Good Old Collingwood Forever

The Story of Collingwood's 1953 Premiership

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Wrestling With The Weed

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In 1953 Murray Weideman was the youngest member of Collingwood’s premiership team at just 17 years of age. Even though he spent the match on the bench, it would be just 5 years later when he would be acting captain in another great Magpie premiership, where his intimidation of Melbourne great Ron Barrasi was an important factor in Collingwood’s 1958 success, but it is another much stranger issue that I’d like to focus on here. How good was Murray Weideman the professional wrestler?

In August 1962 Murray Weideman shocked both Collingwood and the football world by deciding to combine his football with a career in professional wrestling. Collingwood were out of finals contention at this time, although the Magpies came very close to stripping Weideman of the club captaincy. Seeing how wrestling was portrayed as  a very violent sport, and the fact that in 1962 most people thought that everything that happened in the ring was real, the Magpies were concerned that Weideman would badly injure himself in this new pursuit, as he’d already suffered a should injury in a match in July against Hawthorn. It was not until Weideman broke kafabe, and told them that the only likelihood of him being hurt while wrestling would be if he did not fall the way in which he was taught, that Collingwood allowed him to get in the ring. (However even though pro-wrestling is ‘not real’, wrestlers do still get hurt!) Weideman also told them that he could make ten times the amount of money for one nights wrestling than he could playing a match for the Pies.

The ‘Weed’s’ career in the squared circle only seemed to last two months, and usually featured Weideman partnering Salvatore Savoldi in tag team action against the heelish George Bollas (best known for wrestling under a mask as the Zebra Kid) and Paul ‘the Butcher’ Vachon. Whenever Bollas was wrestling singles matches under his mask, Pierre La Chapelle would partner Vachon.  Weideman also did a wrestling work-out on Channel 9’s the Tony Charlton Show against ex-wrestler ‘Dirty’ Dick Raines. Raines, one of the most hated heels ever to get in the ring, often acted as a referee in the Weideman/Savoli vs Bollas/Vachon (La Chappelle) matches, so it was no surprise that they  often ended in chaos with the bad guys coming out on top despite their dirty tactics. Weideman also featured in a Battle Royal match. Some of the matches were also televised on Channel 7.

The ‘Weed’ claims he had offers to wrestle in America but decided to stay at home to concentrate on his footy but was he really this good? In the early 60s wrestling in Australia was in decline and there is no doubt that Weideman was used by the Americans simply as a drawcard to get punters to come to the Melbourne Stadium to watch them grapple. He was probably the most polarizing figure in Melbourne at that time, being adored by Magpie fans but loathed by everyone else and could have worked as either a villainous heel or a face. Collingwood fans loved him as a tough guy enforcer on the football field, but opposition supporters loathed him for it. In 1959 an angry fan fired a warning shop at Weideman while he was in an Alphington milkbar. (For those curious enough, the bullet hole is still visible in the window of what is now the Apte restaurant at 338-340 Heidelberg Road in Alphington!) It seems that Weideman worked only as a face and that most people who attended the wrestling matches were Collingwood supporters. There were even reports in the newspaper of fans singing ‘Good Old Collingwood Forever‘ when Weideman made his way to the ring one night!

But was he good enough to wrestle in America? Probably not. From the video attached he seems to be extremely green have only the most basic skill level, which is unsurprising since he probably only had a few grappling lessons before getting in the ring. All of the wrestlers that Weideman got into the ring with had many years of experience and would have wanted to make the ‘Weed’ look good, and in wrestling you are really only as good as your opponent allows you to be. I am sure they would have all wanted him to look like a million dollars in front of his adoring Magpie fans.

What is surprising is that it was less than two years after Weideman got into the ring that wrestling started booming in Australia, but Weideman was not a part of this boom. World Championship Wrestling started in 1964 and brought in great some American and international wrestlers to mix it with the best Aussies, and at the end of 1963 Weideman had retired from football, so he would have been free to pursue a full-time career as a grappler, yet to my knowledge he was not approached to be a part of WCW.

I guess like wrestler (or footballer) worth his salt, the ‘Weed’ over-exaggerated when he talked about his wrestling career and how good he was in the ring. Anyone who has ever listened to Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair or Bret Hart when interviewed about their career knows that most wrestlers use a lot of braggadocio when talking about their greatness in the ring and I suspect that this was also the case with Weideman.

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Des Healey

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Debut – 1948
Retired – 1955
Games – 149
Goals – 27
1955 Copeland Trophy
1951 & 1954 R. T. Rush Trophy
1953 J. J. Joyce Trophy
Seconds Best and Fairest: 1947
Interstate Representative: 1949, 1953 (carnival)
All-Australian – 1953
Coach under 19s – 1972-77
Member of Collingwood’s Hall of Fame (Inducted 2006)

Des Healey was a brilliant and attacking wingman whom both Phonse Kyne and Lou Richards regarded as the best winger Collingwood had ever produced, whilst Essendon legend John Coleman described Healey as the best wingman he had ever seen in the game. Coleman praised him by saying, “He is clever, has that wonderful tenacity of all good Collingwood players, and is tireless.” His teammate Bill Twomey Jr. said that Healey was the cleverest player he had ever seen in one on one duels, whilst Bob Rose said that Healey was a top class player who had everything. Richmond’s duel Brownlow Medalist Roy Wright called Des the gamest player he had ever seen and that he had a lot of courage for someone who was just 5’6″. “If he were a big man he would kill someone the way he tears through packs” Wright said. Along with fellow left-footers Bill Twomey and Thorold Merrett Healey was a part of one of the best centrelines of the era.

The tenacious Healey was small and fast and a great stab-kick off his left boot. He also possessed a safe pair of hands as he was a great mark. He showed dazzling speed in the way he cashed the ball and could keep control of it with uncanny ability.  His evasive skills were superb. Healey worked long and hard perfecting his talent. He often spent extra nights alone on the training track twisting and turning around imaginary opponents at top pace. His unrivalled commitment was inspiration for all.

1953 was a stand out year for Healey, as he won All-Australian selection and was judged by many observers to be best on ground in Collingwood’s premiership win. He was third in the Copeland Trophy behind Bob Rose and Neil Mann.

Unfortunately today Healey is most well-known for the last game in which he played, the 1955 Grand Final loss to Melbourne. In one of the most talked about incidents in Grand Final history and with three minutes to go in the match, Healey collided with Melbourne’s Frank ‘Bluey’ Adams who had just run onto the ground from the bench. Healey, who had been the Magpie’s best player to that point, had his nose broken, skull fractured and was severely concussed. Despite winning the Copeland Trophy that year he never played another game saying ‘I could not stand another blow like that. He was just 27.

Healey was also an outstanding cricketer who in the 1953-54 season was a part of Collingwood’s first grade district cricket team. In the 1952-53 season he was a part of the Magpies’ second XI team where he topped the batting averages and won the club championship. He top scored in the final match of the season with 92 runs against South Melbourne. Two years earlier both Healey and Merrett were team-mates in Collingwood’s 1951 Third XI team that won the cricket final against Prahran. They put on a 151 run partnership to set up their victory, with Healey scoring a century and Merrett making 51.

In the late 70s Des spent six years as coach of Collingwood’s under 19 team, nuturing young talent such as Peter Daicos. Healey passed away in 2009 aged 81.

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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. Main. J – When It Matters Most – 2006 Bas Publishing
  4. Collingwood Football Club Website – http://www.afl.com.au/Season2007/News/NewsArticle/tabid/5586/Default.aspx?newsId=7022
  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

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

Phonse Kyne

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Australian rules footballer Phonse Kyne (b.1915)

Image via Wikipedia

As A Player

Played – 1934-1944 1946-1950
Games- 245
Goals – 237
Captain- 1942, 1946-1949
Copeland Trophy – 1946, 1947, 1948
Runner Up Copeland Trophy – 1938, 1939, 1949
3rd Copeland Trophy – 1936
Victorian Representative – 11 times
Captain Victoria – 1947

As Coach

1950-1963
Premiers – 1953, 1958

Member of Collingwood‘s Hall of Fame
Member of Collingwood Team of the Century

Phonse Kyne is one of Collingwood’s all-time greatest players  but it is as the coach of the 1953 and ’58 premierships that he is most fondly remembered. He is one of only four players to have won the Copeland Trophy three times in a row and was runner-up on another three occasions. He played as centre-half forward in the 1935 & 36 premiership sides but is most remembered as one of the best ruckmen of his era. He was a clever palmer of the ball who used his body well to achieve front position, Lou Richards once said that all the rover had to do was to give Kyne a call and the ball would be waiting for him.

It is also worth noting that his coaching career started in controversial circumstances. He was seen as the logical successor to the legendary Jock McHale but the club appointed Bervyn Woods instead. This move caused an uproar at Collingwood, with the club going to war over the issue. It seems that the appointment of Woods was political, with president Harry Curtis having long promised the senior coaching position to the long time seconds coach. A special squad of police had to be called in to control a rowdy mob of supporters at a meeting by the committee to resolve the issue at the Collingwood Town Hall. Woods, seeing the damage that his appointment had caused the famous club graciously offered his resignation.

Phonse Kyne was a favourite of Age cartoonist Sam Wells. This is from June 1950

As a coach he was very much in the mould of his mentor, the great Jock McHale, and openly based his coaching methods and approach to the game on those of the his predecessor. Kyne’s first match as coach was on April 22nd 1950. His 272 games as coach is the second most by a Collingwood player with the Magpies winning 161 of those games, including premierships in 1953 and 1958. According to Collingwood folklore Phonse was so nervous before the ’53 Grand Final that he made use of a kangaroo paw lucky charm that one of his friends had given him. Lou Richards, who was the captain of the 1953 Premiership team said that one of Kyne’s great traits was that he would never publicly berate his players but “If Phonse had something to say – and he had plenty to say on occasions – he drew the player aside and gave it to him man to man.”

Away from the football field has was also a gentle man who was respected by everyone who knew him. Lou Richards said that Kyne was… “a loyal and lasting friend who would never have a word against any of his teammates or players.” whilst Richmond’s Jack Dyer, one of Kyne’s fiercest opponents from his playing days, paid his respect to Phonse when he said “He was Collingwood first, second, third and forever. But you could always shake his hand and have a beer with him after the game.” The only flaw may have been his tendency to deal with the disappointment of defeat by coming home from the game and then refusing dinner, going straight to bed and pulling the sheets over his head! However Phonse never lost his temper even in these difficult circumstances.

Phonse’s coaching career ended as it began, in controversy due to the political turmoil within the Club. In 1963 Tom Sherrin and Jack Galbally were at war over the presidency of the Club, with Sherrin saying that if he won the vote he would endorse Bob Rose as the next Collingwood coach. Phonse claimed that he had the full-support of the entire board with the exception of Sherrin, and said that the players were supportive of him and of Galbally. This move infuriated Collingwood captain Murray Weideman who had been trying to keep the players out of the bitter political turmoil. As a result Weideman organised a team meeting to debate Phonse’s statement, and to guage the feeling amongst the rest of the playing group. The general consensus Weideman said, was that whilst Phonse Kyne may have been the current coach, the players wanted him replaced by Bob Rose. The team struggled through 1963, finishing eighth, failing to make the finals for the third successive year. The players, who had thrown their weight behind the successful Sherrin bid for the presidency, got their wish as Phonse was sacked as coach at the end of the season and Bob Rose was appointed for 1964. It was a sad end to the coaching career of one of the most highly regarded men in Australian football and one of the great servants of the Collingwood Football Club.

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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. Roberts. M – A Century Of The Best – The Stories of Collingwood’s Favourite Sons – 1991 Collingwood Football Club
  4. Phonse Kyne’s Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Phonse-Kyne/112924315384332

The Opposition – Footscray

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Footscray in 1953 were on the cusp of premiership success. This was the year they won their first ever final, when they defeated Essendon in the semi-final by 8 points. They reached the preliminary final which they lost to Geelong by 26 points. It would be another year before the Bulldogs would finally taste premiership glory by winning their only Grand Final.

Footscray were captained and coached by Charlie Sutton. He debuted with the club in 1942 and played 173 games in a career that lasted 12 years. (He did not play between 1943-1945) He became captain/coach of the Bulldogs in 1951, a year after he won the best & fairest award which would subsequently be named after him. He would remain captain until his retirement as a player in 1955 and stay as coach until he was unceremoniously dumped midway through the 1957 season, when Ted Whitten took over. He is also a member of Footscray’s team of the century. He is a legend of the Footscray Football Club.

Ruckman Harvey Stevens won Footscrays’ best & fairest award in 1953. Two weeks prior to the start of the 1953 season Stevens was dumped by Collingwood and was fortunately picked up by the Bulldogs just prior to round 3. Stevens played VFL footy for 10 years, with 5 seasons at Collingwood where he played 55 games, and 5 at Footscray where he played 72 games. He played in Collingwood’s losing 1952 Grand Final side, where he was tried without success at full-forward, even though he had never played in that position before. Many feel that he was made the scapegoat for that loss and despite performing well in the 1953 preseason he was dumped from the team before the start of the new season. Stevens became a  member of the Bulldogs’ 1954 premiership side and captained Footscray in 1957.

The most famous Bulldog of all was a member of the 1953 side. 1953 was the 3rd VFL season for the legendary Ted Whitten. ‘E.J’ had played just 29 games prior to 1953. To many people he was the embodiment of everything Footscray, he captained the club from 1957 until his retirement as a player in 1970. Teddy also coached the club from July 1957 until 1966, when his predecessor Charlie Sutton took over the helm, and again from 1969 until 1972, when Collingwood’s greatest ever player Bob Rose took over the coaching role. Whitten won the Bulldogs’ best and fairest in 1954, 57, 58, 59 and 61 and was their leading goal kicker in 1961, 62, 64 and 68. He is the captain of both the Western Bulldogs‘ team of the century and AFL team of the century. Like Sutton he is a legend of the Western Bulldogs Football Club.

In 1953 the leading goal kicker for Footscray was Jack Collins who kicked 50 goals for the season. Collins won the best & fairest award for the Bulldogs in 1951 and 52. His 1953 season is perhaps remembered mostly for the controversy that occurred in the final round of the home & away season when he and Collingwood’s Frank Tuck clashed which caused both players to be suspended for the finals series. Collins played 154 games for Footscray over 9 seasons and kicked 385 career goals.

Peter Box was another of Footscray’s top players of the 1950s. He debuted in 1951 but missed the entire 1952 season through injury. In 1956 he won the Brownlow Medal after winning Footscray’s best & fairest in 1955. Don Ross the 1956 Footscray best & fairest was playing his second season in 1953.

The Footscray backline of 1953 also featured some of their all-time great players including Wally Donald and Herb Henderson. The Bulldogs conceded only 959 points for the season, the lowest in the VFL history to that date.