BIOGRAPHIES [N-O]

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[Wally Naismith]  [Ron Nalder]  [Mark Naley]  [Bruce Nankervis]  [Ian Nankervis]  [Keith Narkle]  [Phil Narkle]  [Laurie Nash]  [Robert Nash]  [Bernie Naylor]  [Merv Neagle]  [Robert Neal]  [Brian Needle]  [Gerard Neesham]  [Harold Neill]  [Craig Nelson]  [Philip Nelson]  [Tony Nesbit]  [Bill Nettlefold]  [Thomas New]  [Ken Newland]  [Ernest 'Bung' Newling]  [John Newman]  [John Newnham]  [Don Nicholls]  [Doug Nicholls]  [Graham Nicholls]  [John Nicholls]  [Reg Nicholls]  [Peter Nicks]  [Ivor Nicolle]  [Des Nisbet]  [Colin Niven]  [John Nix]  [Michael Nolan]  [Alan Noonan]  [Paddy Noonan]  [David Norman]  [Jim Norman]  [Charles Norris]  [Barry Norsworthy]  [Mark Norsworthy]  [Stan Nowotny]  [Michael Nunan]  [George Nuss]  [Damien Nygaard]  [Bernard O'Brien]  [Daryl O'Brien]  [Noel O'Brien]  [Paddy O'Brien]  [Phil O'Brien]  ['Pakey' O'Callaghan]  [John O'Connell]  [Leo O'Connor]  [Jim O'Dea]  [Patrick O'Dea]  [Peter O'Donohue]  [Gary O'Donnell]  [Oswald O'Grady]  [David O'Halloran]  [Jack O'Halloran]  [Thomas O'Halloran]  [Edward O'Keefe]  [Kevin O'Keeffe]  [John O'Mahoney]  [James O'Meara]  [John O'Neill]  [William O'Neill]  [Jack O'Rourke]  [George Oakley]  [Fred Oaten]  [Max Oaten]  [Jack Oatey]  [Robert Oatey]  [Peter Obst]  [Trevor Obst]  [Fred Odgers]  [Edward 'Ned' Officer]  [Gordon Ogden]  [Percy Ogden]  [Ted Ohlson]  [Howard Okey]  [Doug Olds]  [Douglas Oliphant]  [Harold Oliver]  [William Oliver]  [Arthur Olliver]  [Max Oppy]  [Leo Oprey]  [Billy Orchard]  [William 'Billy' Orr]  [Richard Osborn]  [Richard Osborne]  [Dean Ottens]  [Wayne Otway]  [Whynan Outen]  [Gavin Outridge]  [Tom Outridge]  [George 'Staunch' Owens]  [Jack Owens]

Wally Naismith (Fitzroy & Melbourne)

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Wally Naismith was a prominent player for Fitzroy during the opening decade of the twentieth century, notching up 143 VFL games and 20 goals for the club between 1902 and 1910.  Best known as a defender, he also gave effective service on the ball or as a centreman from time to time.  He played on a half back flank when the Roys lost by 2 points to Collingwood in the 1903 grand final, and then played in a back pocket in the 1904 and 1905 premiership sides.  In the 1905 grand final defeat of warm favourites Collingwood he gave a typically tough, shrewd, indefatigable display that was a crucial factor in the Roys' win.  In 1911 he crossed to Melbourne for whom he took part in every game both that season and the next (a total of 36) before retiring. 

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Ron Nalder (Hawthorn)

Ron Nalder joined Hawthorn from Maryborough and gradually blossomed into an extremely useful player for the Hawks. Perhaps his principal asset was his adaptability, and during the early part of his career in particular, before he had cemented his spot in the side, he was often used to good effect as 19th or 20th man.  A case in point was the 1961 grand final victory over Footsc ray , to which Ron Nalder's contribution was restricted to a cameo appearance - but a worthy cameo appearance - off the bench.

Nalder's VFL career comprised 121 games between 1959 and 1966. He kicked 43 goals. Many of his best performances were made as a centreman, but he also produced good football across half back and half forward.

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Mark Naley (South Adelaide & Carlton)

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Along with John Platten and Tony McGuinness, Mark Naley provided South Australia with interstate football's most accomplished roving trio since Western Australia's 'Cable-Doncon-Walker act' of the mid to late '60s.  Of the three, Naley was possibly the least celebrated and least consistently eye-catching, but on his day arguably the most spectacular.  

At his peak between 1984 and 1987, Naley's explosive pace off the mark made him an extraordinarily difficult player for opposition taggers to contain.  He was a winner of South Adelaide's best and fairest award, the Knuckey Cup, in 1984, while in 1986 a conspicuously energetic display for South Australia against Victoria helped him to All Australian selection.

In 1987, Naley joined Carlton, and after taking a while to hit his straps he developed into a more than useful performer for the Blues in what became a premiership year.  His performance in the interstate match against Victoria was once again of the highest order, and this time earned him interstate football's highest individual accolade, the Tassie Medal.

Mark Naley remained with Carlton until 1990, but in his last couple of seasons he was struck by chronic hamstring complaints which greatly undermined his effectiveness.  On his return home to South Adelaide in 1991, however, he recaptured his best form, winning that season's Magarey Medal, before going on to give his club a number more years of sterling service.

After his retirement as a player, Mark Naley continued his involvement with football as a TV commentator.

He was included as a forward pocket and change rover in South Adelaide's official 'Greatest Team'.

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Bruce Nankervis (Geelong)

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Two years younger than his brother Ian, the record holder for the most senior games at Geelong, Bruce Nankervis was a less polished but ultimately no less effective footballer who gave sterling service to the Cats for well over a decade.

Initially, however, it looked as though he was going to fail to make the grade.  After playing for Geelong under 19s he returned, disappointed, to Barwon after being axed from the senior training squad.  A short while later, he returned to Geelong, but although he broke into the league side midway through the 1970 season he tended to live under the shadow of his brother for a time.  Things changed in 1973 when he was transformed by coach Graham Farmer from a half forward/half back flanker into an on-baller.  Determined, tenacious and persistent, Nankervis developed into a highly effective nullifier of opposing teams' star players.  He won back to back best and fairest awards in 1973-4 and was club captain for two years from 1976.  He also broke into the VFL representative team, and went on to make a total of 12 appearances, exactly the same number as brother Ian.  He retired at the end of the 1983 season after 253 VFL games.

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Ian Nankervis (Geelong)

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Recruited from Barwon, Ian Nankervis made his senior debut with Geelong in 1967 and, over the next seventeen seasons, went on to play a club record 325 VFL games.  Initially playing mainly as a forward pocket-rover, he later developed into one of the finest back pockets in the history of the game.  He had an exemplary attitude to training, and a wholehearted commitment to the Geelong Football Club, setting an estimable example to younger players.  Captain for four seasons from 1978, he won club best and fairest awards in 1972, 1976 and 1977.  Polished and tidy in everything he did, "his concentration, anticipation, stamina, courage, running ability and highly developed disposal skills made him one of the club's all time greats" (see footnote 1).

A regular Big V representative (a dozen appearances), Ian Nankervis captained the state against Tasmania at Hobart in 1979, and was selected in the 1980 All Australian side.  He played for much of his league career alongside younger brother Bruce.

Footnotes

1.  Cats' Tales by Col Hutchinson, page 166.  Return to Main Text

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Keith Narkle (Swan Districts)

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Extremely lightly built at just 170cm and 66kg, Keith Narkle was nevertheless a rare and sublime football talent, boasting tremendous pace combined with great athleticism and ball handling ability.  Nine years older than his brother Phil, he made his league debut in 1971, when Swans were something of a chopping block for the other seven WANFL sides.  By the time of his retirement fourteen seasons and 254 senior games later, however, he had played in three premiership teams, including one as captain, and won his club's fairest and best trophy on three occasions.  The Swan Districts premiership sides in which he played between 1982 and 1984 were among the most accomplished to adorn West Australian football, and Narkle's contribution, whether as a wingman or a half forward, was considerable. Like fine wine, he appeared to get better with age, winning his third club champion award in his final season, at the age of thirty-three.

Like his brother, Keith Narkle represented Western Australia in the interstate arena, and was selected in Swan Districts' official 'Team of the Twentieth Century'.

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Phil Narkle (Swan Districts, St Kilda, West Coast)

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Abundantly skilled, and with pace to burn, there have been few more exhilarating sights in football than that of Swan Districts' wingman Phil Narkle surging into the forward lines at full throttle.  Sadly, he was prevented by injury from displaying the full scope of his virtuosity as often as he - and legions of football supporters, both in West Australia, and throughout the country - would have liked.

After winning the Medallists Medal for fairest and best in the WANFL colts competition in 1977, Narkle made his league debut with Swans the following year.  His fleetness of foot, sure ball handling, and superb evasive ability immediately marked him out as a player with a big future, and over the next few years he became one of the bulwarks on which coach John Todd gradually constructed a champion side.

Always conspicuous owing to the helmet he wore after sustaining concussion five times in his debut season, Narkle caught the umpires' eyes repeatedly in 1982 to land the Sandover Medal.  He was also among the best players afield in that year's grand final as Swans trounced Claremont.

After playing in a second successive premiership team the following year, Narkle headed east where he joined St Kilda.  His first couple of seasons with the Saints saw his performances undermined by injury, but in his third and final season he played consistently well.  The following year saw him back in the west with newly formed VFL club West Coast, for whom he would manage just 18 games in three injury impeded seasons.  He did manage a memorable performance for West Australia, however, earning All Australian selection in 1987 after being close to best afield in a narrow home loss against the Victorians.

At his best, Phil Narkle was as scintillating to watch as any footballer of the past thirty years.  Had recurrent injury problems not undermined his effectiveness just as he was approaching his peak, he might well be remembered today as one of the greatest wingmen of all time.

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Laurie Nash (City-Launceston, South Melbourne, Camberwell)

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If self-confidence is the primary fuel on which most sporting champions run then Laurie Nash's many accomplishments are easy to explain.   When asked who was the greatest footballer he had ever seen Nash famously replied "I see him in the mirror every morning when I shave".

Many of Nash's opponents would be inclined to agree with this assessment.  Despite being a mere 175 centimetres in height there have been few better high marking centre half forwards in the history of the game.  Added to his aerial prowess were pace, excellent ball control, and the ability to kick long and accurately with either foot.  Champion Collingwood goalsneak Gordon Coventry opined that Nash would have been the most prolific full forward of all time had he been stationed permanently at the goalfront.  The 18 goals which he managed against South Australia on one occasion appeared to endorse this opinion.  (However, the widely propounded myth that Nash achieved this feat in less than three quarters of football is precisely that - a myth.  Contemporary reports, such as that published in 'The Melbourne Herald' on the evening of the match, confirm that Nash booted 2 of the VFL's 9 opening quarter goals plus 2 more in the 2nd term [see footnote 1].)

Nash's VFL career comprised 99 games with South Melbourne between 1933 and 1937 as well as in 1945.  He booted a total of 246 goals.  In his debut season he was best afield as the red and whites surged to a 42 point grand final victory over Richmond.  Perhaps surprisingly, he never won South's best and fairest trophy, although he did captain the club in 1937, and was its top goal kicker both that year and in 1945.

Prior to his VFL stint, Nash achieved considerable notoriety with NTFA club City, playing a total of 45 senior games between 1930 and 1932, including the winning local and state grand finals of both 1930 and 1932.  He won the Tasman Shield Trophy as the competition's best and fairest player in 1931 and 1932, and was a regular representative player, appearing 10 times for Northern Tasmanian combinations, as well as in all 5 of Tasmania's matches at the 1930 Adelaide carnival (see footnote 2).

Arguably Nash's best years as a footballer were spent with Camberwell where he kicked 418 goals in just 74 games over four seasons.

In 2004, Laurie Nash's immense contribution to Tasmanian football was recognised with his selection at centre half back in the official 'Team of the Century' for that state.  A year earlier he had been placed at centre half forward in both South Melbourne's and Camberwell's equivalent teams. In the City/City-South 'Team of the Century', named in 2002, he was chosen at centre half back, the position he filled during most of his Tasmanian sojourn.  More recently, in 2006, he was named as a legend in Tasmanian Football's official Hall of Fame.

Footnotes

1. I am indebted to Tasmanian-based sports historian Ross Smith for establishing this fact beyond any reasonable doubt via his detailed examination of contemporary source material.  Return to Main Text

2.  Statistics derived from primary source-based research undertaken by Ross Smith.  Return to Main Text

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Robert Nash (Northcote, Collingwood, Footscray)

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Recruited by Collingwood from Northcote in 1904, Robert Nash went on to give the Magpies excellent service in 88 games over the next six seasons, a period which, unfortunately for Nash, coincided precisely with a gap between premierships for the Woods.  He was a powerful player with a tremendous leap who marked and kicked exceptionally well.  In 1908 he both skippered the Magpies and played for the VFL in the inaugural interstate carnival in Melbourne.

After leaving Collingwood, Nash spent the 1911-12 seasons as captain-coach of Footscray in the VFA, but premiership honours continued to elude him.  In 1912 he continued with the Tricolours as a player only, before retiring.  Ironically, the following year saw Footscray break through for a premiership.

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Bernie Naylor (South Fremantle)

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Western Australian football has seen numerous talented spearheads, but few if any better than South Fremantle's Bernie Naylor who, in a ten season, 194 game League career booted 1,034 goals, adding a further 45 in 16 interstate matches.  According to Frank Harrison and Jack Lee, however, he achieved all this despite failing to receive any indulgence from the men in white: 

"Naylor (was) a scrupulously fair player who suffered from the umpires' delusion that full forwards were there to be buffeted and knocked down and around, and therefore were not entitled to free kicks.  In one of his prolific ten seasons he kicked his 100th goal of the year with his first free kick."  (See footnote 1)

Club champion in 1953, Naylor bagged 8 goals in that season's winning grand final against West Perth, adding another 7 the following year when arch rivals Old Easts were the victims.

"Naylor was not a spectacular high mark in the style of his talented successor, John Gerovich.  He was sure enough, but most of his marks were taken safely on his chest.....His long, spiral punts were a joy for.....supporters to behold, and everyone who loved football admired his skill and amazing ability."  (See footnote 2)

One of the secrets of Naylor's success was his almost obsessive dedication to training.  On training nights, long after his team mates had left, he could be found at Fremantle Oval practising his trademark torpedo punt kicks for goal, from a variety of angles, but always from a distance of about 40 metres, with the ball invariably held with the lace to the side 'for extra stability in flight'.

Footnotes

1.  The South Fremantle Story 1900-1975 Volume 2 by Frank Harrison and Jack Lee, page 115.  Return to Main Text

2.  Ibid, pages 115 and 119.  Return to Main Text

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Merv Neagle (Essendon & Sydney)

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A speedy and accomplished footballer with a sometimes feisty temperament, Merv Neagle was at the forefront of the game for over a decade. He arrived at Essendon from Dimboola and within a couple of years of making his senior VFL debut in 1977 had established himself as one of the best and most creative wingmen in the competition. If he had a weakness, it was that he occasionally had a tendency to give away a lot of free kicks.  His contribution to the emergence of the Bombers as a league force during the early 1980s was considerable. Neagle was a member of Essendon's losing grand final team against Hawthorn in 1983, and of the victorious combination a year later against the same opposition. He would have made it three grand final appearances in a row in 1985 had a leg injury not forced his eleventh hour withdrawal from the side which went on to score a hefty win against the Hawks.  He was in the centre for the Bombers in 1981 when they won the night flag, and on a wing three years later when they did so again.

In 1986 Neagle's career entered a new phase when he was one of several high profile signings by the Sydney Swans. In five seasons in the harbour city he continued to produce fine football, although he missed a fair number of games with injury towards the end. Although best known as a wingman Neagle could be equally effective either on the ball or in the centre. His Swans stint saw him add 56 games and 19 goals to the 147 games and 52 goals he had accrued during his time with the Dons.

While at Essendon, Neagle's reputation was enhanced by regular appearances in a Big V. Somewhat surprisingly, he was never the recipient of a club best and fairest award, with second place in the Bombers' 1980 and 1981 counts his best finishes.  He also came second in the 1980 Brownlow Medal count.

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Robert Neal (Wynyard, Geelong, St Kilda)

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After commencing his career in Tasmania with the Wynyard Football Club where his impact was sufficient for him to earn inclusion in the club's official 'Best Team 1965 to 1995', Robert Neal was recruited by Geelong whom he served with great distinction for in excess of a decade. Nicknamed 'Scratcher' (an arch reference to his background as a potato farmer), Neal made his senior VFL debut for the Cats in 1974 and quickly developed into one of the foremost wingman of his generation, boasting explosive pace coupled with elusiveness, smooth ball handling skills and a fine temperament as well as excellent defensive qualities. In thirteen seasons with Geelong he played precisely 200 VFL games and kicked 51 goals. In 1987 he transferred to St Kilda and added a final 20 games and I goal over two seasons.

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Brian Needle (East Fremantle)

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East Fremantle's Attadale recruit Brian Needle may not have been in the very top bracket as a footballer but he provided dependable service for over a decade.  Of fairly solid build at 188cm and 89kg, he could play in a variety of positions, with some of his best football coming in his very last season when he was shifted to the goalfront.  He played a total of 152 senior games and kicked 79 goals for East Fremantle between 1972 and 1979 and from 1981 to 1983 (he missed the entire 1980 season with a leg injury).  He would have to be considered rather unfortunate in that his club played in three grand finals during the course of his career, winning two and losing one, but Needle was only selected for the loss against Perth in 1977.

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Gerard Neesham (East Fremantle, Swan Districts, Sydney, Claremont, Fremantle)

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As both player and coach, Gerard Neesham was one of West Australian football's most noteworthy recent identities.  As a player, he was hard working, tenacious, and possessed of an insatiable, contagious will to win.  That same winning mentality was evident in his coaching, which was also characterised by a uniquely imaginative, enterprising approach, a willingness to take risks, and an ability to subvert expectations and turn apparently inimical circumstances to his own, and his team's, advantage.

Neesham commenced his league football career with East Fremantle in 1975, and despite apparently lacking in pace quickly proved himself a damaging player thanks to his ability to win the hard ball coupled with a capacity for finding or making space for himself.  Once in possession, he tended to use the ball well, either by hand, or with crisp, short, accurate kicks.  When Old Easts lost calamitously to Perth in the 1977 grand final, Gerard Neesham was one of just a handful of members of the losing side able to hold his head high afterwards having given a determinedly aggressive four quarter performance.  Two years later East Fremantle went top, but after 45 games for the club in four seasons Neesham had transferred to Swan Districts, where he would produce the best and most consistent football of his career, exemplified by consecutive Swan Medal wins in 1980 and 1981, and 3rd and 4th place finishes in the Sandover Medal voting in 1979 and 1981 respectively.  He also represented Western Australia 3 times during this period. In 1982 he interrupted his WAFL career by spending a season with VFL club Swans (formerly known as South Melbourne, and soon to be renamed Sydney).  In what was probably the biggest disappointment of his time as a player, he failed to do himself justice, managing just 9 senior games for the year.

Resuming with Swan Districts in 1983 Neesham quickly put his VFL frustrations behind him by helping the club to successive premierships at the expense of Claremont and East Fremantle.  Neesham clearly approached the grand final clash with his former club, East Fremantle, with particular relish, and produced a near best afield performance.  This was more than a little ironic given that it would be his last ever game in a Swan Districts jumper.  In 1985, after 97 games in five seasons with Swans, he returned for a second stint with his original club, East Fremantle, where he would add another 34 games in two years, highlighted by an extremely creditable performance in the 1985 grand final defeat of Subiaco.

Gerard Neesham might well have stayed at East Fremantle for longer, but he had coaching ambitions, which Claremont offered him the chance to pursue.  To say that this was an inspired move on the part of the Claremont committee would be putting it mildly, for over the course of an eight and a half season stint with the club Neesham would prove himself the most successful, and by popular consent the greatest, coach in the club's history.  From 1987 to 1989 he occupied the role of playing coach, although he played less as time went on.  In his debut season as coach the West Australian football landscape had undergone the most seismic shift in its history following the formation of the West Coast Eagles, a club touted by some as the salvation of the game in the west, and regarded by others as a major nail in its coffin.  As far as the WAFL competition was concerned, the impact of the Eagles would be almost wholly inimical.  Matches would be played in front of reduced crowds, media coverage would be much diminished, and, given that approaching forty of the league's best players would be siphoned off by the VFL newcomer, the overall standard of play would also undergo a decline.

Had it not been for Gerard Neesham, things might have been even worse.  With Neesham as architect, Claremont developed an innovative style of play that, as with many truly great or revolutionary ideas, seemed beguilingly simple - so simple, in fact, that it was hard to believe no-one had thought of it before.  Eventually christened 'chip and draw', it was a style which would garner fascination, scorn, incredulity and admiration in more or less equal measure for more than a decade.  With the Tigers, it succeeded, partly because it took opposing teams by surprise, and partly because the club was blessed with a proliferation of the right type of players to implement it effectively.  Central to 'chip and draw', its rule of thumb if you like, is the principle that possession is nine-tenths of the law.  A team in possession is a team in control.  Neesham's players were therefore under strict instructions to retain possession of the ball until such time as they could dispose of it accurately, either by passing it to a team mate, or by scoring.  A player in possession of the ball could run with it or pass it in any direction, as long as possession was maintained.  In sports like soccer, basketball and - most significantly of all in Neesham's case - water polo (see footnote 1), such a tenet was so obvious it was almost taken for granted, but such had not, historically, always been the case in Australia football, where movement of the ball towards goal tended to be the paramount objective.

Gerard Neesham's water polo tactics took the WAFL by storm.  In 1987, the Tigers achieved greater dominance of the competition than any team since East Fremantle's unbeaten premiership side of 1946.  At times they appeared to be light years ahead of the opposition in terms of inventiveness, tactical acumen and skill, but in the brave new era of football that was emerging, such prowess was costly.  In 1988 it would be a significantly weakened Claremont that would mount its quest for back to back flags, with VFL clubs having deprived it of half a dozen of its premiership stars.

Under Neesham, this sequence of events would play out four times in quick succession, as Claremont won the premierships of 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993, each time with a different nucleus of key players.  Rarely, if ever, can a team in one of Australia's leading state leagues have displayed such resilience and recovery power.

Midway through the 1994 season, Gerard Neesham was appointed coach of Western Australia's second AFL club, Fremantle, which was to commence its involvement in the competition the following year.  Utilising the same 'chip and draw' tactics that had proved so successful at WAFL level Neesham ensured the Dockers were competitive from the start, but they lacked sufficient players of real quality to mount a legitimate premiership challenge.  Moreover, as time went on, opposing teams got much better at countering Freo's idiosyncratic style, and in Neesham's fourth and final season the team slumped to 15th, its lowest finishing position up to that time.  Arguably, then, if ever a coach came in with a bang and went out with a whimper, it was Gerard Neesham, but the bang was a truly spectacular one, and it is for that that he deserves to be remembered.

 

Footnotes

1.  Besides his football prowess, Neesham was also an accomplished water polo player.  Return to Main Text

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Harold Neill (Williamstown, South Melbourne, Footscray, St Kilda)

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After beginning his senior career with Williamstown as a sixteen year old, Harold Neill embarked on a league career with South Melbourne where, because the club had a surfeit of followers, he managed just a couple of games.  From 1925 to 1927 he played for Footscray, adding another 17 VFL games, but failing to catch fire.  It was only after he moved to St Kilda late in the 1927 season that he fulfilled his potential, leading the Saints' ruck division with distinction for 85 games over six and a half seasons.  Strong overhead, and a thumping kick, he relied on power and determination rather than guile or skill to succeed.  He won St Kilda's best and fairest award in 1931.

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Craig Nelson (West Perth & West Torrens)

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Craig Nelson was a big man of outstanding talent who had to battle with injury and poor form on occasion but who still managed to give West Perth 198 games of sterling service as well as playing 23 SANFL games for West Torrens in that club's last ever season of 1990.  He joined the club from Ashfield, and was widely touted as a champion of the future after a highly promising debut season in 1983 which saw him play in 15 of the Falcons' 21 games.  Equally effective as a knock ruckman or in a key forward position, he won his club's fairest and best award, the Breckler Medal, in 1987 and 1991, and served as club captain from 1992 to 1994.  He represented Western Australia once.

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Philip Nelson (Sturt)

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Like good wine, Sturt centre half back Philip Nelson improved with age.  Mind you, he was pretty good to start with, too, and indeed enjoyed the distinction of playing in all seven of the Double Blues' premiership teams in the period 1966-76.  An interstate representative on 10 occasions, Nelson - almost always referred to as 'Sandy' - put on one of his finest, most resolute displays in the 1975 NFL championship final against the VFL at Football Park when he comprehensively outpointed future Sturt player Gary Hardeman.  Between 1966 and 1977 'Sandy' Nelson played a total of 244 SANFL games.

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Tony Nesbit (Swan Districts)

Tony Nesbit was an exemplary contributor to the Swan Districts cause in 234 WANFL games between 1958 and 1970, highlighted by involvement in the club’s first three premiership victories in 1961-2-3. As a follower resting in the backlines par excellence he was a more or less permanent fixture in Western Australian interstate line ups between 1963 and 1965, making a total of 8 state appearances. Winner of a Swan Medal in 1964, Nesbit served as Swans’ vice-captain in 1965-6 and captain-coached them to a sixth place finish in 1968. Along with Keith Slater and Bill Walker he comprises the first ruck in the official Swan Districts ‘Team of the Century’.

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Bill Nettlefold (Richmond, North Melbourne, Melbourne)

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Early in his league career, many of Bill Nettlefold's best games were played in wet conditions, which gave rise to the widespread notion that he was essentially a wet weather player.  This was misleading, as many of the qualities that served him so well when the ball and ground were heavy - fearlessness, tenacity, and a refusal to admit defeat - were equally valuable on dry days when the chips were down, or when the stakes were at their highest, such as in finals.  Perhaps the quintessential case in point came with his introduction to the fray at three quarter time of the 1977 grand final.  On a sunny afternoon, with a perfectly dry ground, his contribution was one of the most significant factors in enabling his team, North Melbourne, to overcome a 27 point deficit against Collingwood and get up and tie the match.  Despite this, however, Nettlefold found himself on the bench again for the following week's replay, played once again in dry weather, so perhaps the Kangas Brains Trust were not entirely immune to the misconception about his predilection for the wet.

Bill Nettlefold commenced his VFL career in 1974 with Richmond, where he played 15 games and booted 6 goals in two seasons.  His stint with North followed, encompassing 51 games and 22 goals between 1976 and 1979, and he rounded off his career with 34 games and 14 goals for Melbourne between 1980 and 1982.  Most of his football was played as a ruck-rover, although he was sufficiently versatile to be able to do a job either as a forward or on the backlines as well.

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Thomas New (Brighton)

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A highly accomplished centreman, Tom New was a driving force behind Brighton's breakthrough premiership win of 1948, which came courtesy of a 13.16 (94) to 13.7 (85) grand final defeat of Williamstown.  He gave his club great service, but was unable to prevent the gradual post-premiership decline from which it never fully recovered.

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Ken Newland (Geelong & Footscray)

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When Ken 'Crackers' Newland made his senior VFL debut for Geelong against Footscray at the Western Oval in round 12 1965 he became, at sixteen years and 74 days, the club's youngest ever player. However, despite being aged just sixteen years and two months he seemed to ooze assurance, confidence and poise. The Cats tended to use him either on the ball or across half forward, and he was equally effective in both roles. A key tenet of Newland's play was his clever use of handball a la 'Polly' Farmer, and it was presumably no coincidence that during his time as a student at Warrnambool Tech Newland idolised the former East Perth big man.

Ken Newland's career at Kardinia Park comprised a total of 198 VFL games between 1965 and 1975 and in 1977-8.  He booted 243 goals.  Newland spent the 1976 season at Footscray, for whom he played 18 games and kicked a dozen goals.  He earned a Big V jumper for the win over South Australia on the Adelaide Oval in 1970.

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Ernest Newling (Geelong West & Geelong)

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'Bung' Newling overcame the not inconsiderable handicap of being blind in one eye to play some excellent football for Geelong in 150 games over eleven seasons.  Recruited from Geelong West, he played the game hard but fair, and was equally at home on the ball or minding a man in the backlines.  

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John Newman (Geelong)

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Nicknamed 'Sam', John Newman was a prodigiously talented ruckman who inherited Graham 'Polly' Farmer's mantle at Geelong.  Like Farmer, he was adept at using his body to attain the optimum position in ruck contests, and also like Farmer, he was a master of creative handball.  He made his VFL debut in 1964 and four years later, despite having sustained a serious kidney injury the previous year, he won the first of two club best and fairest awards.  In 1969, he achieved All Australian selection after the Adelaide carnival.  Later in his career, after he was beset by recurrent ankle problems, he moved from the ruck to centre half forward with considerable success.  Newman captained the Cats in 1974 and 1975, and represented the VFL on 8 occasions.  He retired in 1980 after 300 VFL games and 110 goals, and later embarked on a successful media career.  In 2001, 'Sam' Newman was included in Geelong's official 'Team of the Twentieth Century'.

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John Newnham (Fitzroy)

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John Newnham may only have played 106 games during his eight season VFL career with Fitzroy, but for much of that time he was without doubt one of the most effective and accomplished rovers in the competition.  Tough and quite stockily built, he was a superb ball winner, and his disposal skills were first rate.  He represented the VFL on 7 occasions.

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Don Nicholls (Carlton & Box Hill)

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Don Nicholls was the older brother of Carlton legend John.  Indeed, when the Carlton recruiting team initially turned up at the Nicholls residence it was Don, not John, that they were anxious to sign, and Don Nicholls made his VFL debut with the Blues a season before his brother.  Between 1956 and 1961 the elder Nicholls boy played 77 VFL games for Carlton, mainly as a centreman or defender.  He finished his senior career with VFA club Box Hill.

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Doug Nicholls (Northcote & Fitzroy)

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Arguably one of the most famous, and undeniably among the most important, Australians of the twentieth century, Doug Nicholls' most significant accomplishments transcended football.  Nevertheless, his football achievements alone merit considerable commendation.  A talented all round sportsman, Nicholls, who was a native Australian, had to overcome severe racial prejudice in order to make his mark.  He was a good boxer and sprinter, but his first love was football.  Having impressively commenced his senior football career with Tongala in the Kyabram District Junior Football Association, he ventured to Melbourne in order to try out with Carlton, but found the atmosphere to be somewhat less than hospitable.  Shortly afterwards, in 1927, he found a football home at Northcote, where he quickly established himself as a wingman of the highest quality, full of verve, pace and determination.  The racial slurs continued, but only from opposition players and supporters; at Northcote he was accepted for what he quintessentially was - a brilliant footballer.

Nicholls spent five seasons with the Brickfielders during the outset of what proved to be their most auspicious era.  In 1929 they reached their first VFA grand final, and with Nicholls in sparkling touch on a wing, ultimately overcame Port Melbourne by 42 points after struggling early on to kick straight.  Further grand finals followed in 1930-31, and again the team was well served by its electrifying wingman, but Oakleigh on both occasions managed to edge home.

In 1932, Doug Nicholls crossed to Fitzroy, where he enhanced his reputation still further.  The only aboriginal footballer in the VFL at the time, he spent six seasons with the Roys, playing 54 VFL games, and representing the VFL in 1935.  Despite the presence in the same team of other fine players such as Haydn Bunton senior, Jack Cashman and Wilfred 'Chicken' Smallhorn, however, the Maroons tended to struggle during Nicholls' time with them, with 5th position in 1933 their best return.  The Northcote success of 1929 therefore remained Nicholls' only involvement in a senior premiership.  His final taste of top level football was as coach of his former club, Northcote, in 1947, but it proved to be a disastrous year for the Brickfielders who managed just 4 wins from 20 matches to finish with the wooden spoon.

After his football career, Doug Nicholls was ordained as a pastor, and achieved much in public life, including a knighthood in 1972, and the governorship of South Australia.

Nowadays, many of the finest players in the game are native Australians, and doubtless the same would have been the case in the 1930s had society allowed.  However, in bravely confronting and overcoming deep-set racial bigotry Doug Nicholls played a key role in paving the way for a somewhat more tolerant, if far from perfect, modern Australia.

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Graham Nicholls (Norwood)

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Dubbed 'Old Nick' by team mates and supporters, Norwood's Graham Nicholls was once described as "one of the fairest, most placid 'triers' ever to grace SA league football" (see footnote 1).  After a total of 110 SANFL games in six seasons for the Demons, as they were known for much of his career, dual best and fairest winner Nicholls hung up his boots in 1960 in order to concentrate on his career as a professional singer.  He represented South Australia 4 times.

Footnotes

1.  The South Australian Football Yearbook 1960, page 50.  Return to Main Text

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John Nicholls (Carlton, Glenelg, Coburg)

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John Nicholls was one of if not the greatest ruckmen of all time simply because he knew how to use his abilities and physique - which in and of themselves were far from extraordinary - to the best possible effect.  Not blessed with the supreme all round skills of a Graham Farmer, or the mountainous height of a Len Thompson, nor yet the fearsome aggressiveness of a Jack Dyer, Nicholls was nevertheless consistently able to out-maneuvre opposing ruckmen of all physical types and attributes.  Moreover, he had an uncanny and arguably unequalled knack of extracting the maximum advantage from almost any on field situation, no matter how ostensibly inimical.

None of the above should be taken as implying that John Nicholls was a player devoid of skill, however.  Without wishing to become embroiled in a philosophical consideration of the nature of skill it is nevertheless worth pointing out for example that, unlike Farmer, say, Nicholls was very much a two-sided player.  Furthermore, his kicking was accurate and penetrative, and he handled the ball cleanly.  Whilst not possessed of blinding pace his astute judgement repeatedly enabled him to make position ahead of speedier opponents.  And while not given to indiscriminate violence his "piercing blue eyes gave the most frightening stare in football".  [see footnote 1]

All of which has the effect of intensifying the irony surrounding Nicholls' method of entry to League football, for it was actually John's brother Don - a centreman or defender - who was the original target of Carlton's recruitment team.  It was only after the boys' father intervened that it was agreed to let both brothers try out with the Blues.

Don Nicholls - no mean player himself - lasted six seasons and played 77 games with Carlton.  By the time his 'baby brother' retired in 1974 after eighteen seasons at Princes Park he had enjoyed arguably the most illustrious career of any Carlton champion.  Just about the only honour to elude him was the Brownlow Medal (although he was runner-up in 1966). A member of more VFL interstate teams (31) than any other player, 'Big Nick' gained All Australian selection after both the 1966 Hobart and 1969 Adelaide carnivals, being selected as captain on the latter occasion.  On no fewer than five occasions - a club record - he was chosen as Carlton's club champion.  As Blues skipper he held the premiership cup aloft after the grand finals of 1968, 1970 and 1972, having coached the team to the flag in the last named season.  With 328 club games by the time of his retirement Nicholls established another Carlton record (later broken by Bruce Doull).

In 1977, Nicholls was appointed coach of Glenelg, and managed to get the Tigers into the grand final in his first season; however, Port Adelaide proved just that bit too strong, and edged home by 7 points.  When the side dropped to 4th place the following season, Nicholls' left, resurfacing three years later as coach of VFA 1st division side Coburg whom he steered to 6th place in his sole season in charge.

When Carlton selected its official 'Team of the Century', John Nicholls was the presumably almost inevitable choice to lead the first ruck.

Footnotes

1.  From The Encyclopedia of League Footballers: Every AFL/VFL Player Since 1897 by Jim Main and Russell Holmesby, page 325.  Return to Main Text

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Reg Nicholls (Fitzroy)

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Arguably the first in a long line of top ranking post-war Fitzroy backmen - a line which would feature, among others, the likes of Robert Henderson, Kevin Murray, Gary Pert and Paul Roos - Reg Nicholls would doubtless be more generally fêted than he is today had he played more than just 64 VFL games in five seasons.  A superb all round defender, he was tenacious, willing and extremely difficult to beat.  As per the standard requirement for full backs of his era, he was also a majestic kick.  A VFL interstate representative in 1948 and 1949, he retired, somewhat prematurely one feels forced to infer, at the end of the 1950 season.

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Peter Nicks (Central District)

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Peter Nicks gave good service to Central District in 186 league games between 1968 and 1978.  Although he played mainly across half back he was capable of playing more or less anywhere.  His defensive skills were excellent, and opponents had to earn every disposal, but he also boasted fine judgement, and provided the Bulldogs with great rebound time and time again. 

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Ivor Nicolle (Sturt)

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Ivor Nicolle's name has been extolled and eulogised at Sturt ever since his last gasp goal in the 1919 challenge final replay against North Adelaide handed the club its second senior premiership, but he deserves to be remembered for a lot more.  A stalwart of the Double Blues line-up on either side of World War One, he was an energetic, resourceful and surprisingly pacy ruckman who often had an inspirational effect on his team mates.  He arrived at Sturt from Coromandel Valley in 1912 and soon established himself as a regular member of the first ruck, which was where he played when the Blues broke through for their first premiership in 1915 with a 2 goal challenge final victory over Port Adelaide.  After a three year break for the war, Nicolle's heroics helped Sturt to a second successive flag in 1919, and perhaps partly inspired by the experience he developed into an even more effective and influential player as he entered the twilight of his career.  As late as 1924, his second to last league season, the 'SA Footballer' was describing him as being "in championship form", with his displays late in the year in particular being "a revelation".  When Nicolle retired in 1925 he had played a total of 112 SAFL games and kicked 29 goals.  He represented South Australia 3 times.  

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Des Nisbet (St Kilda)

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Des Nisbet was a solid and reliable defender who played 107 VFL games and booted 6 goals for St Kilda in 1944 and between 1946 and 1952.  Originally from Caulfield City, he made life hard for opposition forwards, and was a tremendously loyal clubman who later served the Saints in a variety of off-field roles.

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Colin Niven (Fitzroy & Melbourne)

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Originally from Ballarat Football League side Maryborough, Colin Niven joined Fitzroy in 1929 and provided strong service, mainly as a follower, in 59 VFL games over the course of the next four seasons.  Pacy and rugged, he combined aerial prowess with long, accurate kicking, attributes which remained very much at the forefront of his game when he moved to Melbourne in 1933.  Niven spent the final three seasons of his league career with the Fuchsias, the last two as captain, and added a further 44 VFL games to his tally.  All told he booted 39 goals, 26 with the Roys, and 13 for Melbourne.

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John Nix (Richmond)

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John Nix was a centreman of considerable quality who gave Richmond 95 VFL games of consistent service between 1949 and 1956.  Originally from Trafalgar in the Central Gippsland Football League, he was a prolific possession winner who almost invariably used the ball to good effect.

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Michael Nolan (North Melbourne & Mayne)

 

Popularly known as 'the Galloping Gasometer', Mick Nolan commenced his senior football career with Wangaratta Rovers in the Ovens and Murray Football League where he was both a dual club best and fairest winner and a dual premiership player.  In 1973 he joined North Melbourne where, despite boasting a physique more appropriate to an overweight and out of condition publican than an elite footballer, he gave excellent service in 107 VFL games over eight seasons.  He was a prominent contributor to the club's first ever VFL premiership in 1975, and also played in the losing grand finals of 1976 and 1978. 

In 1981 he moved to Mayne as captain-coach.  He spent five years there, steering the side to its last QAFL premiership in 1982.  Besides playing more than 100 league games Nolan became a wonderful contributor to the Queensland state program as a player, coach and selector, undertaking a pivotal role during the successful years of the early 1980s that were a fore-runner to the advent of the Brisbane Bears. He died prematurely, aged fifty-eight, in May 2008 following a short battle with cancer.

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Alan Noonan (Essendon, Richmond, Coburg)

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Originally from Warrugul, Alan Noonan was widely acclaimed as the VFL recruit of the year after a stunning debut season with Essendon in 1966.  Playing mainly at centre half forward, he exhibited great coolness under pressure, a shrewdness beyond his years, and the ability to take a big grab and kick a long goal.  In 1967 he was selected to represent the VFL for the first of seven times, and also topped the Bombers goal kicking list with 40 goals.  He went on to kick 420 goals in 183 games at Essendon between 1966 and 1976, and was the club's leading goal kicker on a then record seven occasions (see footnote 1).  His best season in front of the sticks was 1974, when he booted 77 majors.

Noonan ended his VFL career with a brief, 10 game stint at Richmond in 1977.  He went on to play at Coburg in 1978, and finished his senior career with Keilor. 

Footnotes

1.  Matthew Lloyd has since broken this record.  Return to Main Text

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Paddy Noonan (Fitzroy, Carlton, North Melbourne, Williamstown)

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Paddy Noonan commenced his senior career with Fitzroy in 1896, and was a key member of the club's inaugural VFL line-up the following year.  A lively, gutsy and highly creative rover, his 36 VFL games in three seasons with the Maroons included the winning grand final of 1898 against Essendon.  In 1901 and 1902, Noonan added a further 19 league games with Carlton.  Crossing to North Melbourne as the club's new captain in 1903 he had the satisfaction, at season's end, of starring as first rover as his team downed Richmond in the grand final, 7.6 (48) to 3.9 (27), to clinch its first ever VFA premiership.  The following season North went back to back when it was awarded the flag after its grand final opponent, Richmond, refused to front up for the grand final because it objected to the VFA's choice of match umpire.  North had qualified for the premiership decider with a 6.13 (49) to 5.2 (32) defeat of Footscray in the final, and the team which took the field that day, in which Paddy Noonan lined up in a forward pocket, is regarded as its premiership combination.

After a brief time with Williamstown, Noonan returned to North Melbourne and in 1909, his last season, was appointed captain.  He later served the club in a number of off-field and administrative roles.

Over the years, North Melbourne has produced, or been home to, a fair number of top quality rovers.  One thinks, for instance, of names like Aylett, Cable, Harvey, Stevens and the Krakouer brothers.  However, arguably the first in that long line of great small men at North was the club's inaugural premiership captain, Paddy Noonan.

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David Norman (Collingwood)

Dave Norman was a tough, hard working rover who arrived at Collingwood from Ballarat North with whom he had won a Henderson Medal as the Ballarat competition's best and fairest player in 1960.  He proved to be a fine acquisition for the Magpies, giving useful service in 93 games from 1961 to 1966. Relentlessly hard at the ball, he had plenty of strength and courage, and could always be relied on to give 100%.  He was a damaging player when resting in a forward pocket as his career tally of 150 goals makes evident.  Norman was a member of Collingwood's losing grand final team against Melbourne in 1964 (match reviewed here).  The following season he topped the Magpies' goal kicking list with 32 goals.

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Jim Norman (Geelong)

Jim Norman only spent three seasons in league football but enjoyed premiership success in two of them. Nicknamed 'Jake', he joined Geelong from Wimmera League club Horsham and made his senior VFL debut in round 8 of the 1950 season against North Melbourne at Arden Street. A hefty ruckman or defender, Norman seemed to reserve his best form for important occasions, such as finals matches. He was not frightened to throw his weight around, but also boasted considerable pace for a big man, and his general skills were good.  He was a member of Geelong's first ruck in the 1951 grand final win over of Essendon, while a year later he was among the best players afield as the Cats went back to back by defeating Collingwood in what proved to be the last of Jim Norman's 37 games of league football.

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Charles Norris (Collingwood & Fitzroy)

Charles Norris was a determined and energetic follower who enjoyed premiership success with Collingwood in his debut league season of 1910.  Midway through the following season, however, after playing 18 games and kicking 4 goals for the Magpies, he crossed to Fitzroy, and was instrumental in that club's reemergence as a force after several years in the comparative doldrums.  By the time he retired in 1918 Norris had played a total of 106 VFL games for the Maroons, and booted 19 goals.  He was a member of Fitzroy's 1913 and 1916 premiership sides.

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Barry Norsworthy (Central District & Melbourne)

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A tough, nuggety rover, Barry Norsworthy made his league debut with Central District in 1969 while still at high school, and at the end of the year the majority of 'first year player of the year' awards went either to him, or to Norwood's Noel Pettingill.  A dual state representative, he struck a rich vein of form during the mid-1970s, winning consecutive club best and fairest awards in 1975 and 1976.  Norsworthy then spent the next three seasons with Melbourne but, having probably left his move to the VFL too late, managed just 21 senior games.  He returned to Elizabeth Oval in 1979 for two further seasons with the Bulldogs which took his final tally of SANFL games to 158. 

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Mark Norsworthy (Central District & East Fremantle)

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Mark Norsworthy was a hard working and skilled rover who was a vital member of Central District sides for over a decade.  Originally from Tea Tree Gully, he made his league debut for the Bulldogs in 1975, and when he retired at the end of the 1986 season he had played a total of 180 games and kicked 216 goals.  In 1981, the season after winning Centrals' best and fairest award, Norsworthy tried his luck in Western Australia with East Fremantle, where he played 19 games, but on the whole failed to do justice to his reputation.  A South Australian interstate representative on a couple of occasions, he topped Centrals' goal kicking list in 1980 with 40 goals.

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Stan Nowotny (Swan Districts)

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Recruited from Ashfield, Stan Nowotny went on to become one of Swan Districts' longest serving and most feted players.  He made his league debut in 1969, and went on to play a total of 277 club and 9 interstate games over the ensuing fourteen seasons.  For much of his career he played as a half back flanker, before developing into an outstanding ruck-rover.  Towards the end of his career he held down centre half forward and full forward with equal aplomb.  A combination of great resolve, courage and excellent recovery skills made him extremely difficult to beat one on one, but he was also the consummate team player. 

Voted Swans fairest and best in 1974, Nowotny ran second to East Fremantle's Graham Melrose in the Sandover Medal the same year.  The following season he again finished runner-up in the Sandover, this time to Alan Quartermaine of East Perth.  Captain of his club from 1977 to 1981, Nowotny continued playing for two years after that which enabled him to participate in successive grand final wins over Claremont.

Stan Nowotny gained a well warranted berth on a half back flank in Swan Districts' official 'Team of the Century'.  He was also chosen as vice-captain of the team. 

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Michael Nunan (Sturt, Richmond, Norwood, North Adelaide, Fitzroy)

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Diminutive rover Mick Nunan made his senior Sturt debut in 1966, but did not become a league regular until three years later.  Indeed, he failed to play a single senior game in 1968 after being overtaken in the 'pecking order' by Peter Endersbee.  Once he established himself, however, Nunan became a key figure in a Double Blues combination that was nearing the end of its five year reign over South Australian football.  He played in the club's last two grand final-winning teams of that era, and when the rebuilding phase was over and the Blues returned as a power in 1974 he was still very much a pivotal performer.  In that year's grand final defeat of Glenelg he was close to best afield, while two years later, when Sturt scored a sensational upset victory over Port Adelaide in the season's ultimate game, he was once again among the finest players on view.

In 1978, the Double Blues once again reached the grand final, but Nunan by this time was playing for their rivals for the premiership, Norwood, and had the satisfaction of making a telling contribution to the Redlegs' stunning come-from-behind win by the narrowest of margins (reviewed here).

Next port of call for Nunan was North Adelaide, where he added another 34 SANFL games to the 36 he had played with Norwood and the 189 appearances for Sturt.  He also represented South Australia 3 times, and in 1971, whilst on National Service duty in Melbourne, he played a single game for Richmond.

Nunan's major impact at North Adelaide was not as a player but as a coach, however.  When he assumed the coaching role in 1981 the Roosters had endured almost a decade of mediocrity, but under Nunan all that was to change as, between 1985 and 1991, the club contested five grand finals, for wins in 1987 and 1991.  Arguably of even greater significance than the statistical success, however, was the style in which it was achieved, as Nunan's teams played an exciting, aesthetically appealing brand of football which in some ways could be regarded as the logical consummation of the ideas and teachings of Nunan's former mentor, Jack Oatey.

After leaving North Adelaide at the end of the 1992 season, Nunan had a brief, thankless stint as coach of Fitzroy in 1996, before coaching South Australia's state league side on four occasions for four wins.  Even if his overall impact on the game was undermined to some extent by circumstances and developments outside his control, not least the wholesale re-shaping of the game to suit the financial needs of Victoria's VFL clubs, it was nevertheless a good deal more significant than might have seemed likely when he was vying with Peter Endersbee to assume Roger Dunn's mantle as second rover in the all-powerful Sturt side of the 1960s.

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George Nuss (Mayne)

by Murray Bird and Peter Blucher

George Nuss was a tough rover in the Leigh Matthews mould who won the J.L. Williams Medal for the 'best and manliest player in the Commonwealth' at the 1932 and '33 national schoolboy carnivals.  He forged a splendid career with Mayne despite a lengthy suspension which was overturned after a Queen's pardon.  Nuss played for Queensland from 1938 to 1949 and was regarded by many as being among the best players of his era.

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Damien Nygaard (Norwood & West Perth)

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Pacy and versatile, Damien Nygaard played in numerous different positions during his 96 game SANFL career with Norwood (plus 3 appearances for the state) between 1964 and 1969.  In his debut season, for example, he played successfully at full back, despite being considerably smaller and lighter (178cm, 78kg) than most opposition full forwards.  By the time of his final season, however, he had developed into one of the finest half forward flankers in the state.  His profile on a 1965 Mobil swap card ran thus:

Judgement and timing, rather than high leaps, get him most of his marks.  Plays close to opponents without losing any of his dash.  He is essentially a ball player, but has the ability to hand out solid bumps.

Ironically, he is probably best remembered for being on the wrong end of a solid bump after a collision with Glenelg strong man Neil Kerley during a match in 1969 resulted in Nygaard sustaining a broken jaw.  Despite the fact that Kerley clearly collected him with a raised forearm, Nygaard allegedly felt no bitterness about the incident, regarding it as part and parcel of football.

Damien Nygaard finished his Australian football career with West Perth where he was touted as a big name recruit, but sadly failed to fulfill his promise.  There was still time for one final flurry, however, this time in the foreign sport of gridiron as, in 1974, Nygaard tried his hand as a punter with NFL club the Green Bay Packers, more than a decade and a half before Darren Bennett, to somewhat greater fanfare, did the same.

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Bernard O'Brien (Footscray & Carlton)

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Bernie O'Brien was a fine rover who seemed to improve with age. He commenced his VFL career with Footscray in 1929, and after two seasons there crossed to Carlton, for whom he played 12 games and kicked 7 goals in 1931. O'Brien did not play league football in 1932 but the 1933 season saw him back at Footscray where he remained for half a dozen seasons, taking his final tally of games with the club to 88, and the number of goals kicked to 129. He was a member in 1937 of the VFL's victorious Perth carnival team.

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Daryl O'Brien (North Melbourne)

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Daryl O'Brien joined North Melbourne from West Coburg and was handed his senior VFL debut in 1960.  However, playing mainly as a half forward flanker, he signally failed to set the world on fire, and managed just a handful of games before being consigned to the seconds, where he went on to spend the whole of the following season.  At one point, he actually requested a clearance to Footscray, but the North hierarchy, presumably believing he still had the potential to make his mark, turned him down.  In 1962 he once again made the league side, this time as a half back flanker, and he swiftly adapted to the position as though born to it.  Pacy, tenacious and tough, he typically stuck to his direct opponent like a limpet, and soon became acknowledged as one of the hardest men to beat one on one in the league.  By the time he retired in 1969 he had played a total of 135 VFL games and kicked 8 goals, in the process eminently justifying the club's determination to hang onto him eight years earlier.

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Noel O'Brien (Carlton)

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Noel O'Brien was a full forward who boasted the apparent skill to become an out and out champion, but his VFL career was ruined by injury after just 32 games.  Carlton recruited him from Echuca, and after a steady and occasionally spectacular debut season in 1954 he really began to flower as a footballer the following year.  His tally of 73 goals for the season, in a side that comfortably missed the finals, was the second highest in the VFL, and pundits were beginning to predict great things for him.  However, he never recovered from an injury sustained in a pre-season practice match the following year, and his time in top level football was over.  His 32 league games yielded 118 goals.

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Paddy O'Brien (Yarraville, Carlton, Footscray)

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One of the supreme defenders of his or any era, Paddy O'Brien was recruited by Carlton from Yarraville and went on to enjoy an illustrious, 167 game league career with the Blues over the next thirteen and a bit seasons.  He was a regular choice as centre half back in VFL representative teams for much of that time, and was regarded as one of the toughest men in the game, a reputation in which he exulted.  On one occasion, after sending the hefty frame of Collingwood's Gordon Coventry crashing to the turf, he is alleged to have added insult to injury by declaring "you won't get toothache where those five teeth were!"

Despite his obvious relish for the physical aspects of the game, Paddy O'Brien was also a superb, clever and dashing footballer.  He played in Carlton premiership teams in 1914 and 1915, and captained the Blues in 1924.  In 1925 he began the season as Carlton's playing coach, but later in the year he crossed to Footscray, which was making its VFL debut that year.  He stayed with the Tricolours until the end of the following season, bringing his final tally of VFL games to 182.

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Phil O'Brien (Hawthorn)

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During his comparatively short VFL career Phil O'Brien was widely acknowledged as one of the most elusive and damaging small forwards in the game.  He joined Hawthorn from Donald and made the first of an eventual 86 league appearances in 1951.  He kicked 71 goals, and would doubtless have managed many more were it not for his unselfishness.  Indeed, O'Brien was the consummate team player, renowned for his ability to bring others into the game with crisp, intelligent foot passing, and clever handball.  He was chosen to represent the VFL in 1957, his penultimate league season.

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Frank 'Pakey' O'Callaghan (Perth & West Perth)

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One of the top rovers of his day, 'Pakey' O'Callaghan, having played 10 games for Perth in 1903, joined West Perth the following season, where he would add another 78 senior games over the remainder of his career, which spanned 1904-8 and 1914.  He was a vital member of the Cardinals' 1905 premiership team, which overcame East Fremantle in a replay.  The key to Old Easts' supremacy during the early years of the twentieth century was its formidable following division, which in 1905 comprised virtuoso ruckman Albert Heinrichs, the stolid and imperturbable Jim Thomas, and diminutive but devastating rover Dick Sweetman.  On this occasion, however, O'Callaghan and co. were able to match it with their intimidating adversaries to the extent that West Perth secured an improbable (and somewhat controversial) draw before edging home by 4 points in the replay.  It was the pinnacle of 'Pakey' O'Callaghan's career, as although the Cardinals again reached the grand final in 1906, they were comprehensively outplayed by a revitalised and vengeful Old Easts combination, and thereafter would not contest a flag for five seasons.

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John O'Connell (Claremont & Geelong)

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John O'Connell (left in the above photograph) was a tall (193cm), powerful ruckman and key position player who was capable of the odd burst of brilliance.  He marked well around the ground and was hard to beat at ruck contests.  Mobile, energetic and intelligent, he perhaps should have achieved more in the game than he did.  He made his league debut with Claremont in 1950 and after five seasons there moved to Geelong where he added 81 VFL games over the next six years.  Returning to Claremont in 1961 he took his final tally of WANFL games to 156 before retiring in 1963.  Sadly for O'Connell, that was the season before the perennially under-achieving Tigers were to break through for a long overdue flag (reviewed here). 

Despite the presence during O'Connell's time in Western Australia of great ruckmen such as Farmer, McIntosh and Clarke he was still chosen to represent the state on 10 occasions.  He also played for the VFL once.

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Leo O'Connor (Essendon & Valleys)

by Murray Bird and Peter Blucher

Originally from Warracknabeel in Victoria, Leo O'Connor played 10 games and kicked 6 goals for Essendon in 1910-11. He shifted to Queensland in his employment in 1911, but World War One and work pressures kept him out of football until 1919, when the QAFL resumed after a five-year break. He captained Valleys from 1919-24 and skippered Queensland from 1919-22. A key position utility, he was the 'gun' player of his era, an aloof but highly-respected leader who played a pivotal administrative role. Took over as president of the league immediately after he retired, and was credited with giving the game the impetus to grow through the late 1930s. He was involved in failed merger talks and experimental matches with rugby league in the early '30s. He also captained Queensland's first Sheffield Shield cricket side in 1926. His cricket career included centuries in both innings of a match against New South Wales at the SCG, and he was touted by the local press as the second wicket keeper for the 1930 Ashes tour, but as a  forty year old was not chosen. Leo O'Connor passed away as a ninety-five year old in 1985, after returning to Melbourne.

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Jim O'Dea (St Kilda & Dandenong)

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To Collingwood supporters of long standing, few names are as infamous as that of former St Kilda defender, Jim O'Dea, who in a behind the play incident during a match in 1972 was responsible for knocking out and seriously injuring Magpie starlet John Greening, who remained unconscious for twenty-four hours.  O'Dea was subsequently suspended for ten weeks, and the incident might be said to have scarred him almost as much as Greening (not that he attracted anywhere near as much sympathy, needless to say).  When public ire was at its height, he sought to conceal himself from public view to some extent by transferring briefly to VFA club Dandenong.

Originally from Noble Park-Harrisfield in the Federal Football League, O'Dea played 167 VFL games and kicked 7 goals for St Kilda between 1967 and 1980.  Most of football was played on the half back line, where he was steady, solid and - in the main - unobtrusive.

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Patrick O'Dea (Melbourne)

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Almost a century before former Melbourne and West Coast player Darren Bennett's much vaunted exploits as a punter in the NFL, Patrick John O'Dea became the first, and arguably most noteworthy, Australian footballer to transfer his talents to the American game.  Indeed, so remarkable were his achievements that in 1962, very shortly before his death, he was inducted into the official American College Football Hall of Fame, the only Australian to date to be so honoured.

The man who would end up being popularly dubbed 'the kicking kangaroo' first gave notice of his exceptional athletic ability when, in 1892, aged just sixteen, he made his senior debut for Melbourne in the VFA.  At a time when the very continued existence of the oldest club in football was under serious threat, O'Dea proved to be a rare shining light.  Midway through his debut season he was selected to represent Victoria in an intercolonial match against South Australia in Melbourne, and helped the home side to a 2 goal win (10.9 to 8.6, behinds not counting).  He later played twice more for the colony, whilst simultaneously helping Melbourne develop into one of the strongest teams in the Association.  A highly efficient if unspectacular all-round footballer, it was his prodigious kicking that really captured attention, and, at the time, perhaps only Essendon's Albert 'The Great' Thurgood enjoyed a higher reputation in that particular art.

In 1896, however, Pat O'Dea left the world of suburban Australian football competition far behind him when he travelled to the USA to embark on a course of study at the University of Wisconsin.  While there, he was tempted to try his hand at the local version of football, and the results were so spectacular that he ended up re-writing some of the sport's records.  On one occasion, for example, he was reputed to have punt-kicked the American ball an all time record distance of 110 yards.  More verifiably, on 15 November 1898 he drop-kicked a goal from a distance measured at either 83 or 62 yards, depending on which source you refer to.  He was also credited with a run of 90 yards against Beloit in 1899.  During the 1890s, and indeed for some time afterwards, inter-collegiate football was the pre-eminent version of the code, and Pat O'Dea remained heavily involved as both a player - earning All American selection in 1899 - and coach (initially of highly renowned football college Notre Dame, and later of Missouri) until 1902.  In 1917, however, 'the kicking kangaroo', who was still a subject of persistent scrutiny and adulation, decided that he had had enough of the celebrity lifestyle, and for the remaining forty-five years of his life remained determinedly out of the limelight.  His remarkable achievements, however, ensure that his name will continue to be remembered, and extolled, for many years to come - although, in keeping with the lamentable ignorance which Americans all too often display toward anything occurring outside their immediate ken, official gridiron records persist in referring to O'Dea as a former Australian rugby player.

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Peter O'Donohue (Hawthorn, West Perth, Northcote)

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An extremely versatile footballer, Peter O'Donohue was a key member of Hawthorn sides in 109 VFL games from 1942 to 1943 and between 1946 to 1952.  Probably best suited to a defensive role, he could also do a more than serviceable job across centre when required.  In 1953 he was appointed captain coach of West Perth, and steered his side to a grand final encounter with South Fremantle in his first season.  Playing at full back, O'Donohue was one of the few Cardinals players to do justice to himself in a 59 point reversal.  He remained in the west in 1954 but was only able to get his team as far as the preliminary final this time.  In 1955, he headed back east, where he continued his coaching career with various clubs, including Deniliquin (Murray Football League) and Northcote (VFA).  He returned to Hawthorn as non-playing coach in 1966, but the side managed just 5 wins from 18 games to finish a disappointing 9th.

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Gary O'Donnell (Essendon)

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Essendon recruited Gary O'Donnell from North Ringwood in 1983, but such was the all round strength of the Bombers' line-up that it was four years before he managed to break into the senior team.  Once there, he never looked back, establishing a reputation as one of the most versatile and damaging on-ballers in the game.  Equally effective as a tagger or in a free-running role, the left-footed O'Donnell was one of the leading lights in Essendon's 1993 premiership team, during a season which saw him finally break through for a club best and fairest award after finishing in the frame on several previous occasions.  Gary O'Donnell retired in 1998 after 243 V/AFL games and 88 goals for the Bombers.  He was club skipper in 1996 and 1997.

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Oswald O'Grady (West Torrens)

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Probably best remembered for an extended stint as West Torrens chairman, Ossie O'Grady was also a fine footballer, whose career with the blue and golds included participation in the club's inaugural premiership win in 1924 (briefly reviewed here).  One of that rare group of league footballers to have played the game wearing spectacles, O'Grady was a combative and speedy player who excelled at finding space when the going was tight.  An accurate though not long kick, he played for most of his career as a rover resting, often with telling effect, in the forward lines.  His 4 interstate matches for South Australia yielded 8 goals.

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David O'Halloran (Hawthorn)

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David O'Halloran was an assured, undemonstrative and highly effective defender who, despite missing a fair few games with injury, enjoyed a fine, ten season VFL career with Hawthorn.  He joined the Hawks from Ivanhoe Grammar and debuted in 1976.  At the end of that season he played on a half back flank in a 13.22 (100) to 10.10 (70) grand final defeat of North Melbourne.  Seven years later he was a member of a second premiership side, this time in a back pocket, as the Hawks trounced Essendon by a then record margin of 83 points.  O'Halloran was by no means the quickest defender going around, but he had safe hands, and almost invariably distributed the ball to good effect.  A Victorian state representative, the last of his 160 VFL games for Hawthorn came in the losing grand final of 1985 against Essendon.

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Jack O'Halloran (Essendon, North Melbourne, Footscray, Yarraville, Springvale)

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Essendon recruited Jack O'Halloran from Essendon YCW in 1947 and after a three season grounding in the seconds he made his league debut in 1950.  However, the Dons already had a trio of accomplished rovers in Bill Hutchison, Ron McEwin and Greg Tate, and he struggled to secure a regular spot in the seniors.  He did, however, win a seconds best and fairest award, play in a seconds premiership team, and finish runner-up on a countback in the 1950 Gardiner Medal (he was later awarded a retrospective Medal by the VFL).  In 1952, after just 10 VFL games, he crossed to North Melbourne where he quickly showed what a useful player he was.  Tough, fearless and combative, he played 76 VFL games in five seasons with the 'Roos, kicking 56 goals.  He won the club's best and fairest award in 1953.  In 1957 he transferred to Footscray where he finished his VFL career with 17 games in a season and a half.  Late in the 1958 season he moved to Yarraville where he played just 1 game before spending the rest of the season with Springvale.  The following season saw him back with Yarraville, where he finished his career.

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Thomas O'Halloran (Richmond)

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Possessed of great courage, and one of the best marks in the VFL at the time, New Zealander O’Halloran, who made his league debut in 1925, suffered the misfortune of playing in four losing grand finals before finally participating in a premiership win in 1932. After playing in yet another losing grand final the following season he finished his league career in the best possible fashion with another flag in 1934. A versatile player, O’Halloran was equally at home leading the rucks or holding down a position on the Tiger forward lines. Not the prettiest player to watch and a poorer than average kick, O’Halloran more than compensated for these deficiencies with his formidable high marking and his resolute determination to win the ball. He was Richmond’s best and fairest player in 1925 at the outset of a 142 game, 120 goal career which also saw him represent the VFL ‘B’ team twice.

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Edward O'Keefe (West Perth)

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Rugged, tough and consistently reliable, Edward 'Checker' O'Keefe was without doubt one of the greatest players in the illustrious history of the West Perth Football Club.  He played for the Cardinals between 1933 and 1946, including the winning grand finals of 1934-35 and 1941.  A Sandover Medallist in 1940, he emphasised his pedigree by taking out the club's fairest and best award every year from 1938 to 1941.  O'Keefe was a highly versatile footballer, equally effective across half back or in the ruck.  Renowned for playing with a broad grin plastered across his face, he represented Western Australia half a dozen times.  In October 2000 he was selected as a member of the 1st ruck in West Perth's official 'Team of the Century'.

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Kevin O'Keeffe (Fitzroy, East Perth, Coorparoo)

Kevin O'Keeffe was a fearless and dashing defender in 92 games at Fitzroy from 1973 to 1980 and in 1982, and 24 games for East Perth (1980-1).  He also played state football for the VFL.  In 1983 he moved to Coorparoo and was catapulted into the Queensland side within a fortnight of arriving.  In the end, he represented Queensland 16 times, and would almost certainly have made more appearances were it not for injury.  Premierships in 1984 and 1986, the state captaincy in '86 and a stint as Coorparoo coach in the late '80s completed an outstanding QAFL career.

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John O'Mahoney (Hawthorn)

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Recruited by Hawthorn from Camberwell Juniors in 1951 John O'Mahoney went on to give 112 VFL games worth of fine service over the ensuing ten seasons.  Known as 'Bones', he was a highly gifted footballer who excelled at bringing his team mates into the game.  He was unfortunate to retire in 1960, the season before the Hawks broke through for their first ever VFL flag.

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James O'Meara (East Perth, Kalgoorlie Railways, South Melbourne, Fitzroy)

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After playing 68 games for East Perth, during which time he won the club's 1927 fairest and best award, 'Brum' O'Meara was lured to the goldfields by a Kalgoorlie Railways team which was, it seemed, able to offer him the prospect of secure work during a time when the economy generally was in decline.  A highly polished centreman or half forward, O'Meara was a prominent figure for Railways in the club's 1929 and 1931 premiership wins, but for the last eighteen months of his time on the goldfields O'Meara endured a hand to mouth existence as the promised work dried up.

In 1933 South Melbourne came to O'Meara's rescue, offering not only the prospect of a steady income from football, but an excellent job at Crofts stores as well.  The solidly built Western Australian more than adequately repaid the club with three and a half excellent seasons, including a strong performance on a half forward flank in the winning 1933 grand final against Richmond.  After 47 games for the Blood-Stained Angels O'Meara crossed to Fitzroy midway through the 1936 season but managed only 10 more VFL games before calling it a day the following year.

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John O'Neill (Geelong)

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Geelong's Warrnambool recruit John O'Neill was a high class wingman/half forward and occasional rover renowned for his impeccable disposal skills and reliable overhead marking.  Skilful, pacy and with the invaluable knack of always seeming able to anticipate where the ball was going to land, he gave the Cats fine service in 136 VFL games between 1954 and 1962.  Club best and fairest in 1958, despite missing 5 games with a broken wrist, O'Neill was also selected to represent the VFL on 4 occasions.

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William O'Neill (Claremont)

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A tough and reliable half back flanker or centre half back, Bill O'Neill played 98 games for Claremont in a war-interrupted career that began in 1938 and ended ten years later.  Somewhat ahead of his time in that, in addition to minding his man to perfection, he was often the lynch-pin of Claremont attacking thrusts, he got better and more influential the longer his career went on, winning a fairest and best award in his second to last season, as well as representing Western Australia at the Hobart carnival.  

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Jack O'Rourke (Richmond)

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Jack O'Rourke was a spectacular and highly effective full forward who should perhaps have achieved a good deal more in the game than he did.  As it was, he played 44 VFL games for Richmond between 1949 and 1953, kicking 134 goals.  Had he not been such a frequent victim of injury, both totals would have been considerably higher.  His best seasons in terms of fitness were 1951 and 1952, in both of which he topped the Tigers' goal kicking list with tallies of 58 and 43 goals respectively.  After Jack Dyer was sacked as Richmond coach at the end of the 1952 season O'Rourke played briefly under his successor, Alby Pannam, but then decided to express his dissatisfaction with the situation by bringing down the curtain on his VFL career.  To call his decision disconcerting would be to understate the matter given that he was only twenty-five years old at the time, and presumably had plenty of good football left in his legs.

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George Oakley (South Fremantle, West Adelaide, Subiaco, East Perth)

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George Oakley was a talented football nomad who enjoyed an outstanding career with four league clubs in two states.  He commenced with South Fremantle in 1908, where he showed enormous promise as a fast moving, quick thinking and skilful half forward flanker.  In 1911 he crossed to West Adelaide where he made significant contributions to the club's premiership wins both that year and the next.  He also played in the winning club championship of Australia match against Essendon on the Adelaide Oval in 1911.  Between 1911 and 1913, Oakley played a total of 42 league matches for the red and blacks, as well as representing South Australia in 8 of the 11 matches played by the state during the period.  This included games at the 1911 Adelaide carnival, from which South Australia emerged as unbeaten victors, meaning that Oakley enjoyed the rare distinction that year of being a member of both the club and state champion teams of the nation.

In 1914, George Oakley returned home to Western Australia where he joined reigning premier Subiaco, performing with great poise and effectiveness right from the start, and earning selection in Western Australia's squad for the 1914 Sydney carnival, where he played in all 5 of the state's matches.  By now an extremely versatile footballer, capable of holding down any key position on the ground in addition to his more usual role as a free roaming half forward, his 25 games in two seasons with the Maroons culminated in a strong performance at centre half back in the side's 2 point win over Perth in the 1915 premiership decider.  After that, Oakley returned to South Australia, but he returned to the west in 1920 to embark on one final stint of league football with East Perth.  In two seasons with the Royals, he played a total of 27 WAFL games, which included the winning grand final of 1920 against East Fremantle, when he was one of the best players on view.

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Fred Oaten (West Torrens)

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A comparatively unsung member of the strong West Torrens sides of the early to mid-1920s, Fred Oaten was nevertheless sufficiently accomplished and highly thought of to achieve interstate selection for South Australia on 5 occasions.  He played most of his football on a wing, where he was resourceful, intelligent and lively.  When Torrens defeated Sturt 9.12 (66) to 8.10 (58) in the 1924 challenge final (match briefly reviewed here), Fred Oaten, who comprehensively outpointed his direct opponent in Glen Hale, was rated as one of the best players afield.

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Max Oaten (South Melbourne)

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Deceptively relaxed, indeed almost lethargic, in approach, Max Oaten was actually a useful full forward who headed South Melbourne's goal kicking ladder with 34 goals in 1958 and 39 two years later.  Tall and bony, he made full use of his height to take some telling marks.  He tallied 133 goals in all in his 80 game VFL career which ran from 1956 until 1962.

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Jack Oatey (Norwood, South Melbourne, West Adelaide, Sturt)

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Although he was born in Adelaide, Jack Oatey grew up in Maitland on the Yorke Peninsula, where his father Ted moved with his family during the Depression in order to find work.  Ted Oatey was a fine footballer, who had played as a rover in the SAFL with Port Adelaide and West Torrens, and the young Jack was keen to follow in his footsteps.  For a youngster growing up in a South Australian country town during the 1930s there was very little to do in the way of recreation other than play sport, and this suited Jack Oatey just fine.  At the age of fourteen he followed his father into the Maitland senior team, and for the next five seasons he garnered a reputation as a wily and tenacious goal kicking rover.

Oatey moved back to the city in 1940 when he joined Norwood.  In a war-interrupted league career he played 181 games for the Redlegs (plus 7 for the state), winning four club best and fairest awards, and captain-coaching the team from 1945 to 1952.  During his time at the helm he oversaw premiership wins in 1946, 1948 and 1950, and despite his noteworthy accomplishments as a player, it would be chiefly as a coach that he would make his name.

During his active service in World War Two, Jack Oatey was briefly stationed in Victoria, where he played a handful of games for South Melbourne, an experience which played a significant part in shaping his coaching style.  For one thing, Oatey was struck by how much more team-orientated the Victorian players were when compared to their counterparts in South Australia; shepherding, tackling, smothering and all the supposedly unglamorous aspects of football were essential components in every VFL footballer's armoury, and the ultimate effect of this was to make life for the player actually in possession of the ball considerably easier.  Although Oatey's great rival Fos Williams is normally credited with introducing a Victorian mentality into South Australian football, there were elements of the typical VFL game, notably the 'all for one, one for all' team ethic, which Oatey implemented first.  During his time at Sturt in particular, success was repeatedly achieved by teams ostensibly devoid of stars, which is not to imply that the players lacked talent - far from it, footballers like Bagshaw, Schoff, Adcock, Shearman and Graham were all among the finest in the competition - merely that that talent was ineluctably channeled towards team goals.  Had Paul Bagshaw, for instance, played for virtually any other SANFL club, he would probably have won at least one Magarey Medal.  As it was, the best he could manage was coming a distant third, twelve votes behind winner Barrie Robran, in 1973.  But then Bagshaw played in seven premiership teams, compared to Robran's two.

After finishing his career as a player, Jack Oatey remained at Norwood as non-playing coach for another four seasons before obeying the interior whisper that told him it was time for a change by accepting the position of senior coach at West Adelaide.  His time with the Bloods was almost unendurably frustrating, yielding one hundred per cent finals participation coupled with one hundred per cent ultimate failure, much of it at the hands of Port Adelaide, in four seasons in charge.

The frustration must, if anything, have been intensified in 1961 when, in a year away from the game, Oatey watched his protégé Neil Kerley guide the players that Oatey had nurtured and schooled for the previous four years to an elusive flag.  Perhaps it was this that re-kindled his passion for the game, but whatever the reason, in 1962 Oatey took over the senior coaching job at Sturt, a club which had not secured a premiership since 1940.  Under Oatey the Blues would secure no fewer than seven in a glorious eleven season period from 1966 to 1976, including five in succession between 1966 and 1970.  In the process, although the word tends to be over-used, the team would revolutionise South Australian football, raising standards both of skill and professionalism to unprecedented heights.  Oatey himself was central to this process, exhorting, instructing, encouraging - but above all, always ensuring that football, for players and spectators alike, was something to be enjoyed, a game and not a chore.

Statistically, Oatey's record as a coach was remarkable: in thirty-seven years at the helm he masterminded ten premierships, an achievement only Port Adelaide's John Cahill, among South Australian coaches, can match.  Only four times during those thirty-seven years did the team he was coaching fail to qualify for the finals.  However, Oatey's legacy to Australian football goes way beyond the merely statistical, impinging in a sense on the very soul of the game.  Although he was in no way connected to South Australia's inaugural AFL club, the Adelaide Crows, there was a sense in which their premierships in 1997-98, and in particular the style in which they were achieved, bore direct and eloquent testimony to Oatey's impact on South Australian football, and if there truly is a heaven above he would doubtless have been looking down with no small measure of pride, and smiling.

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Robert Oatey (Norwood & Sturt)

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Like his father Jack, Robert Oatey was a top class rover, boasting intelligence, skill and tenacity in sufficient measure to enable him, arguably, to fall only narrowly short of true champions' stature.  As a youngster he had actually been better at baseball than football, but, preferring the latter, he stuck at it, and gradually improved.  Whilst at Norwood Boys' High School he spent four seasons as a member of the first eighteen, two of them as captain.  Late in 1960 he began playing with Norwood's Thirds team, ultimately helping them to the premiership.  His league career commenced the following season and ended in 1978, during which time he played 232 games for Norwood, 69 for Sturt, and 9 for South Australia.  During his peak years of the late 1960s and early '70s he won Norwood's best and fairest award four times, was runner-up in the 1968 Magarey Medal, and on three occasions topped his club's goal kicking list.  Such achievements are all the more remarkable when you consider that, between 1968 and 1973, he was also Norwood's coach, not with any conspicuous success it must be said, but in hindsight it is possible to discern how the framework for the club's noteworthy achievements under Bob Hammond and Neil Balme was constructed under Oatey.  A skills-orientated coach like his father, he recognised the importance of a sound developmental infrastructure, and it was during Oatey's tenure as coach that the ultimately highly successful 'Norwood Academy' for young players was inaugurated.

After being controversially dumped as Norwood coach after steering the side to 4th place in 1973 Robert Oatey crossed to his father's club, Sturt, where he finished his career as a player.  In 1974 he was a member of the Blues team which defeated Glenelg in the first ever grand final to be played at Football Park.

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Peter Obst (Port Adelaide & Woodville)

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Lithe, dexterous, and a superbly adroit mark, Peter Obst was in many ways an atypical Port Adelaide footballer of the Fos Williams era, and, in terms of physique and playing style, the almost complete antithesis of brother Trevor.  He made his league debut in 1955 but struggled for a couple of seasons to acquire a regular place in the all conquering Magpie line-up.  He was 20th man in the 1956 premiership team, and then played as a half forward in the grand final wins of 1957 (when he was close to best afield), 1958 and 1959.  Probably his best year in football came in 1962 when he won Port's best and fairest award on the strength of a dazzling first half of the season that saw him installed as an early favourite for the Magarey Medal.  His form fell away somewhat after that, but he again hit his straps when the major round arrived, and was a key figure in the centre during the Magpies' 3 point grand final win over West Adelaide.  Obst's sixth and last premiership came the following year when he helped Port to a comfortable 34 point defeat of North Adelaide.

The 1965 season saw Peter Obst appointed captain-coach of Woodville, but in three seasons at the club he failed to get them above 8th place on the ladder.  On a personal note, he topped the 'Peckers' goal kicking list in 1967 with 28 goals.  In 1968 he returned to Port Adelaide, and although he had lost a metre or two in pace he remained a useful player for the Magpies for another couple of seasons.  During the course of his sixteen season career Obst played a total of 222 league games comprising 171 with Port and 51 with Woodville.  He also represented South Australia on 4 occasions.  After his retirement as a player he worked as a football commentator for a time on the ABC.

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Trevor Obst (Port Adelaide)

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Pacy and highly skilled despite his rotund appearance, Trevor 'Bubbles' Obst played 205 games for Port Adelaide between 1959 and 1972.  Best remembered as a rebounding back pocket player, he also performed more than serviceably in the forward lines and as a rover, as well as across half back.  He represented his state half a dozen times and was a member of four Magpie premiership teams, but his greatest achievement was winning the 1967 Magarey Medal.  Permanent defenders do not typically fare well in best and fairest counts, and Obst's name did not feature prominently in pre-count speculation (see footnote 1), but his dashing, tearaway style was singularly eye-catching, and his victory was universally acclaimed.  Two years after his Medal win, Obst arguably displayed even more eye catching and consistent form in a Port Adelaide team that suffered the almost unprecedented ignominy of failing to qualify for the finals.  His prowess was rewarded with selection in the back pocket in the prestigious 'Advertiser' Team of the Year. 

Footnotes

1.  For example, when 'Footy World' asked its five lead writers to speculate as to the outcome of the count, four of the five suggested North Adelaide's Don Lindner, who would ultimately finish second on a countback, as the likely winner, while Bill Sutherland plumped for Obst's back pocket counterpart at West Adelaide, Trevor HughesReturn to Main Text

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Fred Odgers (Sturt, New Town, Penguin)

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A skilful and extremely pacy rover - indeed, in the view of some, the quickest player in South Australia at the time - Freddy Odgers commenced with Sturt when league football resumed after World War One in 1919.  He had already proved himself an accomplished footballer playing in the wartime Patriotic competition, and he was a key factor in Sturt's achieving what was effectively, given that they had won the premiership in the last season before the war, a second consecutive flag in 1919.  Between 1919 and 1922 he played 56 senior games for the Double Blues, and booted 41 goals.  He also represented South Australia once.  In 1923 he transferred to New Town, where he joined his former Sturt team mate and 1919 premiership captain-coach Bill Mayman, who had been playing with the club since its debut in the TFL the previous year.  Odgers spent just one season with New Town, but it was an auspicious one.  He had an extremely consistent year, helping the club to its first ever TFL grand final, which was only narrowly lost against a much more experienced and finals hardened North Hobart combination.  Most reports rated Odgers as New Town's best performer on grand final day.  He also achieved selection for the TFL on several occasions during the year, including the noteworthy match against a South Australian 'B' combination in Adelaide in which the TFL scored a memorable 32 point win (match reviewed here).  In 1924 he crossed to Penguin and became that club's first ever Cheel Medallist.

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Edward 'Ned' Officer (Essendon)

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'Ned' Officer, who joined Essendon from Scotch College, was one of the finest full backs of the late nineteenth century.  Big, burly and athletic, he played the position with vigour, authority and panache.  He was a superb kick, and combined great aerial ability with solid ground play.  Originally from Tasmania, he moved to Melbourne without having played senior football in order to study medicine.  When Essendon won four consecutive VFA premierships between 1891 and 1894, Officer was a stalwart of the side, and one of its key performers.  His last season, 1897, was his club's first in the VFL.  After retiring from football he moved to Perth where he worked as a doctor.

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Gordon Ogden (Melbourne, Williamstown, Yarraville)

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Nuggety, pacy and tough, Gordon Ogden was the quintessential back pocket player, and one of the very best of his era.  He spent a decade with Melbourne, commencing in 1928, and played a total of 134 VFL games.  He also represented the VFL on 5 occasions.  After leaving the Fuchsias he joined Williamstown where he played a total of 56 VFA games from 1939 to 1941and in 1945, serving as captain-coach in his first three seasons.  In 1939 he steered the Seagulls to a 9 point grand final win against Brunswick.  Most of Ogden's football with Williamstown was played on a half back flank.  In 1948 and 1949 he returned to the club as non-playing coach.  He later coached Yarraville, transforming a team that had finished last in the three seasons prior to his appointment into a grand finalist in 1953, which was his third year at the helm.

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Percy Ogden (Collingwood, Essendon Association, Preston, Essendon, Northcote)

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In 1905, Percy Ogden undertook his first attempt to make it in the VFL when he joined Collingwood, but after just 4 games he was invited to try his luck elsewhere.  A brief stint with Essendon Association followed, after which he spent four seasons with fellow VFA side Preston.  In 1910, Ogden had a second stab at league football, this time with Essendon, where he rapidly established himself as one of the finest rovers in the competition.  Small but well built, he combined strength, stamina and agility in rare measure.  A prodigious kick, he never panicked under pressure, and almost always managed to dispose of the ball effectively.  Ogden was on a half forward flank in Essendon's grand final defeat of Collingwood in 1911, and was first rover, and among the best players afield, in the 1912 flag side, when South Melbourne was vanquished.  He represented the VFL at the carnivals of 1914 in Sydney and 1921 in Perth, as well as in 1912, 1913, 1919 and 1920.  When Essendon temporarily disbanded in 1916 and 1917, Ogden returned to his former club Preston, which was at that time a member of the Victorian Junior Football Association.  He returned to the Same Old in 1918 and continued for another four seasons to take his final tally of games with the club to 161.  Between 1919 and 1921 he was club captain, while midway through the 1920 season he took over from Jack Worrall as coach, a position he retained for the remainder of his Essendon career.  After leaving the VFL Ogden spent the 1922 season as captain-coach of Northcote before rounding off his playing career with three finals seasons at Preston, the last two as captain-coach.

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Ted Ohlson (Richmond)

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Ted Ohlson was a stalwart of Richmond's early VFL sides, playing 105 games and kicking 36 goals between 1908 and 1915.  Renowned for his hard-hitting style, he captained the club in 1912.  In one game during the 1912 season he was persistently booed by Richmond supporters who felt he was playing dead.  However, it later emerged that he had broken his shoulder earlier in the game, but in typically brave fashion had elected to (pun intended) shoulder on regardless.

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Howard Okey (Essendon)

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Purposeful, long striding, and almost invariably a step or two ahead of the opposition, Howard Okey was one of the brightest lights at Essendon between 1928 and 1934 in what was a comparatively lean time for the club.  Initially used mainly as a half forward, he later developed into a top notch centreman, representing the VFL in that position on three occasions, and winning the Dons' premier individual award in 1929.  When he retired at the end of the 1934 season he had played 109 VFL games and kicked 52 goals.  He later served as an Essendon committee member for twenty-seven years.

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Doug Olds (Norwood)

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Abundantly skilled, energetic and courageous, Maitland boy Doug Olds was a firm favourite among Norwood supporters for well over a decade, his effervescent commitment to the cause frequently enabling him to achieve ascendancy over opponents seemingly, if not literally, twice his size and weight.  All told he played 214 senior games between 1944 and 1957, including three with the Norwood-North Adelaide wartime combine, making him the first ever Norwood player to pass the 200 game barrier.  A triple club best and fairest award recipient and runner-up in the 1945 Magarey Medal count, he was an interstate representative on 11 occasions for South Australia for whom his exhilarating performances on a wing at the 1950 Brisbane carnival earned him selection in that season's 'Sporting Life' Team Of The Year.  Possessed of "determination out of all proportion to his tiny frame" (see footnote 1), Doug Olds was a worthy inclusion, at right centre wing, in Norwood's official 'Team of the Twentieth Century'.  In 1963 and 1964 he served as non-playing coach of the Redlegs, steering the team to 5th and 6th place finishes.

Footnotes

1.  The Pash Papers by Jeff Pash, page 171.  Olds was just 162cm tall, and weighed a mere 63.5kg.  Return to Main Text

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Douglas Oliphant (Perth & Fitzroy)

A powerful, hard running and adaptable footballer, Doug Oliphant was a shining light for Perth during a generally bleak era for the club.  Between 1927 and 1940 and in 1945 he played a total of 214 senior games and in the process earned virtually every honour the game had to offer, bar a premiership.  Equally effective either in the ruck or in a key forward position, Oliphant captained the Redlegs in 1940, and was a dual winner of the club's fairest and best award, as well as finishing second to Claremont's George Moloney in the 1936 Sandover Medal count.  He topped Perth's goal kicking list on three occasions, and the league's, with 84 goals, in 1931.  Oliphant represented Western Australia half a dozen times, kicking 6 goals.  While stationed in Melbourne on military service in 1942 he played 7 VFL games and kicked 11 goals for Fitzroy.   He was selected as a follower in Perth's official 'Team of the Century'.

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Harold Oliver (Port Adelaide)

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In the words of Magarey Medallist, Sturt football champion and Australian Test cricketer Victor York Richardson Harold Oliver of Port Adelaide was "the finest all-round exponent of Australian football in my playing and watching experience of it".  Renowned for his spectacular high marking, Oliver was also extremely quick, had exceptional ball handling skills, and showed enormous versatility, being equally at home in attack, defence or on the ball.

For many years Harold Oliver was popularly considered the greatest South Australian footballer never to win a Magarey Medal.  He did, however, win Port's major award on two occasions, and was a regular (13 games), and successful, interstate representative, participating in three carnival teams, including the successful 1911 side.

A first generation Australian, born in South Australia's Riverland region to Cornish parents, Oliver played in the Western Suburban Association when he first moved to Adelaide, and before long he was being courted by both West Torrens and Port Adelaide.  The Magpies it was who ultimately procured his signature, and in 1910 he made his league debut.  With his uncanny ability to elevate himself high above even the densest of packs he soon became the most feted footballer in South Australia, eliciting chants from the crowd of 'OL-I-VER!' every time he flew for the ball.

His league career was interrupted during World War One when he returned to the family's fruit block on the river Murray, and he remained there for most of the 1919 season, when full-scale football resumed.  In 1920 he managed just 8 games, but the following year he was back in the Port Adelaide fold on a full time basis, thanks to the generosity of a group of club supporters who banded together to buy him a motor bike.  As Port skipper in 1921, Oliver led the Magpies to a memorable premiership victory over arch rivals Norwood.

Harold Oliver's last 5 appearances in a Port Adelaide jumper came during a 1922 season which lifted his final SAFL games tally to 117.

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William Oliver (South Adelaide)

Bill Oliver was twenty-three when he commenced his league career with South Adelaide in 1920, with some of his best years having been lost to the war.  Chosen as full back in the club's official 'Greatest Team', he was a rugged and highly dependable defender who played a total of 149 senior games between 1920 and 1929.  He was captain of South in 1926, 1927 and 1929, and won the club's best and fairest trophy twice.  He was a stalwart in South Australian interstate sides for several years, making a total of 13 appearances and kicking 6 goals, including games at the 1927 Melbourne carnival.

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Arthur Olliver (Footscray, New Norfolk, West Perth)

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One of Footscray's greatest ever servants, Arthur Olliver played 272 VFL games and kicked 354 goals for the club between 1935 and 1950.  A perfectly proportioned big man at 189cm and 89.5kg he boasted all the skills of the game in ample measure, and was an inspirational on-field leader to boot.  He won his team's best and fairest player award jointly with Norm Ware in 1941, and in his own right three years later.  In seven seasons as captain-coach he got the Bulldogs into the finals three times, and saw them miss out narrowly twice.  A VFL representative player in both 1941 and 1948, Olliver was included on the interchange bench in Footscray's official 'Team of the Twentieth Century'.

After leaving the Bulldogs at the end of the 1950 season, Arthur Olliver was appointed captain-coach of TANFL club New Norfolk, where he stayed for three years.  In his debut season he won his club's best and fairest award, and captain-coached the Tasmanian state team.

Olliver's last involvement in top level football was as non-playing coach of West Perth between 1960 and 1963 where he steered the side to 1st, 5th, 3rd and 5th place finishes for a commendable overall success rate of 56.2%. 

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Max Oppy (Richmond)

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Max Oppy was a determined, courageous and extremely physical player who began his VFL career with Richmond as a rover before developing into one of the finest permanent back pocket specialists in the league.  He was first rover, and one of the best players afield, in the Tigers' 5 point grand final win over Essendon in 1943, while in the following season's loss to Fitzroy he played, if anything, even better on the last line of defence.  Renowned for his ability to play, and play well, while suffering from injuries that would have sidelined most other players, Oppy genuinely personified the Richmond 'eat 'em alive' philosophy.  A VFL interstate representative on 4 occasions, he played a total of 185 VFL games for the Tigers between 1942 and 1954.  Two seasons after his retirement as a player he returned to Punt Road as Richmond's senior non-playing coach but after a disappointing season which yielded just 6 wins from 18 games and 10th place on the ladder he was replaced by Alan McDonald.

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Leo Oprey (Oakleigh & Carlton)

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In 1930 Oakleigh, which had only entered the VFA the previous season, recruited a number of high quality players in a bid to make a serious bid for the premiership.  One of these players was Leo Oprey, a diminutive and extremely pacy footballer who had been playing as a rover with Richmond seconds, but who would make his name with the Purple and Golds as a wingman.  In both 1930 and 1931, Oprey was on the wing in winning grand final teams against Northcote, while his general performances were sufficiently eye catching to attract the attention of a number of VFL clubs.  The 1932 season found him at Carlton, where he made an immediate impact, and the end of the year saw him playing on a wing in his third successive grand final.  In the view of many, he was the Blues' best player on the day, but he could do nothing to prevent Richmond edging home by 9 points.  Oprey remained with Carlton for one further season, with the last of his 31 senior appearances coming in the 1933 1st semi final loss to Geelong.

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Billy Orchard (Geelong)

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Blessed with all the skills of the game, Geelong's Billy Orchard, who played 112 games for the club in 1906 and between 1908-15, was regarded during his career as the 'complete footballer', capable of playing well in any position on the ground.  Captain of the club during his last couple of seasons in league football, he led by example, habitually playing with great verve, drive and intelligence.  After his retirement as a player he became a VFL field umpire.

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William Orr (Perth, North Fremantle, Subiaco)

 

A key member of Perth teams during the early part of the twentieth century, 'Billy' Orr was one of the first in a long line of champion rovers produced both by that club, and in the west generally.  An ever-present in Western Australia's 1908 carnival sides, after 85 games for Perth he moved to North Fremantle, where he added another 32 games to his tally.  In 1912, Orr headed to Subiaco, and was a prime catalyst in lifting that club, which had finished last the previous year, to its first ever league premiership.  A similarly telling contribution in 1913 helped the hitherto impotent Maroons make it two flags in a row.  A total of 70 games for Subiaco lifted 'Billy' Orr's final tally to 187 league games; he also played 3 times for Western Australia.

After his retirement as a player, Orr became a long-serving and highly influential football administrator.

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Richard Osborn (West Torrens)

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Cool, authoritative and imposing, West Torrens' Richard Osborn (sometimes wrongly spelt 'Osborne') was one of the finest centre half backs of his day.  For much of his career he was a near automatic selection for South Australia, and his 12 interstate appearances included games at the 1930 Adelaide carnival.  Early in his career he was one of the principal contributors to Torrens' inaugural premiership victory in 1924, and the following year saw him win the first of three club best and fairest awards, establishing a club record that stood until 1948, when overhauled by Bob Hank.  In 1929 he finished equal third in the Magarey Medal count. Osborn, who played a total of 114 league games for the blue and golds, would almost undoubtedly be a shoe-in for the centre half back position in any official West Torrens 'Team of the Century'.

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Richard Osborne (Fitzroy, Sydney, Footscray, Collingwood)

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Combining strength, athleticism and pace in ample measure, Richard Osborne was a formidable key position footballer who enjoyed an auspicious seventeen season V/AFL career with four clubs.  He began with Fitzroy, where he played 187 games and kicked 411 goals from 1982 to 1992, heading the club's goal kicking list on three occasions.  He spent the 1993 season with Sydney, adding 16 games and 39 goals, before moving to Footscray, where he played 51 games and booted 98 goals in three years.  He was the Bulldogs' leading goal kicker, with 53 goals, in 1995.  His final port of call was Collingwood, the club he had supported as a youngster, and he continued to afford consistent service, often as a defender, over a final 29 AFL games (for 26 goals) in 1997 and 1998.  At his peak there were few more imposing figures in the game.  Osborne represented Victoria in state of origin games 7 times.

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Dean Ottens (Sturt & Waratahs)

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Ruckman Dean Ottens made his league debut with Sturt in 1966, but it was no easy matter to break into the all powerful Double Blues line-up and he managed just a couple of games for the year.  Three more games followed two years later before he finally made his mark in 1969 with 18 appearances for the season including the winning grand final against Glenelg.

Formidably built, Ottens combined athleticism and power to telling effect.  He marked well, was a thumping kick, and had better than average ground skills.  A South Australian interstate representative on 7 occasions, and a dual premiership player, he can hardly be said to have been a failure as a footballer, but there was always a feeling that he should have achieved significantly more.  The last of his 116 SANFL games for Sturt came midway through the 1974 season.  He later moved to Darwin and played briefly for Waratahs.

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Wayne Otway (East Perth & Essendon)

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A gritty and determined rover with a keen goal sense, Wayne Otway achieved plenty in the game, but might have achieved a lot more had he not been such a frequent victim of injury, particularly later in his career.  Initially on Swan Districts' list, he crossed to East Perth prior to the 1976 season without having played a league game.  He commenced with the Royals later that year, and quickly impressed with his capacity for winning possession under duress, and using the ball effectively.  He was a key member of East Perth's 1978 premiership side when he rated high among the best players in the 2 point grand final defeat of Perth (reviewed here).  Otway's fairest and best award win two years later further endorsed his status as one of the pre-eminent small men in the competition, and it was a surprise to some that he failed to win state selection. 

The 1982 season brought a fresh challenge as Otway embarked on a VFL stint with Essendon.  In two seasons with the Bombers he played 36 senior games and kicked 65 goals.  His best, as always, was extremely impressive, but his overall effectiveness was curtailed by persistent, niggling injuries.  These continued to beset him on his return to the west, and in his first season back he managed just 8 senior appearances.  He persisted, however, and in his last couple of seasons his experience was invaluable in a young side endeavouring to revitalise the club's long deflated fortunes.  Otway's WAFL career with the Royals comprised 143 senior games, and saw him kick 231 goals.

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Whynan Outen (Williamstown & St Kilda)

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Win Outen began and ended his senior football career with Williamstown.  A purposeful, determined footballer, he excelled as a centreman, and frequently caught the eye when he played a total of 54 games with St Kilda in the VFL from 1903 to 1905 and in 1907.  He was highly regarded, and represented the VFL on three occasions.  His younger brother Matt also spent some time with the Saints.

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Gavin Outridge ( Swan Districts)

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A hard working and versatile footballer who arrived at Swan Districts from Belmont in 1982, Gavin Outridge struggled for a regular senior game at first - hardly surprisingly, given the wealth of talent at Bassendean during the early 1980s.  After being used mainly as a stop gap half forward or half back during his first couple of seasons, he made a back pocket position his own during a 1984 season that culminated in Swans winning their third successive premiership with a 36 point grand final defeat of East Fremantle.  Playing in that grand final proved to be the highlight of Outridge's league career, which ended in 1985 after 43 games and 15 goals.

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Tom Outridge (Mines Rovers, Perth, Subiaco)

 

Ruckman Tom Outridge  was one of Subiaco's and Western Australian football's all time greats.  Perhaps best remembered for his championship-clinching performances for Western Australia at the 1921 Perth carnival, Outridge gave sterling service for the Maroons in 217 league games spread over thirteen seasons.  He was also the first ever winner of the Sandover Medal, which the WAFL introduced in 1921 to reward its fairest and most brilliant player each season.  Originally from Ballarat, Outridge played for a time on the Western Australian goldfields, including a season with Mines Rovers, before joining Perth in 1915.  Outridge went on to play 40 League games for Perth over the next 4 seasons, without ever giving an indication that he would develop into the champion he subsequently became after joining the Maroons in 1919.  The esteem in which he was held at Subiaco is clearly exemplified by the club's decision to name its annual best and fairest award in his honour.

Western Australian football's doyen of coaches, Jerry Dolan, said of Outridge, he "was a great feeder of the ball to his rover and a tireless follower.  He proved his class against Australia's best ruckmen (see footnote 1)."

Footnotes

1.  Quoted in Gravel Rash: 100 Years of Goldfields Football by Les Everett, page 67.  Return to Main Text

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George Owens (East Perth)

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Equally at home leading the ruck or at centre half forward, George 'Staunch' Owens was among the greatest of many fine players to front up for East Perth during that club's most auspicious era.  Between 1919 and 1927 the Royals won no fewer than seven flags, and Owens was a significant contributor to all of them.  Moreover, in 1925 when East Perth missed out, Owens enjoyed personal consolation of a sort by becoming his club's second Sandover Medallist.

An automatic selection in West Australian interstate teams for much of his career, Owens participated in both the 1924 and 1927 carnivals, and played a total of 17 state games.  When his 195 game league career was over, he took up umpiring, and proved just as successful as he had been as a player.  In all, he umpired a total of 135 WANFL games between 1935 and 1941, including five grand finals.

In June 2006, 'Staunch' Owens was picked as first ruckman in  East Perth's official 'Team of the Century 1906 to 1944'.

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Jack Owens (Glenelg)

 

Over the years, Broken Hill has produced significantly more than its fair share of elite footballers, but few as concertedly successful as Jack Owens.  In 177 games for Glenelg between 1924 and 1935, Owens kicked 827 goals, a remarkable achievement rendered all the more so by virtue of the fact that, for the vast majority of that period, Glenelg was the weakest club in the competition.  Indeed, the almost perversely anomalous 1934 premiership apart, the Bays were never remotely in contention for finals participation, much less premiership honours, in any of Jack Owens' twelve league seasons.

Like another great sharpshooter of the inter-war period, George Doig, Owens was a left footer who favoured the screw punt when lining up for goals.  Observers who saw him play contend that he was capable of making the ball swerve sharply in the air, enabling him to kick goals from seemingly impossible angles, an ability which doubtless increased his strike rate significantly.

Owens had good ground skills, often beating two or three opponents when the ball hit the turf, and he marked strongly, particularly out in the open after a fast lead.  He played 9 times for South Australia, kicking 26 goals, and was state captain in 1933 and 1934.  He skippered the Bays to their first senior premiership in 1934, and topped the League goal kicking list twice, on both occasions while playing for teams that finished 2nd last.  Had he played for a stronger club there is little doubt that Jack Owens' name might well have ended up being mentioned in the same breath as 'immortal' goalsneaks like Coleman, Coventry, Dunstall, Doig, Farmer, Lockett, Naylor, Pratt, Robertson et al.  Such 'immortality' tends to be accorded those who combine great ability with ground-breaking achievement, and while the prodigious nature of his talent cannot be doubted, the fact that he was only seldom able to perform at the absolute forefront of the game undoubtedly stymied his potential.  

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