Forgotten ‘forties

Collingwood’s Forgotten ‘forties

by Mountains Magpie

Collingwood’s Forgotten ‘forties

The 1940s are quite often overlooked by Collingwood’s fans and with good reason. This was the only decade in which Collingwood failed to make the grand final.

In 1939, Collingwood finished runners-up for the third consecutive year after claiming back-to back premierships in 1935 and 1936. As our history has displayed, this sort of sustained success inevitably has it’s downside with a lean period for the club in the succeeding years. For example, it was nine years after the Hafey years before the Magpies contested another grand final.

Three of Collingwood’s most revered sons, Syd and Gordon Coventry, and Albert Collier, had retired by 1940, with Harry Collier playing his last season in 1940. Further family legacy wasn’t long coming with the debut of Lou Richards in 1941. The grandson of Charlie Pannam, and a favourite son of the club, Richards would go on to play 250 games for Collingwood and captained the club to the 1953 premiership. He played alongside his uncle Alby in the early years of his career.

In 1940, under the captaincy of Jack Regan, Collingwood finished eighth on the ladder. Des Fothergill crossed to Williamstown without a clearance after the 1940 season and considering he won the Brownlow, Copeland and was Collingwood’s leading goalkicker in 1940, this was quite a loss.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Magpies rose to fifth in 1941 but fell away in the following three years to finish eleventh, tenth and tenth respectively. For the only time since it’s inception, the Copeland Trophy was suspended for the 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons.

Following three seasons as Collingwood’s top goal scorer, and a best and fairest in 1942, Alby Pannam captained the club in 1945. Fothergill returned and yet another famous son debuted. Neil Mann would play 179 games until his retirement in 1956 and would be senior coach from 1972 to 1974. He was also one of the best afield in the 1953 triumph. With Fothergill as leading goal kicker in 1945, with 62 goals, the Magpies finished third, knocked out in the preliminary final by Carlton, going down by 10 points. This match was cited by many of the participants as more of a bloodbath than the infamous grand final a week later.

Collingwood again finished third in 1946, defeated in the preliminary final by Melbourne, with Phonse Kyne as skipper and best and fairest. He would retain the captaincy for the next two seasons and pick up two more Copeland’s as well. Only two other players have won the Copeland Trophy 3 years running, Bob Rose and Nathan Buckley. Ironically, Rose made his debut in 1946 and is widely regarded as Collingwoods favourite son and best ever player.

Collingwood missed the semi finals by half a game in 1947, finishing fifth and were again defeated in the preliminary final, again by Melbourne, in 1948. Melbourne would go on to win the grand final in a replay, the first such instance in the VFL.

In what must be regarded as a very significant turning point in Collingwood’s history, Jock McHale’s coaching career came to an end after the 1949 season. Collingwood finished fourth, defeated in the first semi final by a rampant Essendon, by 82 points. Essendon would win the flag, dispatching of Carlton by 73 points in the grand final. McHale coached Collingwood in 714 games over 38 seasons for eight premierships, all VFL/AFL records. The “seasons coached” record is surely McHale’s forever. Essendon’s Kevin Sheedy would have to coach into his early seventies to beat this mark but is edging ever closer to the “games coached” mark. This year, 2006, and five more seasons will see Sheedy claim this record as his own, which is perfectly feasible, but only time will tell.