Our memories of Noel McMahen

July 22, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history 

NSW Demons Legends Dinner – Noel McMahen – 2004

Michael Peters

Noel McMahen, one of the fine players of Melbourne’s greatest era, has died aged 95. Demon supporters in Sydney will remember Noel for his visit to us in 2004, when he spoke to us in the Sydney Cricket Ground Members Dining Room.

Noel played 175 games with Melbourne from 1946 to 1956. This included membership of the Melbourne Premiership teams of 1948, 1955 and 1956. Noel was a Victorian State representative in 1952 and 1954. He was Melbourne Captain in 1955-56.

Noel was a magnificent Melbourne back man, who repeatedly drove Melbourne into attack from the back line after fierce tackles and with long driving kicks, I had the good fortune of seeing Noel and the team win the 1948 premiership, one would have to say in part because of Essendon’s woeful kicking for goal (7 goals 27) in the first drawn Grand Final; Melbourne comfortably won the replayed Grand Final against the favourite Essendon.

Noel McMahen’s fierce tackling is best exemplified by the his famous “shirt front” tackle of the Collingwood champion Bob Rose in the 1955 Grand Final, which remains one of the best-remembered tackles in the history of the. Game.

Noel was named in the Melbourne Team of the Century in 2001 on the. Half Back Flank. He will be remembered always as one of our All Time Greats

 

Vale Noel McMahen: from Mordialloc boy to a Melbourne Immortal

Nigel Dawe

GREATNESS, in a game like Australian Football, or more specifically at a club like the Melbourne Demons (the world’s oldest football club) resides not in the retrievability or conciseness of mere statistical facts; in spiffy, well-worded player bios or tables of match possession tallies and totals.

If it did, history would recall the number 35 wearing Noel McMahen as simply the 667th player to appear for the Melbourne Demons in the post-1897/ VFL era; or merely the man to have played the 32nd most games for the club with a tally of 175 between 1946 and 1956.

Even the dictionary definition of Greatness: “the quality of being extremely good in ability or quality and therefore admired by many people” doesn’t really come all that closer to capturing the essence or mercurial quintessence of what true greatness means.

‘Bulldozer’ as Noel McMahen – the feared halfback flanker (and future club hall of famer) was affectionately known, weighing in at 86kg and 184cm as a player, became one of the most revered heart and soul figures to embody and iridescently bleed red and blue, the club has ever seen.

Perhaps the most famous of all snapshots of McMahen is drawn from the opening stages of the 1955 Grand Final. The second of seven-straight Grand Finals the club would appear in; and the first they would win of the overall five premierships from this era. In his first year as club captain, Noel flattened – in fair but brutal shirtfront fashion the magpie star and playmaker Bob Rose, it resulted in a free kick and the first goal of the game. But it also set the tone for a win that went on to forge not just success that day, but the sport’s greatest dynasty, lasting the best part of a decade.

Ironically, it is often not the gleaming periods of success that define or shed the truest light on someone’s career or mettle, but the dark moments of defeat and struggle – dealt with and then surmounted, that tell a tale that can’t be gleaned from amidst the halcyon glare of ultimate triumph and victory.

What makes McMahen special, from a club stalwart perspective is not just the premiership successes he enjoyed (the first as a fresh-faced newbie in 1948) but also the barren seasons he endured in between, where wins were few and the hardships many. One such season was that of 1951 – Melbourne notched just the one solitary win to finish last by a full three games. But it was a year McMahen finished with a club best and fairest, gaining mileage for the rest of his life: “This pretty much meant I was actually the competition’s ‘worst and the dirtiest’, seeing our team were playing so poorly.”

The self-effacement aside, who could ever hope to lead a team in the AFL to premiership glory (as McMahen did) twice in the only two seasons they were made team captain (not to mention that second year, 1956 – an Olympic year – being considered by many as the club’s greatest ever season) is something that will surely remain an unrepeatable feat, for as long as football is played.

As the sun brightly sets on the life of Noel McMahen – a life that commenced in 1926, the very year of the Melbourne Football Club’s most famous premiership win of all, and the same year a young Ernest Hemingway appropriately released his first novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’. It would be no exaggeration to say, the game itself, not to mention the team of the red and the blue, will ever see the shining likes of a Noel McMahen again.

Appreciating Greatness

June 19, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Nigel Dawe

The double-edged thing about success when you get it, is that you shouldn’t ever expect or consider it your natural right or entitlement.

As a long-term devotee of this team of ours, I don’t for a moment reach for any panic button or delete keys because our side has suddenly dropped their last three games (after winning the previous 17). Quite the opposite, I think the next few weeks will be the most exciting, if not the most telling ones we’ve had for a very long time.

The great thing about champions (in any sport) is that they rise when all seems lost, it’s not the ginormous score lines or the sublime repeated passages of faultless precision, but the seemingly insurmountable tight spots they can somehow get out of, that might otherwise ensnare and crush those of a lesser mettle.

Whilst the last three weeks of footy haven’t been the most enjoyable ones I’ve ever experienced, they have reminded me of the thrill I have always taken from watching the Melbourne Demons (irrespective of them winning or losing).

It can sometimes be the individual prowess of a team member that refuses to submit (Gawny the week before last, it was easily the best game I’ve seen him play) and watching Gus Brayshaw and also the ‘Son of Todd’ – Jack Viney on the weekend, if all 18 Dees had applied themselves in such a way, then all-time record scores would’ve toppled!

But that’s sport, and the very thing that keeps you loyal and true with regards to the things that mean the most in life, as Winston Churchill himself well knew: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

And as such, I reckon our Dees will be back breathing fire after the bye, they will regroup and put all distractions aside so as to ascend the heights of this game once more. I’d love them to hear and take onboard the former American President Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech.

Finally, congrats to the new inductees of the AFL Hall of Fame, to a player – they are absolutely worthy candidates. But can someone honestly tell me how Garry Lyon was overlooked again? Did he previously run over a member of the selection committee’s grandmother, or family pet?

Pound-for-pound, ‘Lyon Heart’ was the best player (with the possible exception of one Robert Flower) I have seen in my 40-years of following the Melbourne Demons; the fact neither of these two ever won a Brownlow is also another bugbear of mine.

Keeping in mind, none other than Jack ‘Captain Blood’ Dyer once said in the mid to late-90s: “I look at him [Lyon] and I see everything I love about the game… It’s a mystical thing. A matter of mind over matter. It’s not something that you can switch on or off. Some days you know you are invincible and you go out and do the invincible thing. An ordinary player never has the feeling let alone the ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck. Great players do it from time to time. Champions do it most of the time. Garry Lyon is a champion who does it more often than any player I’ve seen since Laurie Nash.”

Should anyone require any remote confirmation of this, then simply watch a replay of the ’94 Semi Final against the Bulldogs, our #3 kicked a lazy 10-goals that day (double figures in a final being a feat that has only been done by four players in the history of the game, Lyon being one of them, not to mention the very last player to do so) after leaving the ground early in the final quarter.

What’s more, ‘Captain Blood’ also went on to very aptly say alongside his above-mentioned comments: “Lyon has already set himself up for a prominent place in the AFL Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t want to be in there if he wasn’t going to join me one day.”

So, let’s just hope that that day finally comes, and Dyer’s spirit, along with the spirit of every footy purist, can then rest in peace.

Here is Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech

An ANZAC memory – Joe Pearce and the MFC

April 22, 2022 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Joe Pearce – Melbourne Footballer and Fallen Gallipoli Soldier

Nigel Dawe

I wouldn’t readily call myself a creature of habit, knockabout with intermittent bouts of adherence to routine would be more in line with how I get through my days.

But that said, each and every ANZAC day I unfailingly make a point of listening to ‘The Pogues’ version of Eric Bogle’s 1971 classic ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ all whilst having a quiet, reflective ale.

Without exception each year one man comes clear to mind through the revering mist of deep respect and remembrance – this year Arthur Mueller ‘Joe’ Pearce.

A Melbourne stalwart and the first VFL footballer (along with 22 of his mates from the 7th Battalion) to lose his life during the twilight mayhem of the Gallipoli landings of 25thApril, 1915. All 23 soldiers, including our gallant Joe Pearce, who was only 30-years old at the time, were buried on that blood-stained beach of ANZAC Cove.

As a player, the number 19 wearing Joe Pearce (who played a then club record 152 games between 1904-13) was a bustling and formidable full-back that also refused any form of match payment. Gifted and by all accounts as fair as they come (in his spare time Joe was even a Sunday school superintendent) but none other than Collingwood’s Dick Lee – the Buddy Franklin of his day, once referred to Pearce as ‘clearly my best opponent.’

A cousin of the future Melbourne icon – Jack Mueller; when the club gave Joe Pearce a send-off before he left for the war, Pearce is known to have graciously said: “I have thought this thing over and I have considered it every way. I am young, strong, healthy and athletic and I think I ought to go, and if I don’t come back, well, it won’t much matter.”

But to this day, I believe Joe’s legacy matters immensely. Some two months after his passing at Gallipoli in 1915, Melbourne wore black armbands for a match against Essendon in his honour. A match that resulted in a truly fitting 19-point win (that being Joe’s old guernsey number) after the side came from behind following a burst of four inspired goals late in the final term.

Some years ago, I wrote about getting hold of an original 1909 Melbourne team photo, it has since become one of my most prized possessions: primarily because of the fact that a pensive Joe Pearce looms like a beacon at the far right in the very back row.

Upon closer inspection, Joe is the only member of that entire team to be gazing away from the camera. He is seemingly drawn by the spectre of a destiny that would not only see him die young, but in such a way that he’d never grow old – remaining of eternal inspiration to all in the Melbourne fold.

To Joe Pearce and the other 8,708 Australian soldiers that gave their lives at Gallipoli all those years ago – Thank you, and Lest We Forget.

The Pogues – The band played waltzing matilda

Melbourne Demons – Mountains to climb & things to claim

August 18, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

All week my brain has been like a swirling red and blue hurricane, but not in a batten down the hatches kind of way, more like a serene bombardment of thoughts and images, that reflect and ‘flag’ the enormity and significance of where we find ourselves as a club, right now in time.

Nigel Dawe

Of all the things that came flooding in, at the forefront was the memory of my two most revered players – Robbie Flower and big Jim Stynes. Should our team take us all the way to the promised land of a premiership in a few weeks: my first emotion will be recalling the wonderful players and people those two legends were, and what a premiership would have meant to these two icons, who don’t worry – will certainly be on their respective wing and centre circle positions in spirit, with hearts ablaze, come that final siren.

Relatedly, not getting ahead of myself (well, maybe just a little) the highlight of a Grand Final win in 2021 would be seeing the great Ron Barassi, up in the stands saluting and savouring his Demons being on top of the football world once again. It would be eerily reminiscent of our team’s 1926 Grand Final victory, which had the club’s ultimate spiritual figure, and the then 90-year-old ‘father of football’ H.C.A Harrison applauding his side’s ‘drought-breaking’ efforts, being Melbourne’s first premiership in 26-years.

In a similar vein, two monumental developments occurred on planet Earth in May 1953. The first was Ronald Dale Barassi’s playing debut for the Melbourne Demons at the MCG on Saturday the 16th; and the second, took place 13 days later on the 29th of May, when Edmund Hillary scaled Mt Everest, the first human being to ever do so. And it’s the imagery and thought-quest of scaling the highest mountain around, that our current-day players need to harness, prepare for and revel in.

Talking mountains scaled, a wonderful outcome of beating the Cats this weekend to claim our first minor premiership in 57 years, would also be the acquisition of the little spoken of – McClelland Trophy (which was first awarded back in 1951). Originally it was given to the club for having achieved the most points/ wins in the top three grades (back when there was a true club reserves and U/19s competition). Interestingly, Melbourne won the ‘last’ McClelland Trophy (along those original combined triple grade lines) back in 1990; since 1991 it has been awarded to the team who finishes the season as minor premier.

Whilst the achievement of a fifth McClelland trophy this year for the Demons (1955, 1956, 1958 and 1990 – being seasons we also previously won) the Melbourne connection to the award does not end there. The award itself was of course named after Dr William McClelland, the former Melbourne captain (1901-1904), 1900 premiership player, club president, and then head of the VFL (for a record setting 30-years) who passed away in the Demons premiership year of 1957.

Not that I’ve ever bought into things like horoscopes, tea readings or tarot cards, but there is something about season 2021 that has an element of ‘stars aligning’ for the Melbourne Football Club, in a very discernible way. As such, if I were to get a precious five minutes with the playing group over the next week or so, I’d flag two points in particular.

The first would be an old American football adage: “We have just four weeks to play, and the REST OF OUR LIVES to think back on it.

And the second, instructional ‘takeaway’ would be a line by the fire-breathing Frenchman, La Rochefoucauld: “We promise according to our hopes; and perform according to our fears.”

So, just go out there boys and be as fearless, committed, and ferocious as you’ve been for this entire year. The time and the season have arrived… and it is now, right now.

As we head full speed into the approaching month of September, there’s only one more thing left to say, and that’s: “Good luck Melbourne Demons – come what may… it’s been a wonderful season!”

MFC, Olympics and the NSW Demons

August 12, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history, Our stories 

Sally Trevena

Our recent story of Melbourne VFL premiership footballer Corrie Gardner, who was one of only two athletic representatives at the St Louis Olympic Games in 1904, prompted his grandson William Streeton, to share more of Corrie’s story and his passion for the Demons.

William remembers him as a passionate Demons supporter to his death. William has very fond memories of him, despite being very young and remembers going with him to the MCG and watching Ron Barassi, John Lord etc playing. He died watching a televised match of Melbourne playing and winning against Collingwood.

Corrie’s brothers, Mark & Eric also played for Melbourne. Corrie and Eric played together from 1900, 1901, 1902 & 1903, Mark played in1904 and Corrie and Mark in 1905.

I was delighted to hear from William and never cease to be amazed by the ongoing connections between our footy club’s history and members of the NSW Demons audience.

Thank you William

Go Dees.

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