John Beckwith leads out the team for the Grand Final 1959

By Nigel Dawe

Leadership is a funny thing, in this ultra construed era of ours, it appears to have taken on a somewhat quasi-here-there-and-everywhere kind of prevalence.

But true leadership is somehow forged only through, or because of – hardship, not to mention trial and the gravest of tribulations; it is a quality that often ‘leads’ to triumph, after having endured the tests and red-hot throes of defeat, and rarely, albeit almost never, the other way around.

The Melbourne Football Club recently lost one of its all-time greats and captain – John Beckwith, on-field leader for the premierships of 1957 and 1959, not to mention ‘the upset of the century’ in 1958. John is also credited as having been the first captain to ever receive a premiership cup on Grand Final day, after they were inaugurated in 1959.

Intriguingly, Beckwith’s first season in senior ranks (1951) saw Melbourne win on only one solitary occasion, and in another game that year against the Bulldogs they were walloped by 30 goals!

So, John knew first-hand the grave questions only defeat can pose, before it sometimes propels a chosen few to victory beyond all imagination. Needless to say, Beckwith was named Best First Year Player, before going on to forge a career as one of the best defenders to have ever donned a red and blue guernsey.

With Beckwith’s passing, Max Gawn becomes the lone living Melbourne player to have captained the club to a premiership. And like Gawn, who seems to have that elusive ability, albeit aura to rouse the spirit and fortunes of team mates to do the miraculous.

Beckwith famously leapt up at half-time of the Second Semi-Final (being 48-points down) against Essendon in 1957, and started singing ‘It’s a grand old flag’. The team didn’t win that day, but they did go on to resoundingly beat the Bombers by over 10-goals a few weeks later.

John Beckwith was only 24 years of age when he took on the role as captain of what would be the greatest dynasty that any side in the history of the game would go on to enjoy. Having played in each of the 7 Grand Finals between 1954 to 1960 for 5 premierships (two as captain) – is a record that seems destined to never be rivalled, let alone ever beaten.

There is a famous image of Beckwith on the MCG after one of their Grand Final wins, sharing a cold ale with his coach Norm Smith – whereby you just can’t help but ponder – what sublime, never to be repeated recipe this team created for the elixir of ultimate success.

Sadly, our side wasn’t able to win for ‘Becky’ last weekend up in Alice Springs, the players were all wearing black armbands in honour of the boy from Black Rock who wore the number 30 guernsey for Melbourne on 176 miraculous occasions.

As upsetting as it was that our modern-day batch of Demons couldn’t win for one of its all-time greats, it might prove eerily appropriate, that from the searing clutches of this defeat, our team could eventually rise again to the heights of success, as Beckwith and his fellow Demons did all those years ago.

Rest in Peace John Beckwith, one of the very last links and vital cogs to the game’s greatest dynasty has passed on, but you have left a legacy and an example of true greatness that will last and shine brightly for as ever long as the game is played.

Captain and Coach - Winning Premierships

John Beckwith

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