A Tribute to Norm McDonald

Norm McDonald

by Max Watson


“Being different makes it hard to fit in”, Norm McDonald didn’t think so. Norm McDonald was an aboriginal Australian AFL player who played as Essendon’s half back flanker in the late forties and early fifties, a time when aboriginal Australians were treated extremely poorly. Norm was Essendon’s first indigenous AFL player and was born on the 10th of December 1925.


Apart from being a spectacular AFL player, Norm was a professional sprinter, (hence the nickname ‘the black bullet’). Combine this with his amazing kicking and marking abilities and you get one of the most aggressive halfback flankers in AFL’s history. A favourite among the crowd he played in two premierships, was listed as the half back flanker of the aboriginal team of the century in 2005 and won the Crichton medal in 1951. As well as playing for Essendon norm played for Geelong’s RAAF team and was given the opportunity to represent his state by playing for the Victorian team.


In 1953 Norm retired from professional football, but was not forgotten for in 1991 Michael Long (the ‘father’ of modern indigenous Australian AFL) a man who would not stand for anything but total removal of racism from the AFL chose number 4 as his original number the same one that Norm proudly wore. Norm McDonald was an inspiring man who fought against  the oppression  and racism to indigenous Australians of the time and proved that being different makes it hard to fit in but not impossible.


  1. Max, I really enjoyed your profile of Norm McDonald. Good to see you are taking an interest in history, footy history and issues like this. You must take after your grandpa.

  2. Peter Flynn says:


    Thanks for the great read.

    It’s my understanding that Norm McDonald use to play on Geelong’s number 4, Bobby Davis.

    Both were very very fleet of foot.

    Am I right in saying that Essendon players Lance Mann and McDonald quinelled the Stawell Gift one year?

  3. Peter Flynn says:


    I’m interested in Geelong’s RAAF team.

    Can anybody fill me in?


  4. Andrew Starkie says:

    You’ve done Norm proud, max. Well done

  5. Ran second in the Stawell Gift in 1952 behind L.G Mann.

    My father knew him pretty well.

  6. Thank you Max, I really enjoyed your article. I remember watching Norm play for the Dons in the late 40’s and early 50’s and he was an absolute champion.

  7. I’ll second that Rod. I remember him well in one of The Bombers most glorious eras. he stood out in a team that boasted so many champions. Dick Reynolds, Bill Hutchinson, John Coleman, Wally May, Doug Bigelow, Doug McClure, Bill Snell. Bill Brittingham, The list goes on.

    I’m sure I sat in front of him in the stands at the G one day in the late 60s. We got into conversation and when I asked him – I thought in the nicest possible way – if he was Norm McDonald he said he wasn’t, He was a dead ringer and knew his footy like he’d been out there in the heat of battle. I’ve always wondered.

    What made you write the tribute Max?

  8. Thanks everyone for the great feedback.
    I was inspired to write about norm because He was one of the earliest Australian indigenous AFL players.
    The speech was originally a project for a school public speaking competition, I managed to qualify to represent my school in the final.

    Cheers max.

  9. Joel Smeaton says:

    Great to read such positive comments about my Grandfather

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