlow Medal in 1961. In 1953 he played in 16 of the 18 home & away matches and kicked 8 goals for the season, although he did also manage to kick 43 behinds. He is another member of Carlton’s team of the century.

Laurie Kerr

Laurie Kerr was a speedy and courageous player who played for Carlton between 1950 and 59. The versatile Kerr could play as a winger, half forward flanker or centreman and his electrifying speed made him a potent force. What Kerr lacked in marking and kicking he made up for with sheer courage and pace, he was the Blues’ vice-captain from 1956-58.

In 1953 Keith Warburton kicked 26 goals for the Blues and was their third highest goal-kicker, while Jack Mills was another one of Carlton’s better players in the early 50s.

Bruce Comben played for the Old Dark Navy Blues between 1950 and 1961. In his 188 games he kicked 36 goals despite playing mostly as a tough and relentless back-pocket. He had a glorious running drop-kick and was totally fearless in his quest for the ball, often running staright at the ball and copping a lot of knocks around the head. He was Carlton’s captain and coach between 1958 and 1960 and won their best & fairest award in 1957 and 58. He represented Victoria 9 times.