Today, “The Mail” published the first of a series of articles by Bunton, which should prove of absorbing interest to all football followers and other sport fans. The first tells how he nearly became a cricketer instead of an ace footballer. Others will tell of the trafficking stir in which he was involved, personalities he has played against in three States, and other highlights of his career.
Part 1:The kid from Albury became the idol of football crowds By Haydn Buntonas told to Lawrie Jervis, jun.
The Mail (Adelaide) 22-Jul-1950 In: Sunday Magazine p2
Haydn Bunton has been acclaimed one of the greatest footballers Australia has known. In 11 seasons of league football, between 1931 and 1941, Bunton won Victoria’s Brownlow medal (for the best and fairest player) three times, and WA’s Sandover Medal three times. Today, “The Mail” published the first of a series of articles by Bunton, which should prove of absorbing interest to all football followers and other sport fans. The first tells how he nearly became a cricketer instead of an ace footballer. Others will tell of the trafficking stir in which he was involved, personalities he has played against in three States, and other highlights of his career.
ONE of the best ways to become rich is to be born of wealthy parents. And one of the best ways to learn football is to be born into a family of footballers, such as I was, 39 years ago, at Albury (NSW), on July 5, 1911.
By the time I was 13, my two elder brothers Cleaver and George were both playing football for Albury in the Ovens and Murray League, and my younger brother, Wally, was showing promise of doing the same.
Cleaver— he's now Mayor of Albury— was always my guiding light and adviser. He kept an eye on me at school, where, because I had been blessed with a physique made to order for an athlete, I was in the forefront in football, cricket, swimming, and running. I was just made that way, and any credit for it goes to one per son only— Mother Nature.
When I was 13— in 1924— I played football for the Albury School on Fridays, and for Albury in the O. and M. League on Saturdays.
In my last year at school I captained the school cricket team and hit 805 runs at an average of 201, and took 43 wickets for an average of about eight runs apiece.
I've often been asked why I gave up cricket after only one season in A Grade games in Melbourne with Fitzroy. At times I wonder myself, and whether I would have amounted to anything out of the box. I could get runs, but I was always a pretty stodgy bat.
I had the chances. In 1927 I was chosen in the Riverina team to play in the country week carnival in Sydney, and made three centuries.
Next season I again got among the runs, with four more countries, and was picked in the combined country side to play the NSW second eleven, known for the match as "City".
In the combined team were the two McCabe brothers. Stan later becoming the brilliant Test batsman.
Alan Fairfax, Arthur Chipperfield, and the late Archie Jackson were three I can recall in the City side.
Charlie Andrews, who later went to Queensland and opened for them in the Sheffield shield, and myself opened for Country, and we put on a partnership of 288, a record which I think still stands. Charlie got 146 and I made 144. We were both stumped off Arthur Chipperfield.
Later, the Riverina side played St. George, and I missed the century by two runs. Don Bradman was playing with them then, and I remember my disappointment when I dropped him at 13, and he went on to make about 114.
St. George wanted me to stay on in Sydney and play with them, but my parents wouldn't hear of it. They thought 17 was too young for any boy to be living away from his parents.
It was for that same reason that I did not go to St. Kilda when, after the country team returned home, Bill Ponsford came to see me at Albury and asked me to play with St. Kilda. I would have gone, but my mother was against my doing so.
In fact when I did eventually leave Albury to go to Melbourne to play football in 1930, as a boy of 18. it was still against my mother's wishes. My father— now dead— only agreed when he saw how keen I was.
It was round that time— 1928 —that the turmoil in my life began. For four years I'd been playing football with Albury. I was only a kid, and we were stacked against some pretty good other teams with players who later made good in Victorian league.
There were seven other teams in the league besides Albury— St. Patricks (also from Albury), Wangaratta, Benalla, Corowa, Hume Weir, Yarrawonga, and Rutherglen. The two Strangs, Gordon and Doug, both of whom went to Richmond, played for Albury, Maurie Hunter, who roved for and captained Richmond was with the St. Pats. Frank Beggs, Melbourne ruckman was with Albury, Carroll, later Fitzroy ruckman. was with Corowa.
For two years, coach of my team, the Albury's, was Bobbie Barnes, the claasy South Australian and West Adelaide rover who won the Magarey Medal in 1922, six years earlier. Bob lived with my brother Cleaver,
With Cleaver as the sole first ruckman, Bob Barnes and myself roved to him. Cleaver took the knocks, and we picked them up. That was where first became a ruckman-rover type.
Bob Quinn and 'Bull' Reval with Port were the nearest approach to our combination I've seen here.
Four Buntons were in the 1920. Albury team- Cleaver George, Wally, and, myself George was centre forward. ward and Wally centre half back.
When I'd won the best and fairest for the team for three years— 1926, 1927, and 1928- we played a game against the visiting Essendon side. Frank Maher, the State rover, was Essendon first rover, and he and I were opposed.
I had a bit the better of him all day. At the time I thought I was king of the world. When I look back, though, I realise that Frank was near the end of his time after a long, brilliant career. His legs weren't as youthful as mine.
Afterwards Essendon wanted me to join them.
Even the year before, some of the league club scouts had talked to me about coming to Melbourne. In 1929 the pressure was really on. Remember, I was only 17. Eleven Victorian league clubs —all except Collingwood— came after me.
They sent their scouts with all sorts of propositions, and those men laid on the charm with a trowel.
It was pretty flattering and mighty bewildering, and if it hadn't been for the wise counsel of my parents and Cleaver, the whole business could have meant the biggest 'head' under the sun.
It would have been a game son who got a big head with my dad. In. fact, his stern advice to me when eventually I left to play in Melbourne was, 'If you get swollen-headed, don't come back to this home. I want no son of mine to become too big for his boots.'
With Cleaver, my father and mother all keeping a strict eye on the blandishments of the various league club secretaries and presidents, it came to a choice between two clubs, Fitzroy and Carlton.
Left to me, I would have preferred Carlton, not because I knew anybody there, but be- cause they were among the top teams, and Fitzroy were right down the ladder. It's natural for a lad to want to play for the best side.
My parents and Cleaver thought it would be better for me to go to Fitzroy, as they knew the secretary there, Tom Coles. My mother insisted that before I go to the city she had to know that somebody there would look after me as one of their own family.
One of the big factors considered was my Job. I was a clerk in the Albury branch of New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency.
Carlton president Dave Crone and secretary Paddy Kain, when they came to see me at Albury, left the impression they would arrange a transfer to Melbourne for me with the firm.
When a telegram came to me from Dave Crone-this telegram is the disputed document which featured so largely in the case which I was disqualified for a year for "trafficking" in 1930. I set off for Melbourne.
The telegram meant, to me, that my transfer had been arranged.
Looking back now, I almost blush with embarrassment when I think of how I arrived in Melbourne— a typical 'hick from the sticks.'
My felt hat was dinted in four places, I wore a navy blue suit, the coat cot high at the back, the trousers almost bell bottomed, cutaway double- breasted, waistcoat, butcher- blue shirt — and 4/ in my pocket when I stepped on to Spencer street station.
Carlton officials were supposed to meet me. They were never at the station, although they claimed they were.
I went straight to the head office of the NZ Loan and Mercantile Agency, and asked for the manager.
'Has my transfer been arranged to here from Albury, sir?' I asked.
'What transfer. Bunton?' was his staggering reply.
I told him what I thought I knew. He rocked me again with his reply: 'I know nothing of any transfer, Bunton. In my case, we don't transfer professional footballers.'
That was that. I was out of a job, unless I went back to Albury. But I wanted to play Melbourne football.
I was so incensed with Carlton I went out and immediately rang Tom Coles, the Fitzroy club secretary. I told Coles of my trouble.
He got me a job straight way, working at D. and W. Chandlers, hardware merchants. Mr. Chandler was president of Fitzroy club. I signed there and then with Fitzroy.
The first day nearly broke my back and heart. I lumped bolts and nuts in cases up a ladder to a loft all day. I didn't show up the second day, but the manager, Mr. Orford, came out to see me, the next day I was in a clerical job with the firm.
A few weeks later the balloon went up on 'the trafficking case"
Officials of 11 clubs who had all been after me to play for their clubs sat in judgement on me, and stood me down from league football for 12 months.
HAYDN BUNTON'S FOOTBALL STORY No. 2
The Mail (Adelaide) 29-Jul-1950 Sunday Magazine p2
A black eye and hardly a kick in his Vic. Debut
HAYDN Bunton, acknowledged one of the greatest footballers Australia has known, today continues the story of his football career with some previously unpublished facts about the trafficking stir in which he was involved in Victoria.
He also tells of his debut in Melbourne football in 1931, when he hardly got a kick and collected a lovely black eye.
ON the eve of the official opening of the Victorian league football round in 1930, there was one of the usual umpires and permit committee meetings to consider players' clearances. My clearance from Albury to Fitzroy was to come up, but it would be only a formality, Fitzroy officials assured me.
It was far from formality. The meeting that night lasted from 8 o'clock until 1.30 a.m. next day. I was in and out of the room full of delegates half a dozen times, and after nearly five and a half hours' deliberation, the committee told me I was to be stood down for a year for "trafficking."
This is the story behind that decision.
The Victorian League, concerned at the increasing amounts of money being offered to attract players by nearly all clubs, had accepted, in principle, a set of new rules, framed by Mr. George Coulter, which said, mainly, that a player must not receive more than £3 a week from his club.
THE Coulter Law was not actually in force at the time of my alleged 'trafficking' breaches, but all clubs had agreed to do nothing contrary to the spirit of the law until it became accepted fact.
It was in this 'unwritten law' period that so many of the clubs baited me with offers. Fitzroy's secretary -Tom Coles had offered me a lump sum of £50 to play football with them, my wages to be made up to £5 a week in addition, and the ordinary £3 a week payment for football, plus £50 from Fitzroy Cricket Club to play cricket with them, and a bonus at the end of the year.
Later, Carlton's secretary (Paddy Cain) approached me. He had offered me £50 earlier, plus the usual other payments, but when I told him of Fitzroy's offer, he stepped Carlton's up to £75. He then remarked be could not go to the £100.
Anyway, I liked Carlton, so I said I'd go with them contingent on them arranging my transfer from the Albury branch of the NZ Mercantile and Loan Agency to the city.
On the Australia Day holiday at the end of January, 1930, I came to Melbourne to be measured for a pair of running shoes to wear at Stawell.
Carlton officials met me at the station, and their president (Dave Crone) took me to a shoemaker who did all the work for Carlton. While the shoemaker was measuring me for the running shoes. Crone remarked: 'Measure this boy for football boots, too, in case he comes to Carlton."
Afterwards, Crone refused to let me pay for the running spikes. He said: 'That's merely a gift. It's the way we treat all footballers who come to Carlton."
I WENT back to Albury. Crone had told Mr. McDonald, manager of the Albury branch of my firm, that he had a friend who was a personal friend of the Melbourne manager of the NZM and LA. When a telegram came from Crone to Mr. McDonald saying: 'Everything OK. Suggest you forward letter. Kind regards, Crone.' my family and I took it that the transfer had been arranged.
Off I went. No transfer had. in fact, been arranged. That's when I rang Tom Coles, Fitzroy secretary, after arriving at Spencer street without Carlton being there to meet me, as promised.
That was the background to the permit committee meeting. When I went along to the meeting, Fitzroy officials said everything was all right. They'd done some lobbying, and things were sewn up for my clearance.
I can see secretary Tom Coles now, sitting back in his chair, with his feet placed wide on the edge of the polished table, winking and smiling at me confidently every time I was called into the room to answer questions put by delegates of other clubs.
IT wasn't long before I awoke to the fact that there would be no clearance. Why all the delay if thing had been sewn up?
Hour after hour it dragged on. I found afterwards only one club had voted to favor of my clearance— South Melbourne. They, too, had made me an offer earlier but bore no particular ill-will about it.
I was stood down for a year. Later, the Owens and Murray Football League applied for a special permit for me to play with Albury again, and it was granted.
Thereafter, in 1930, I took the long train trip to and from Albury each week-end to play with West Albury.
The Coulter Law was well conceived, but it was just as much a farce then as It is now. The very men who so assiduously officially upheld it in principle were some of the first to break it secretly by making tempting offers to players again—then and now.
I admit that during my years with fitzroy I was paid more than the Coulter Law prescribed. And I can name off-hand a dozen other players of my time who were paid more, too.
After all the fuss, my career could easily have come to an end before it had started.
It nearly did. too, became in the last game of the season at Albury, against East Albury, I slipped a cartilage in my left knee.
I told Fitzroy. They asked me to have the cartilage removed, I had the operation.
Before I left hospital, Fitzroy officials came to see me one day, and slipped £40 in notes under my pillow to pay the fees. It was strictly under the lap. If their generous action had become known, there would have been another rumpus.
As it happened, some years later, when there was strife in the club, 'that lump sum payment was disclosed.
IN the 1930-1 cricket season I played cricket with Fitzroy, and managed 104 against Prahran one day. That was my best in district cricket.
As a batsman, I had few strokes, but could stonewall a bit. If ever there was a sticky wicket round, in would go Bunton with orders to prop the bat in front of the stumps and stick round.
Fitzroy did the right thing by me throughout. While I was standing down from football, Preston, Yarraville, Oakleigh, Northcote, and Williamstown all asked me to play with them in the association. Williamstown, I think it was, offered me a brand new car— a very tempting offer for a lad.
Then came my second appearance before the VFL permit committee just before the opening of the 1931 season. It was all over in a few minutes. I was cleared.
The great day came for my debut in Melbourne football. The newspapers had written so much about me, and the trafficking case, that the crowd for the Fitzroy-Melbourne game was swollen by thousands of curious people who just came along to see what I looked like.
ON the Saturday morning everyone wanted to by my friend, I had 'friends' by the score. Two chaps asked me to go to the St. Kilda Maison that night, after the match. I hired a dinner suit and stiff shirt for my big night out.
In the match I hardly got a kick.
I got a beautiful black eye. though, after Ivor Warne-Smith, Melbourne ruckman. and I got tangled in a pack.
After the game, there were none of the scores of "friends" to meet me. The backpatters and handshakers of a few hours before had gone with use wind All I had for my first Victorian League game was a classic "shiner"
I put on some dark glasses and the hired dinner suit and went to meet my friends to go to the dance. They didn't turn up, either.
I went to the Maison, had a miserable time, and walking to catch a late bus, met another chap on his own who'd been to the dance. We were having a bottle of milk each in a milk bar when the bus came. In my haste, I slopped the milk down the hired dinner suit.
That wasn't all. When the other young chap and myself sat in the bus his first remark was, 'Did you see how that country mug, Bunton, went against Melbourne today?'
He pulled out a Melbourne evening paper from his pocket with the flaring headlines 'Country Champion Disappoints.'
That was the finish. I jumped off the bus at the next stop in case he recognised me. As I walked the rest of the way home, I did some bitter thinking over the fickleness of football, its officials, and the fans.
FITZROY stuck to me, though. They might not have done so after all the trouble, if I hadn't played reasonably well in their earlier trial games.
I did a little better the next week, against Carlton. and earned a third vote for the Brownlow Medal. For the next half a dozen games I was on the verge of being dropped. But then I started to get going.
On June 20, about half-way through the season, I polled a second vote for the medal against Hawthorn, was round the place in the next couple of games, and then form came to me.
In the last seven games of the season I received six first preferences and a second, and scraped home for the Brownlow Medal by one vote from Alan Hopkins, of Footscray. I'll always take my hat off to Fitzroy for sticking to me as they did when I was in the doldrums.
The Victorian selectors had evidently been inclined to agree with Fitzroy's judgment, too, because they picked me in the Victorian team In my first season.
Of course, as soon as I hit my top form, the back-clappers end good fellows were round again But I was not no easily deceived by then.
But I still wasn't out of the wood. Next season I was again nearly put out by the permit committee. It was touch and go, but the move did not come off.
Quinn and Reval among "really great players"The Mail (Adelaide) 5-Aug-1950 Sunday Magazine p2
Quinn and Reval among 'really great players' By Haydn Bunton, as told to. Lawrie Jervis, jun.
HAYDN Bunton, acknowledged one of the best footballers Australia has known, today continues the story of his football career, and tells how he just escaped disqualification in a trafficking flare-up in Victoria. He also picks a team from the football champions of the 1930's in Melbourne, and names Bob Quinn and 'Bull' Reval among the really great South Australians he played against.
IN December, 1932, when things seemed to be going smoothly at last for Fitzroy and myself after some uneasy years, club secretary Tom Coles resigned. With his resignation there was another stir which nearly had me sitting on the outer again.
There had been background friction in Fitzroy after the club elections of 1929, when a 'reform' group contested every position against the sitting (or retiring) members, from president down.
Coles claimed a group had been working secretly against him, blaming him in particular for the failure of Fitzroy to be successful.
Coles wrote a letter to the Melbourne 'Age' when he resigned, in which he stated that during my first year with Fitzroy I received £270— £222 in 1930, when I was suspended and not playing, and a further £48 early in 1931.
The Coulter Law, Introduced on March 7, 1930, made it an offence for a club to offer, or a player to receive, more than £3 a week.
Penalty for any infringement of the law, on a complaint to the Victorian Football League by any club, was a fine of £250 on the club, disqualification during the pleasure of the league for the club official or player concerned, and possible loss of all premiership points up to the time the offence was committed.
As I had just won the Brownlow Medal for the second time running, in 1932, this new move was a bombshell.
In his letter to the press, Coles said I received in 1930 from Fitzroy an allowance of £2 a week, £1/10/ a week for board, and £40 medical expenses. That totalled £222, while I was actually not their player, because I was under suspension.
Coles sent his written allegations to the VFL, who sent it on to their investigation tribunal.
At no time did Fitzroy as a club make the complaint. Anyway, after a long questioning by the investigation committee, at which I "came clean" about the payments— the amounts were correct— I was given a severe reprimand
However, the VFL disqualified Tom Coles and two other former Fitzroy officials, not for giving wrong evidence in this case, but for being parties to breaking the Coulter Law early.
In 1933 I was captain of the club for a while, but gave it away. I felt the same way as Bob Hank did, when describing captaincy recently. There was so much playing, I couldn't concentrate on leadership.
Fitzroy took off another Brownlow Medal In 1933. this time from 'Chicken' Smallhorn, a lovely little wingman.
Fitzroy nearly took it out again the next year, when I was runner-up to Dick Reynolds— Essendon's present captain— and in 1935 and 1936 the club won it again. I got the vote in 1935, and Dinny Ryan in 1936.
Fitzroy thus had the startling record of having won five Brownlow Medals and the runner-up in six successive years. They haven't won one since.
I think football in the 1930's was at the peak in Victoria, far better than it was before, or is now. To make a State side, you could pick three or four teams, all of which would be evenly matched.
From 1931 to 1937, I was in every State side, so had excellent opportunity to see what the other States could offer against us.
In those times, Australia was trying to pull itself out of the depression. With so many men out of work, football offered some hope of bringing money into the family purse.
Consequently, any young man who had the chances to play Victorian League Football and earn up to the £3 a week made league selection his goal. Then it was survival of the fittest.
Of all the good players in Victoria in those times, the representative team I would like to have on my side would have been these:-
South Melbourne's Bob Pratt the best goal-sneak I ever saw was just a freak in the way he leapt so high. He never had his goals served to him on a plate either, and had to fight for them all the time.
Jack Collins of Geelong, was in the game for a very short time, but I think he would have his name as one of the champion centre half-forward of all time. He was a dental student and gave up football to go on to his studies. He never used to fall back towards the goals, but led straight down for his kicks. he moved beautifully and could kick and mark with the best.
Herbie Matthews, centreman for South Melbourne, had great all-round ability, and was the best at centre in my time.
Reg Hickey. of Geelong. was the best big man I saw. He was a great spoiler, and when he did, had pace enough to go on and take the ball from the ground. He was a good checker, and it took a brick wall to stop him if he decided to go through. He was always working.
Jack Regan, Colitngwood's crack goalkeeper, was another extra good spoiler who was cap- able of going on and taking the ball after he had knocked it from an opponent's hands. A beautiful kick, Regan never at tempted to mark from behind— always spoiled from there.
In the ruck, I can't think of a better pair than giant Johnny Lewis, of North Melbourne, and Syd Coventry, Collingwood. Syd was more of the loose-man type of ruckman, brought so successfully to notice in South Australia by 'Bull' Reval, of Port,
For the second ruck, Norm Ware (Footscray) and 'Leeter" Collier (Collingwood) are my pick. Norm Ware won a Brownlow Medal in 1941.
"Leeter" Collier, for his inches, was one of the best marks in Victoria. He was the chunky type who took a power of knocking down.
The two rovers stand out— Dick Reynolds and Keith Forbes. Reynolds won three Brownlow Medals— 1934. 1937, and 1938— so his form speaks for itself. Forbes, another Essendon rover, was an extraordinary accurate kick and was dynamite resting in a forward pocket.
The half-back flankers Basil McCormack and Rumney were both extra good checkers, who could go through hard. There was no short passing with them. When they kicked, it was good and long down to the half -forward line.
Kev O'Neill was the ideal permanent back-pocket type. He'd never give the resting rover any peace, or an inch of ground. As well he had excellent team sense and under- standing with the goalkeeper. The goals were never left unkept while O'Neill was playing.
My old clubmate 'Chicken' Smallhorn and Alan Geddes, of Richmond, were the best wing-men of my time. They were brainy and fast and could beat anything going.
Les Hardiman and Keith Shea— Shea went to the West with me later— were ideal half forward flankers because they could both mark and kick well and accurately.
TWO omissions may cause some surprise — those of Laurie Nash, of South Melbourne, and Jack Dyer, of Richmond.
I think Collins a better centre half-forward than Nash, because Collins would give the chances to the goalsneak. Nash was more inclined to fall back towards the goals and crowd the play for his forwards, although he might get many goals.
As a rover, I liked to have the ball palmed out accurately by a ruckman. rather than see it punched far and indiscriminately. Dyer usually punched the ball, and it could go anywhere. Often, when Fitzroy played Richmond. I took Dyer's knocks while Richmond's rovers were left stranded because the ball went the opposite way to what they expected when Dyer knocked.
Of the South Australians played against, two stand out. as far as I am concerned— 'Bull' Reval and Bob Quinn.
I never saw Reval play anything but well against Victoria. He was a beauty. He could dish it out, and could take it. and he and I bad many great battles.
In fact, when I turned out with Port a few years ago, 'Bull' told me that whenever he played us he set his mind on bowling me over just once-but hard.
He told me that in one year —I forget which, now— he chased me all round the field one day trying for the big knockdown. Bob Quinn was just the same He could give it and take it: no hard feelings, no change of pace or play. That's Victorian style football when the pressure's on.
In 1938, Subiaco (WA) Football club made me an attractive offer to play with them £10 a week and a job as manager of a picture theatre. So I decided to go West. I didn't regret the change.
NEXT WEEK : Football in WA and umpiring in SA
A CHAMPION TALKS ABOUT CHAMPIONS (1950, August 12). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 2 (Sunday Magazine). Retrieved October 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56065510
In: Sunday Magazine
A CHAMPION TALKS ABOUT CHAMPIONS Ace footballers are born, says Bunton By Haydn Bunton, as told to Lawrie Jervis, jun.
CONCLUDING a series of four articles on football, Haydn Bunton today talks about football skill. He says the champion footballer is born with natural ability for the sport.
Star footballers may attract crowds to a game, but unless the stars fit smoothly into the team, they don't help a side as much as they should. That was well exemplified when I, with Keith Shea, of Carlton, and Les Hardiman, of Geelong, was attracted to Subiaco (WA) Club in 1938.
I think it would be justifiable assumption to say the three of us should have given Subiaco a big lift in the West Australian premiership fight, in form and playing as a combination. But, in fact, in the five seasons I was with 'Sooby,' nearest the club got was fifth, for four seasons.
Various factors were responsible, but probably one of the biggest was the individuality of our play.
Mr. S. W. Perry, the president of Subiaco, was also manager in WA for Hoyts Theatres. He came to Melbourne in late 1937 and offered me a five-year contract with Subiaco. I was to have a job as manager of one of their Perth theatres, the Ambassadors, in Hay street. I accepted the contract.
With me to Western Australia also went Keith Shea and Les Hardiman. Shea was a really top-notch footballer, so was Hardiman. Both were half- forwards, and I rank them among the best I saw in Victoria.
If we three Victorians could have pulled together as well as the rest of the team did, we probably would have won premierships for Subiaco.
As captain-coach of Subiaco, I won three Sandover Medals, in 1938, 1939, and 1941.
In 1939 I received a wire from Johnny Ludlow, who was on the 'Age' in Melbourne, on behalf of 'Doe' Hartnett, president of Camberwell and one of the big-shots of the Victorian Football Association.
He offered me a £12-a-week job and gift of a Studebaker car to play with his side. I turned it down, but still have the telegram as a keepsake.
That's what football was worth even before, the war.
In five years in WA football, I learned that over there they take training as seriously as they do in Victoria, which means far more seriously than in SA. Players train hard or they're are not in the team, no matter who they are. The game is harder too.
There were some footballers there then who would not only hold their place in any Victorian side, but would be right among the top-rankers.
''Speck' Sinclair, centre half back for Swan Districts; Fred Jenkins, centre half-forward for South Fremantle and winner of the Sandover Medal in 1937, and runner-up the next season; and 'Popsy" Heal, brilliant West Perth wingman, were the best.
Close behind them were George Moloney (Claremont), a crack goalsneak, Merv McIntosh, Perth ruckman; Jack Murray, Swan Districts ruckman; Truscott, South Fremantle rover; Hilss, Perth back pocket man; and George Krepp, Swan Districts wingman.
In seven playing seasons in Victoria, five in Western Australia, and five and a half years in SA, either playing, umpiring, coaching, or watching the game as a critic, the three best from each State in the periods I was there would rank like this, in my opinion: —
l. Herb Matthews (South Melbourne), centreman.
2. Bob Pratt (South Melbourne), goalsneak.
3. Jack Regan (Collingwood); goalkeeper.
4. Bob Quinn (Port Adelaide), rover.
5. Bob Hank (West Torrens), centreman.
6. Fred Jenkins (South Fremantle), centre half -forward.
7. 'Speck' Sinclair (Swan Districts), centre half -back.
8. "Pepsy" Heal (West Perth). wingman.
9. Ron Phillip* (North Adelaide), centre half-forward.
Bob Quinn was a beautiful rover, polished and with a ton of guts. He was a model to the SA sides in how to dish it out and take it with Victorian teams. I didn't see "Bull" Reval in his prime in club games, but he always impressed me in State matches.
Bob Hank is a champion footballer by any standard. It makes no difference to Hank whether the game Is a pre-season trial or a carnival game. I've never seen him do less than his best.
Ron Phillips, like Hank, another duel Magarey Medal winner in one of the quickest and most intelligent thinkers in football. He was picking up form, after a slow effect earlier, when the carnival side was picked presently, I thought should have been in it.
The reported failure of SA half-forward line and Phillps great games for the second state seemed to confirm what, I admit, is a particularly high opinion of his football.
When I came to South Australia to play with Port in 1946, I was nearing the end of my tether as a footballer. However, what made me turn to umpiring was a combination of a like and a dislike.
I field-umpired some Services games in WA, and liked the job; and when I played with Port in 1945, I didn't like the umpiring here.
So I decided to give umpiring a try myself. I turned back to coaching again with North, for 1947 and 1948, had another spell of umpiring again early in 1949, but when I seemed to be getting what I considered a raw deal, gave it up.
Often people ask me if there is any sure way to become a good footballer. Sure there is - be born with plenty of natural ability.
If you look at all the champions over the years, you'll find that very few of them had to be drilled and taught the game.
They had the ability, and the only coaching they needed was in what minor weaknesses they had in style.
All good footballers I can recall were fundamentally sound — they could kick, mark go fast, and had plenty of courage.
And my advice to young footballers? ...
Always concentrate on getting the ball, not the man,
Get fit, and keep fit, and you'll fear no man.