Bill Stephenson (born 1937) was the son of a well-known identity and builder in Sale Mr W.J. (Bill ‘Senior’) Stephenson. Bill (Snr) was the vice-captain of the Sale FC premiership team that defeated Yallourn in 1934. He was later elected Mayor of the Sale City Council in later years.

Argus 4-Sep-1956 p15
Argus 4-Sep-1956 p15

Young Bill Stephenson also played with Sale and was an emerging talent in Gippsland football when he caught the attention of the St Kilda FC scouts. Along with Alan Morrow, Ian Brewer, Bob Mason and the Hart brothers, Bill was part of one of the most powerful and successful Victorian country football teams of that era.

Bill’s greatest attributes were his strong hands and his ability to take contested overhead marks. Some early evidence of Bill’s prowess can be found in the preview of the clash between Traralgon and Sale in 1956 …

“Traralgon will have to overcome Sale's home ground ‘hoodoo’ tomorrow to remain the only undefeated team in the Latrobe Valley Football League. Sale has not been beaten on its home ground since the first match in 1954.This could be the deciding factor in the clash of the League's outstanding and evenly matched teams. Both combine plenty of pace and vigor with spectacular high marking. A highlight will be the clash of Peter May, Traralgon's centre half-forward, with George Finnegan, who made Geelong’s final training list this season. Traralgon will have to counter the high marking of ruckman Mason, half-forward Morrow, and the clever play of recruit full forward 17-year-old Bill Stephenson.” ‘The Argus’ (May 4th 1956 page 22)

Most people in the Sale district were aware of Bill’s talent on the football field and in ‘The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers’ he is described as a …

“…centre half forward and ruckman who was big, bulky and had a great pair of hands.”

Bill Stephenson source:St Kilda FC
Bill Stephenson source:St Kilda FC
While the above description is true, it should not be forgotten that Bill was a most exciting player to watch as he hit the pack ‘with his eyes only for the ball.’ Although he was a big man, Bill could rise high, maintain front position with strong body work and mark with the ‘first grab.’

Bill rarely fumbled the ball in an aerial contest. No matter what pressure was being applied by defenders, his hands were ‘vice-like.’ In those days, rules regarding ‘punching the hands’ and ‘knocking the arm’ had not been introduced into Australian football. Throughout the history of AFL football, the role of any full forward has never been a ‘walk in the park’ but in earlier times the rules greatly favoured the negative and dubious tactics of defenders.


Alan Morrow source:StKilda FC
Alan Morrow source:StKilda FC
Alan Morrow, Ian Brewer and Bill Stephenson were ‘young, willing and able’ and VFL clubs were fervent in their efforts to lure them from the bush to the city.

In those days, the permit system allowed country players to play with a VFL club on a ‘temporary basis’ and then return home to their country club. Permits were usually granted in blocks of three or six matches and the country club officials had a some say in the arrangements that were put in place regarding ‘their’ players.

Attempts to recruit Bill and Alan Morrow to the VFL were highly publicized and the country towns, particularly in northern Gippsland, were abuzz with the ‘tug-o-war’ that had developed to gain their signatures.

It is known that St Kilda FC was so desperate to sign the ‘boys’ that the coach Allan Killgrew over-reached the ‘procedural boundaries’ that governed recruiting in those years …

“Killigrew found himself in hot water as a result of the clubs effort to recruit Morrow and Stephenson over a protracted argument over their match permits. St Kilda was reported to have illegally paid the ‘huge sum of £400 for their clearances.”'' (‘The Point of it All’ by Feldmann & Holmesby. 1992)

After considerable cajoling in the lead-up to the 1957 season, Sale FC relented and both Alan and Bill were granted three match permits to play with the Saints. The St Kilda selectors included the boys into the team to play Fitzroy in Round: 3…

“… a pair of recruits from Sale were rushed into the side for the third round. The twenty year old Morrow would give much support to Brian Gleeson and his cousin* Bill Stephenson was one of the safest high marks seen at St Kilda for years.” Feldmann & Holmesby. Page 131.

  • Note: While Allan Morrow and Bill Stephenson were great friends they were not related. The confusion lies in the fact that Alan was a cousin of Sale’s brilliant full forward Ian Brewer. Ian went on to play with Collingwood. (See footnotes).

Bill and Alan made their VFL debut against Fitzroy at the Brunswick Street Oval. The St Kilda team included some well-known names in VFL football such as Jim Guyatt, Allan Jeans, Keith Drinan, Neil Roberts, Keith Mulhall and Bill Young. Fitzroy won by 23 points and Bill Stephenson kicked two goals in a team total of nine. Bill and Alan played in Rounds: 4 and 5 and then returned home to play with Sale FC.

Age 13-May-1957 p16
Age 13-May-1957 p16

Sale and St Kilda ‘locked horns’ again in the clearance tussle and ‘The Age’ reported the tension between the two clubs…

“Sale Football Club has imposed certain conditions on St Kilda which must be fulfilled before it will grant three more match permits to centre half forward Bill Stephenson and half forward flanker Alan Morrow, and neither Sale nor St Kilda officials will say what the conditions are.”

Eventually, Sale FC relented and issued three further permits for the boys to play in Rounds: 9, 10 and 11. After the Round: 11 clash against Carlton at Princess Park, Bill and Alan returned to Sale FC for the remainder of the 1957 season.

“After their game on Saturday St Kilda can say goodbye to Alan Morrow and Bill Stephenson, their Sale recruits, for the reminder of the season. It is believed they are not interested in playing at St Kilda for the whole season feeling they have obligations to their country team. In any case, Sale officials are determined to keep them in the country this season but it is fairly certain they will be allowed a clearance to St Kilda next year.” ‘The Age’

It would have been well worth knowing what the Saints coach Allan Killigrew actually thought of the permit system as Bill and Alan packed their kit bags and made ready for their long trip back to Sale after that game at Carlton. We will never know!


The Sale Football Club Emblem Source:'The Mighty Magpies'
The Sale Football Club Emblem Source:'The Mighty Magpies'

With just six VFL games under their belts, Bill and Alan resumed their season with Sale FC in the Latrobe Valley Football League. Sale defeated Traralgon in the LVFL Grand Final that season to win its third pennant in four seasons.

The scores that day were: Sale 14.14.98 defeated Traralgon 10.9.69. The best players for Sale were: Brian Crockett, Bob Mason*, Brian Grumley, John Nix* and Les Wyld.

  • Note: See footnotes regarding Bob Mason and John Nix.

Sale Premiership Team 1957
Sale Premiership Team 1957


Looking back, the permit system of that era was part of an evolving structure for recruiting players to the VFL. The movement of country players to the VFL had always been a contentious issue for bush football clubs as it was felt…

“That the city was bleeding them (country clubs) of their football talent and giving them little in return….During the 1950’s a cold war developed between the VFL and the Victorian Country Football league.” Sandercock & Turner. P 138.

Newspapers of the time reveal how the permit system was the cause of much ill-will and acrimony between the parties involved. Unfortunately, the young players were often the ‘meat in the sandwich’ in the negotiations that transpired regarding permits and clearances.

It must be remembered that Allan and Bill were just twenty years of age. To be the focus of such a public ruckus, would have been most disconcerting.

The permit system, ‘under the table’ inducements, the Coulter Law and the clearance wrangles between the country and city clubs featured regularly in the metropolitan and country newspapers. While the issues made ‘good copy’ they were highly controversial in the country towns and leagues.

Thankfully, the rules regarding recruitment were changing. In this period the VFL football became more professional and subjected to an ever-increasing media coverage (particularly television) of the game. The strengthening role of the VCFL also brought improved changes regarding the recruitment of country footballers in later years.

Note: It may surprise some readers, that permits still exist in football today. Section 2.0 of the 2014 AFL Victoria Country Handbook devotes considerable space to the matter of ‘player transfer.’ Many of the current rules, conditions and clauses did not exist when Bill and Alan were playing for Sale FC.


1958 brought a fresh start for Bill and Alan as both were cleared to play with St Kilda FC. The young recruits from Sale ‘launched headlong’ into their league careers with gusto. Bill played in every home and away game that season and kicked 23 goals (including a ‘bag of five’ against Geelong in Round: 18). Alan played sixteen games.

Bill Young, another ‘Gippslander’ from Stratford FC, finished the season with 58 goals to take out the St Kilda FC goal kicking award.

Neil Roberts won the club’s Best and Fairest award. Neil also won the Brownlow Medal with 24 votes from Hawthorn’s centre man Brendan Edwards (22).South Melbourne’s champion Bob Skilton polled 19 votes to finish third in the count. Both Alan and Bill polled three votes in the Brownlow Medal.

St Kilda finished eighth on the VFL Ladder with seven wins and a percentage of 92% that year. The team had been competitive at times but unable to ‘match it with the best.’ However, there were signs that the Saints were on the march!


The events during the build-up to the 1959 season at St Kilda were unsettling and divisive.

Some writers described the differences between the committee and Alan Killigrew as ‘savage.’ The upshot of the situation was that Alan was replaced, as coach, by Jim Francis of Carlton FC fame. The parting of ways was heated as Alan, officials, members and players became embroiled in the issue. ‘The Age’ described the rift that had developed in March that year…

“St Kilda footballers voted almost unanimously on Saturday night that former coach Alan Killigrew should be banned from the club rooms in future. The players had called their own special meeting after Killigrew had sparked off an unpleasant incident among players and officials when he had made a shock visit to the rooms at half-time in the main practice match.” ‘The Age’ March 31st 1959.

By the time the first game came around that season, some order had been restored and Jim Francis led his team to a twenty point win against Footscray at the Junction Oval. It was the ‘tonic’ that the Saints badly needed after the disturbing and heated events of pre-season.

Five footballers from Gippsland played for the Saints in that opening round… Bill Stephenson and Alan Morrow (Sale), Jim Guyatt ( Maffra), Bill Young ( Stratford) and a twenty-two year old centre man from Moe named Lester Ross. Lester’s debut was extraordinary as ‘Feldmann & Main’ described…

“…he ( Lester) began his career by beating none other than Ted Whitten”

1959 was a year of consolidation and the Saints finished eighth on the VFL Ladder with nine wins. Bill brought up his 50th VFL goal with one of five majors against North Melbourne in Round:14 at the Junction Oval. He kicked 26 goals from centre half forward that year.

In 1960 the Saints climbed two notches on the VFL table and it was apparent that the club was building a firm foundation for the future. A blueprint for success was on the drawing board!

Bill played in 17 games at half forward and kicked 12 goals for the season. Bill Young* again won the club’s goal kicking trophy with 37 goals.

*Note: In an era when defences dominated and goals were often hard to come by, Bill Young won St Kilda’s goal kicking award in five successive seasons ( 1956- 1960).

Bill Stephenson had had a satisfying season and polled 7 votes in the Brownlow Medal. Only Lance Oswald (10 votes) and Verdun Howell (9) polled better that year. Alan Morrow also recorded 7 votes. It was a ‘feather in the caps’ of the boys from Sale.


Bill’s form also impressed the VFL selectors and he was chosen to play for Victoria that season. Bill was 23 years of age when he wore the ‘Big V’ for the first time. On June 13th 1960 ‘The Age’ published the Victorian team to play against South Australia at the MCG on that weekend. It was a very strong line-up for the ‘Big V’ that day:-

B:ReevesT. JohnsonDonaldson
Reserves :CuzensLordStephenson.

It is also known that Bill was chosen in the Victorian squad that played against W.A. that year.

Stephenson and Morrow-Sale FC
Stephenson and Morrow-Sale FC


After only two years as coach, Jim Francis was virtually sacked by St Kilda. It was another dispute that the club could ill-afford.

Jim had brought a degree of stability to St Kilda and, although some argued that that he was an ultra- conservative type of coach, he had lifted the Saints to sixth position on the VFL ladder.

It is claimed that when St Kilda advertised for a new coach for the coming season, it was made quite clear (by club officials) that Jim Francis was welcome to re-apply. It made little difference as Allan Jeans was appointed as the non- playing coach of St Kilda for the 1961 season.

Allan* was only 27 years of age when chosen to coach the Saints. He was the club’s eighth coach since 1946. Alan was said to have been the youngest-ever non-playing coach of a VFL team. He was relatively inexperienced as a coach but his work, as St KFC Reserves coach in 1960, impressed those who sat in judgment.

  • Note: Allan did not play with the Saints in 1960 because of an injury that he sustained in pre-season training.

History would reveal the wisdom of the St Kilda committee’s choice. Allan Jeans would, in time, become one of the most successful VFL coaches of the post-war era.

Allan worked his ‘magic’ and was able to tap the obvious talent of the young, skilled and enthusiastic Saints. It was an exciting and memorable season as Allan lifted the St Kilda team to its first final for 22 years.

Stephenson and Jeans - Source - Heros with Halos by Russell Holmesby p254
Stephenson and Jeans - Source - Heros with Halos by Russell Holmesby p254

Allan’s opinion of Bill Stephenson’s marking ability was unequivocal …

“His (Bill’s) marking was so strong that Allan Jeans has declared him to have had the best hands of any player he coached at St Kilda.” St Kilda FC Newsletter ~2010.

Bill Stephenson played in the first fourteen rounds of the season and had booted 24 goals including five against Essendon in Round:13. However, bad luck struck against Geelong at Kardinia Park. Bill broke his ankle at the start of the game…….

Stephenson has a fracture-dislocation of the ankle….He underwent an operation at the Geelong Hospital early yesterday and will stay there for two or three days before being moved home to Sale. His leg will be in plaster for 10 to 12 weeks ‘The Age’ July 31st 1961.

The last round encounter, against the bottom of the table team North Melbourne, was a ‘cliffhanger.’ St Kilda came from behind, in the last quarter, to snatch a narrow victory and secure a finals berth.

Bill missed the Semi-Final against Footscray the following week. The Bulldogs won by nine points in front of 86,411 fans and Alan Morrow was named St Kilda’s best player that day.

Footscray won through to the Grand Final but was well beaten by Hawthorn. It was the Hawthorn’s first-ever VFL premiership.

Despite missing five matches that season, Bill Stephenson finished equal second on the club’s goal kicking list behind Ian Rowland who kicked 26 goals. Bill Young, who could only manage 10 games, kicked 24 goals also that year. Lance Oswald won the St Kilda FC’s Best & Fairest award.


After a long lay-off from football, Bill was ‘fit and rearing to go’ in 1962. Football scribe Percy Beames’ (‘The Age’) preview of the first game against Collingwood, at Victoria Park on the 23rd April, stated that Bill was back in action…

“St Kilda has gone through more than 40 years of bitter disappointment since victory was last gained at Collingwood, but this season the club has both the individual and team ability to break through today. The Saints last won at Victoria Park in 1919 when they got home by three points-5.18 to 5.15.”

Later in the same article, Percy also wrote …

“They (St Kilda) have Bill Stephenson available for full forward and picked up two new comers who should shine in League football Darrel Baldock from Tasmania and Alan Osborne from Dandenong.”

Not only did the Saints defy history and defeat the Magpies in a most convincing style but Bill Stephenson started the year with a ‘bang’ and kicked five goals.

The scores that day were: St Kilda 9.9. (63) defeated Collingwood 5.8. (38). The goal kickers for St Kilda were: Stephenson 5, Osborne, O’Brien, Dodd and Rowland each one.

It was a ‘red letter’ day for the Saints as a 23 year old recruit from Latrobe FC (Tasmania) named Darrel Baldock made his debut in that round*. Darrel was to become one of the elite VFL players of that era. He carved his name into St Kilda folklore by being the captain of the first-ever St Kilda premiership team in 1966.

  • Note: It was reported on May 9th by Ron Carter of ‘The Age’ that Darrel had actually cracked a bone in his foot in the opening round.

Bill Stephenson kicked three goals against South Melbourne in Round: 2 and then ‘nailed’ seven against Fitzroy the following week in a masterly exhibition. The Saints won by more than six goals and were sitting in fourth position on the VFL Ladder.

Allan Jeans was welding his charges into a strong fighting unit. The Saints line-up had the ‘desired mix’ of flair, hardness and experience that season.

Bill was probably the most combative and dangerous forward in the VFL at that time but Round: 4 was the ‘horror’ game for the Saint’s supporters in 1962.

Bill had struck a ‘purple patch’ and had kicked 15 goals in his first three outings of the season. He was in superlative form and he was perceived by supporters as the ‘trump card’ in the Saints forward line.

Darrell Baldoch, Graham Kennedy, Bill Stephenson, Alan Morrow Lance Oswald - Date unknown - photographer unknown - Source:StKildaFC
Darrell Baldoch, Graham Kennedy, Bill Stephenson, Alan Morrow Lance Oswald - Date unknown - photographer unknown - Source:StKildaFC

However, at the Junction Oval against Essendon, the ‘wheels on the Saints wagon’ fell off. After running amok with 5 goals in the first half, Bill sustained a serious injury in the third quarter…

“….He hit peak form against Essendon and in dry conditions had five of St Kilda’s eight goals to half time. Early in the third quarter however St Kilda’s hopes plummeted with a dull thud. Stephenson crashed to the ground …his knee badly damaged.” Feldmann & Holmesby.

According to the St Kilda FC website, Essendon’s spirited and tough follower Don McKenzie had a different slant on Bill’s injury that day….

“Stephenson recalled in later years that when he collapsed with the knee injury he loudly said “I’m buggered!” and Bomber ruckman Don McKenzie who had been shifted onto him after two full-backs had already been disposed of, responded “thank Christ for that.” The amiable Stephenson chided McKenzie for the remark in later years, but it was a fair indication of Essendon’s relief that the unstoppable full-forward could inflict no more damage on them.”

Essendon ran over the top of the Saints in the last quarter and ‘pinched’ a narrow victory. With Bill off the ground, the Saints could only manage two goals after half time. The consequent injury report relayed the deflating story of Bill’s injury to the anxious St Kilda fans the following day. Bill was out for a least a month.

Greg Hobbs reported in ‘The Age’ that coach Allan Jeans had stated after training on June 12th that…

“He (Bill) seems to have made a great improvement and we are now confident his leg is ready to stand up to league football again.”'' June 13th 1962.

Bill worked hard at his recovery sessions and appeared to be fit for the vital clash against Melbourne in Round: 9. He played at full forward and kicked two goals in a losing score but it was the last game he would play in 1962.

Sadly Bill’s football was over for another season. Perhaps he was ‘rushed back’ too quickly by the selectors?

With the spearhead ‘down and out’, the Saints could only manage nine wins and finished in 6th position on the VFL league ladder. It is a well-accepted notion in football that every club needs at least one ‘power forward’ to ensure ‘September action. ’

While Darrel Baldock won the club’s goal kicking with 33 goals in 15 games, Bill Stephenson finished second on the list with 22 goals from only five matches.

No other St Kilda player kicked more than 17 goals that season. Bill’s loss up forward had blown a massive hole in the Saints attack and probably sank the club’s finals aspirations.

Verdun Howell (13 votes) and Darrel Baldock (10 votes) polled well for St Kilda in the Brownlow Medal. Both had been recruited from Tasmania. In his truncated season, Bill polled two votes in the Brownlow Medal that year.


St Kilda started the 1963 season in blazing style by defeating Melbourne by 3 goals at the Junction Oval. While the win was a boost for the club, it was the appearance of a young blonde-haired ruckman from St Kilda named Carl Ditterich that caught the attention of everyone at the game. Carl would eventually go down in football history as…

“One of the most feared ruckman in league history and was a star from his very first game. That was the opening round match against Melbourne in 1963. Ditterich was easily best on the ground and his ruck play was a revelation.”
Holmesby & Main.

Age 27-Mar-1963 p22.jpg
Age 27-Mar-1963 p22.jpg

Bill Stephenson was not selected for the first three games that season but was named at full forward for the important Round: 4 clash against Collingwood at the Junction Oval.

“Bill Stephenson, who earlier this year was told to retire from football, will return as St Kilda’s full forward in tomorrow’s match against Collingwood. Stephenson broke down last season and later had his cartlidge removed from his right knee.” ‘The Age.’ May 10th 1963.

On that day, Bill let his ‘boots do the talking.’ Bill kicked seven goals and led the Saints to a resounding victory over the Magpies. It was said …

“…'Stevo’ booted the ball out of the ground for his first goal and the crowd went wild.”

Knee operations were highly problematical in those days but Bill decided to ‘throw the dice’ for one more time. It was remarkable comeback and Bill had shown courage and a real love for the game.

In Round:10 Bill kicked five goals against Footscray but in Round: 12 he was in more trouble with another injury to his knee. It must have been a testing and frustrating time for him.

Bill underwent further treatment and was back at training before long. He missed the last six home and away fixtures but was surprisingly selected to play in the First Semi-Final against Melbourne on the 13th September. Percy Beames reported…

“St Kilda selectors last night named Bill Stephenson to play centre half forward for tomorrow’s first semi-final clash against Melbourne. Stephenson who has not played since the 12th Round, has had his season interrupted by a knee injury.” ‘The Age’ 12th September 1963.

In front of a record crowd of 88,914 fans, Melbourne narrowly defeated St Kilda in an enthralling contest by 7 points. Despite a magnificent fight back in the last quarter by the Saints; the Demons hung on to claim victory. Bill failed to kick a goal and he was not mentioned in the match report. Details of the match were:-

Melbourne 9.17. (71) defeated St Kilda 8.16.(64).

Goals for Melbourne: Vagg 2 Emselle 2 Keneally Rattray Bourke Johnson Mann
Goals for St Kilda: Roberts 3 Smith 2 Wallis Baldock Morrow.
Best for Melbourne: Dixon Lord Adams Mann Leahy Roet Keneally
Best for St Kilda: Ditterich Howell Roberts Cross Guyatt Synman

This was Bill’s only appearance in a VFL finals series and unfortunately it would prove to be his last game. According to AFL statistics, Bill was only 26 years of age when he left the ‘big stage.’


Bill’s character and resilience had been fully tested by past injuries but, in one more attempt, he pulled the boots on again and underwent another pre-season training program at St Kilda. Just when things ‘looked promising’ Bill suffered another setback that would bring the ‘down the curtain’ on his VFL career.

‘The Age’ sportswriter Greg Hobbs filed the following story on the 15th April 1964…


St Kilda forward- follower Bill Stephenson decided yesterday to quit League football after learning he had suffered cartlidge damage to his left knee.

Stephenson, 27, received the injury during last week’s final practice game at St Kilda. He visited a specialist yesterday, and immediately said he would ‘hang up his boots’ when told he had injured his cartlidge. Stephenson had his cartridge removed from his right knee in 1962.

Last night he said: “I have had enough injuries and I am not young anymore. I would need another operation to have any hope of playing again and I am not prepared to go all through it for a second time.”

I have tried harder than ever over the past two seasons to overcome injury but my knees have caused me too much trouble. ….When the doctor told Stephenson of cartlidge trouble yesterday, Stephenson immediately contacted St Kilda Secretary Ian Drake and told him he was not prepared to continue playing football.”

There were no ‘comebacks’ this time and Bill was forced to retire from VFL football. He had played 88 games for St Kilda and kicked 139 goals.

Bill Stephenson's VFL Statistics Year by Year
Year Team GamesGoals Brownlow Votes
1957St Kilda6110
1958St Kilda18233
1959St Kilda18261
1960St Kilda17127
1961St Kilda14245
1962St Kilda5222
1963St Kilda10212
Totals 8813920

(Source: http://afltables.com/afl/stats/players/B/Bill_Stephenson.html)

Time would show that his injuries would cost him the chance to be a member of the 1966 St Kilda Premiership team. His friend and team mate from Sale Alan Morrow played his ‘heart out’ for the Saints that historic day. Alan would be remembered for many great deeds at St Kilda but none finer than the magnificent performance that he produced to lead the Saints to their first VFL premiership by one point over Collingwood.


Injury had taken its toll and Bill returned home to Sale. However, in one more valiant attempt he took the field with Sale FC in 1965. Former South Melbourne star rover Kevin Hogan was the coach of Sale that season.

the Sale Oval2 Source ‘The Mighty Magpies
the Sale Oval2 Source ‘The Mighty Magpies

Bill was influential in developing the players and he set a great example for the young Magpies (as Sale FC is known) to follow.

Although the Magpies missed the LVFL final series that season, Bill won the club’s Best and Fairest award. It was a meritorious effort by Bill as he probably played with pain and the risk of further knee damage each week.

Bill was selected in the Latrobe Valley Football League’s combined team that played against South Gippsland that year. Bill’s younger brother Laurie was also selected to represent the LVFL that season.

1965 was to be Bill’s last season of football. It was not only a great disappointment for Bill to depart the game at such a young age but it was a massive loss to Sale FC and country football. Bill was a LVFL superstar and he was a massive draw card for Gippsland football. Bill did so much to generate interest in local football and bring people ‘through the gate.’


Bill Stephenson died in August 2010 at the age of 73 years. The tribute to Bill on the St Kilda FC website underlines his talent and reputation…

__“St Kilda Football Club is saddened by the news of the passing of former player, Bill Stephenson. It says a lot about Bill Stephenson that when Tony Lockett arrived at St Kilda he reminded old Saint fans of Stephenson’s brief time in front of goals. Stephenson, who died on Tuesday aged 73, was the subject of huge media scrutiny back in 1962 when he injured his knee and directly affected the course of the season. To put it in context when he went down with the injury, Stephenson had kicked 20 goals in three and a half games. If he had kept going at that rate he would have kicked 102 for the year. The parallel with Tony Lockett was in Stephenson’s vice-like marking and immovable presence in front of goal.
A left-footer, he was not always accurate in front of goal, so he tailored his game at full-forward to make sure he never travelled too far from the big sticks. Writing for ‘The Sun’, Lou Richards dubbed him “cricket pitch” to describe the manner in which he never stayed more than 22 yards from the goal square.”__

Bill Stephenson was a brilliant footballer with a big heart. Cruel injury denied football fans seeing one of the best in the ‘business’ and, unfortunately, the ‘fickle finger of fate’ left the fans wondering of ‘what may have been.’

In conclusion, the Sale FC can be extremely proud of Bill Stephenson and the long list of other outstanding players it has produced over the last century.

Bill Stephenson Source:www.saints.com.au
Bill Stephenson Source:www.saints.com.au



When the Sale FC selected the Team of the Century, Bill was named at centre half forward. The strong team line-up is as shown:

B:Peter SpeedTerry WyndAlan Morrow
HB:Ron HughesRobert FosterTed Heesom
C:Wayne MorrisJohn Nix (Capt)Stan Davidson
HF:Ian JonesBill StephensonBrad Sparks
F:Neil BristowShane LovelessRay Stamp
Foll:Bob Mason (V. Capt)Alex Schuback
Rov:Tom Hart

Interchange: John Barnett, Ian Brewer, Brian Carroll, Jim Hart, Chris Grumley, Ken Heyne, Damian Hogan, Brendan Hogan, Craig Lazzaro, David Mason, Graeme Sheppard, and Daniel Surkitt.
Coach: Hugh Murnane

Readers may recognize quite a few names in the team along with Bill and Alan Morrow.

Bob Mason
Bob Mason
Bob Mason was named captain of the team and while Bob was eagerly sought by VFL clubs, particularly Melbourne FC, he never played a game at VFL level.

Bob was a strong mark and a brilliant ‘tap’ ruck man in the 1950’s and he was regarded as the best follower in Gippsland football. In September 1951 ‘The Gippsland Times’ carried the following pen sketch of Bob Mason …

“…Bob Mason: 20, 6ft. 2in., 13st. 2lbs. - Tall, tireless follower, he has capably filled Sale's No. 1 ruckman job since the retirement of Hugh Murnane. His high marking and clever palming of the ball to his rovers make him outstanding in the G.F.L.”

Three years later, when Sale had become an affiliate of the LVFL, the ‘Gippsland Times’ again reported….

“High tributes paid to coach and players…. On Saturday night at Morwell there was a wonderful wind-up to the first season of the Latrobe Valley Football League. The ladies of the Morwell club catered and the premiership pennant was, presented to the delegates from the Sale club During the evening, warm tributes were paid to Sale, its team and its coach, Hughie Murnane. In addition, the award to Bob Mason for best and fairest was presented in absentia. Speakers said that his example and sportsmanship had been a shining example to his team and to others who played the game. It was fitting that he should take the Rodda Medal and the Trood award in the league's first season.” (Gippsland Times- November 8th 1954).

In 1959 ‘The Age’ (June 16th) reported on the match between the Latrobe Valley Football League and the Gippsland Football League. The match was a highlight of regional football and the rivalry between the two leagues was intense. With ‘bragging rights’ throughout Gippsland at stake, the annual contest was always ‘keen and hard fought.’ Much of the match review was devoted to Bob Mason…

“Latrobe Valley League swamped the Gippsland League in their annual match before a record crowd of 8500 at Sale yesterday. The star of the match was Bob Mason…a lanky ruckman grazier who has for many years been sought by VFL clubs. Playing in his sixth Inter-League match- the first player ever to perform this feat, Mason was unbeatable in the air and a tower of strength in rucking duels.”

It is documented that Bob Mason played in 263 senior games, played in seven Sale FC premiership teams, skippered SFC, represented LVFL and won several competition Best & Fairest awards. Bob is a Life Member of the Sale FC.


  • Bill had two brothers. Laurie Stephenson played 15 games with St Kilda (1959-60) and kicked 21 goals. He won the LVFL goal kicking in 1962 (in the same year in which he coached the club) with 51 goals. Laurie also suffered knee injuries which restricted his career at Sale. Laurie is a Life Member of Sale FC.
  • Bill’s youngest brother Ralph also played with Sale FC. He was a ruckman-defender and played reserves and senior football until he also sustained serious a knee injury.
  • Both Laurie and Ralph have sons who also played with Sale FC.
  • Alan Morrow played 163 games with St Kilda and kicked 151 goals from 1957-1966. Alan was selected in the St Kilda Team of the Century. He also coached Dandenong in the VFA. Alan was selected in the Sale FC’s Team of the Century.
  • Ian Brewer was cleared from Sale to Collingwood and played 84 games and kicked 164 goals. Ian won the VFL goal kicking in 1958 with 73 goals and topped Collingwood’s goal kicking award in 1957.
  • Hugh Murnane had the distinction of being the club’s first coach when Sale entered the LVFL in 1954. Hugh was regarded as a ‘modern thinker’ and a clever tactician. Hugh led the club to LVFL flags in 1954 and 55. Hugh was centre half forward for Melbourne FC between 1947-50. He played 52 senior VFL games and kicked 42 goals. Hugh is given much credit for his ability to foster the talents of such Sale champions as Bob Mason and Alan Morrow.
  • John Nix (Richmond 1949-56) coached Sale in 1957-58-59 and was successful in winning two premierships in 1957 and 1959. John (recruited from Trafalgar) played 95 games for Richmond between1949 and 1956. John was a dynamic player for Sale FC and an inspiring coach. He also coached at Mornington, KooWeeRup and Dromana before returning to Richmond Football Club as a reserves coach. John led the Richmond Reserves to a flag in 1966.He won the LVFL Best & Fairest award in 1957.
  • Kevin Hogan coached at Sale FC in two stints. He first coached in 1961 and again in 1964-65. Kevin took over the role when former Melbourne defender Don Williams returned to Melbourne FC in 1963. Kevin was a talented rover with South Melbourne (1953-60) and played 63 games and kicked 34 goals for the Swans. Kevin was awarded the OAM (1983) the Australian Sports Medal ( 2000), the Centenary Medal (2003) for his services to sport in Gippsland.
  • Lester Ross was recruited from Moe FC and he played 10 games with St. Kilda in 1959. Lester won the LVFL Best & Fairest award in 1958. He also played in the SANFL with Norwood FC where he finished third in the Margarey Medal in 1961. Lester later played for South Adelaide and was member of that club’s 1964 premiership team. Lester played one game with Subiaco FC in the WAFL in 1968.
  • Bill Young came from Stratford FC and played 94 VFL games and kicked 274 goals. Bill won the VFL goal kicking award in 1956 and won the goal kicking at St Kilda from 1956-1960. Bill was selected in the Victorian ‘B’ team in 1959. He was also known as a gifted cricketer.
  • Jim Guyatt played with Maffra FC before arriving at St Kilda in 1957. Jim went on to play 114 games and also represented Victoria on two occasions.
  • Sale FC has a strong and long reputation for developing accomplished footballers. Many young players who commenced their careers at Sale FC were recruited to VFL/AFL ranks. According to the Sale FC website and the detailed research of historian Tassie Deacon, it is known that since 1903 more than thirty-five Sale players were selected by a VFL/AFL club for at least one senior game. The list includes…… Norm Ware (Footscray~ 1941 Brownlow Medallist), Hugh James (Richmond), Ian Collins (Carlton), Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood), Ray Dawson (Melbourne/South Melbourne), Stewart McLatchie (Carlton), Tristan Lynch (Brisbane /Geelong), Stan Davidson (Footscray), Shane Loveless ( Footscray), Rob Foster (Melbourne), Vic Trood (University), Will Hams (Essendon), Brad Sparks (Sydney), Jason Gram (St Kilda/Brisbane), Dylan McLaren (Brisbane/ Carlton), Jacob Schuback (Adelaide), Shane Briss (Western Bulldogs), and Stuart Anderson (North Melbourne/Fre
  • Bill Stephenson’s grandson (Will) is currently playing with the Sale FC Under: 16 team in the Gippsland FL.
  • The LVFL’s Best & Fairest award is called the ‘Trood Award and Rodda Medal.’ The name ‘Trood’ refers to former Sale and University footballer Vic Trood as mentioned above.


  • Sincere appreciation is expressed to well-known Sale FC historian W. ‘Tassie’ Deacon for his kind assistance in clarifying certain aspects of the Sale FC, the Stephenson family history and matters related to Alan Morrow and Ian Brewer. Tassie is a former player and is also a Life Member of the Sale FC. The Sale FC history, as carried on the club’s website, was compiled by Tassie and makes absorbing reading.
  • ‘The Mighty Magpies’ is a book which celebrates 125 years of the Sale Football Club. It traces the story of the club from 1877 until 2003. It is a wonderful history of the life and times of the club. A copy is available by contacting Tassie Deacon at Sale FC.
  • Special thanks to Karen Elliget at the Rosebud Public Library for her kindness in arranging inter-library loans to assist in writing this story.


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