Almanac Football History – Darkness and Light: The remarkable and tragic story of the Banks family

Fitzroy’s Tom Banks [Source: Author]

 

 

This is a story of triumph and tragedy. It is an American story, and an Australian story. And it is a story about Australian football. Along the way it is a story about Fitzroy’s first premiership and a WA cricketer who was a South Fremantle ‘premiership’ captain and a Perth footballer.

 

 

And it is a story about a pandemic.

 

 

It starts in the south of the USA in the first half of the nineteenth century with an African-American man named Norel Banks and ends in the backyard of a lodging house in East Perth, Western Australia a hundred years later, in July 1930.

 

 

In 1832, Frances Banks and her husband, Norel, who was probably brought to America from the West Indies, had a boy whom they named Jordan Henry Banks. Jordan, like his parents, was born into slavery and servitude but, in those days before the American Civil War when such inhuman status was life-long, Jordan was determined to be free. He broke out of his confinement and, escaping hounds set after him, made first for Canada and from there to Australia, finding his way to the Maryborough goldfields in central Victoria. The Australasian newspaper, in 1919, recounted the story:

 

 

‘Jordan Henry Banks (1832–1887), a giant of about 6ft. 3in., and built proportionately, and who commanded the respect and good will of all sections in Maryborough, was a slave before the civil war. Such was his great strength that the log cabins, in which runaways were confined on the plantations, were not strong enough to hold him. He was chased and run down by hounds; but ultimately made his escape to freedom via Canada, coming to Australia and settling in Maryborough, where all the family were born.’ — The Australasian, November 29th, 1919.

 

 

Jordan married Sarah Jane McMullen in Maryborough and their family (with seven children) referred to by The Australasian, included two sons, Thomas, born in June 1867, and James Albert, born in December 1883, only four years before his father’s death at age 55. Tragically, having escaped slavery, gained his freedom and started a family, Jordan would never see how successful his boys became in his adopted homeland.

 

 

Maryborough has always been a strong football town with its local club starting in 1872, and Tom played there before moving to Melbourne where he joined the State Lands Department in 1888 and started playing with Fitzroy in what was then the Victorian Football Association, in the same year. He became captain of Fitzroy in 1893 and was the captain when the club won its first premiership in 1895.  When the VFL commenced in 1897, Tom was still playing for Fitzroy. He played for, and captained, Victoria in 1892 and 1893.

 

 

Strikingly, as the son of an African-American man, Tom played out his career before the first Indigenous players graced senior VFL/WAFA football fields. Those pioneers are recorded as being Jimmy Melbourne who played for West Perth in 1900 and Joe Johnson who played for Fitzroy in 1904. Remarkably, Tom Banks’s ethnicity seemed to have been no barrier to his acceptance and the success of his career, which was not something that could be said to be true where Indigenous footballers were concerned, then, or for many years thereafter.

 

 

Indeed, Banks was among the first African-American footballers in any top ranked code in the world. The first professional footballer of colour in the US was Charles Follis who played for the Shelby Steamfitters from 1902. Arthur Wharton, who was born in Ghana, appeared as a semi-professional for Preston North End when they played in the FA Cup Semi Final in 1887, a year before Tom Banks first played for Fitzroy.

 

 

Perhaps the most striking thing about Tom Banks, however, was, apparently in common with his father, his sheer physical presence. The photo of the 1895 Fitzroy Premiership team in The Weekly Times from October, 1895 shows Banks standing head and shoulders above most of his team mates and carrying a commanding and muscled physique. Given the description of his father in The Australasian, he probably had a similar bearing.

 

 

 

The 1895 Fitzroy Premiership team. Thomas Banks is in the middle of the second row. [Source: Author]

 

 

In a wonderfully descriptive and affectionate memoir in a sporting paper The Referee written after Tom’s death by one of his former Fitzroy team mates, Sam McMichael, the author recalled his strength and the use to which it was put in service of Fitzroy:

 

 

‘To-day footballers are picked for pace. Physique counts, too, but speed is the essential for artists of our winter game. When Tom Banks glittered, pace told also; but men were burlier, heavier. In the nineties, those halcyon days of football with champions in profusion, there were more good big men than now. The rules have tightened, and speed increased. The little man has now more scope. Weight is useful still, of course, but in the days of which I write, surging waves beat the weaker to the ground. Metaphorically, the light-framed were trampled under foot…Banks was a Hercules. I never knew Clarence Whistler, the mighty American mat-man, but I saw Sandow, the German, and Hackenschmidt the Russian wrestler, and in my view Banks paralleled with these as a perfect specimen of athletic humanity. He was built like a bullock…Deep-chested and thick, “with arms on which the standing muscles sloped”, Banks carried his 14 stone or so [i.e., 89kg+] with ease. Perhaps slow from the mark, but when in full momentum his pace was terrific. From his tremendous rushes men sprayed as sparks fly from an anvil. Banks was a demon, in defence. With a greater aptitude to meet wet-day conditions, he would have ranked with the most illustrious footballers who ever played.

 

 

And him marking! On, a bright, sunny day, with sweat gleaming on set, stern face, muscles rippling with the rhythm of sweet music, he was simply superb. When Banks flew aloft his force burst all asunder. As he ascended skywards, his huge shoulders were resistless. With a grip of steel, what he touched was his, with fingers gripping the leather like a vyce…. there has been no huskier half-back than Paddy Hickey, who came each Saturday from his farm at Werribee. His training was behind the plough, and, bursting with the rude vigor that comes from work in the open, he had an absolute disregard for any one’s feelings, including his own. But when Banks came through — we scattered; friend and foe. It was like a tornado tearing forest trees — the whirling of wild bison through prairie grass. He was the pivot of our defence. When pressed, our line rocked with storm and fury, but rarely broke. The shocks stunned. Woe to the weak. Thousands will remember Banks as the figurehead, dour, determined, unshaken and unshakable; like a rocky cliff withstanding the waves.

 

 

If, perchance, an elusive swung clear for the goal, he was pursued relentlessly. Once, Banks, like a tiger after a frightened deer, slipped as his fingers reached the jersey. Swerving like lightning, the forward escaped, but as Banks fell, something fluttered in his hand. It was a fragment of tough-fibred cloth, torn from the other’s jacket — a tribute to his terrible tenacity.’

 

 

McMichael was also inspired to describe Banks with Shakespeare’s words from The Tempest:

 

 

‘He beat the surges under him, And rode upon their backs.’

 

 

But, as The Australasian noted, ‘although many an opponent stepped sideways when Banks was coming through, the personification of strength, determination, and grace…no man ever played fairer.’

 

 

So highly regarded as a player was Thomas Banks that he was appointed captain of Victoria in 1892 and 1893. It was in this capacity that Tom suffered a traumatic injury – according to McMichael, from ‘Dolly Christie’s elbow’ –   when playing against South Australia in Adelaide in 1893. The South Australian Chronicle of June 17th, 1893 reported it thus:

 

 

‘An unfortunate accident happened to the popular captain of the Victorians (Tom Banks) in the third quarter which deprived the team of his services for the remainder of the game. He was straggling for the ball in the ruck in front of the members’ pavilion when he was struck a heavy blow on the nose. At first the bleeding from the organ did not excite any special attention, but the blood flowed so freely that the Victorian manager and Mr. [Herbert] Rappiport sought the services of Dr. T. A. Hynes, who was on the ground. The doctor examined the nose and found that it was so seriously injured as to necessitate the player’s removal to his surgery. Accordingly Banks was put in a cab and driven to Stow manse, Flinders-street. On examination it was found that Banks’s nose was badly fractured, a piece of the bone protruding from the upper part of the nose, and the whole organ being much displaced. An operation was performed, and the patient conveyed to the Tavistock Hotel. That such a mishap should occur to so clever and popular a player is much to be regretted, but with care and attention Banks will be able get about in a few days.’

 

 

They made them tough in those days! It was thought that Banks’ absence from this injury may have cost Fitzroy an earlier premiership. Two years later, in 1895, Banks was captain when Fitzroy won its first premiership with 58 points, a game and a half clear of Collingwood, Geelong and Melbourne all on 52. (Interestingly, all teams had had a number of draws, as only goals were counted towards determining the victors; so, for example, 4.5 drew with 4.1).

 

 

His playing days concluded after 171 games for Fitzroy, Banks then gave great service as an administrator at Fitzroy and to the VFL as Fitzroy’s delegate for 23 years, being, as The Australasian recalled, ‘as good a legislator as he was a player.’ He was held in such high regard that he was accorded life membership at Fitzroy, and of the VFL, and, after his untimely death, of the Australian National Football Council.  It was said of Thomas that he was also ‘a keen racing man, an ardent lover of cricket, and of a most retiring disposition.’

 

 

It may have been that retiring quality that meant he remained unmarried until the age of 51, when, on December 17th, 1918, he tied the knot at St Ambrose’s Church in Brunswick with Mary Moriarty, the sister of one of his Fitzroy premiership team mates, and Fitzroy’s first coach, Geoff Moriarty.

 

 

But tragically Thomas was only able to enjoy married life for 11 months and not become a father, as he developed a severe influenza in the winter of 1919. Given the timing, Banks was thus almost certainly a victim of the Spanish Flu pandemic which was still taking lives in Victoria that winter. He underwent an operation at the Melbourne Hospital in November but never recovered, passing away on the November 26th, leaving, as McMichael described it; ‘a wife and scores of friends in grief.’

 

 

A  memorial service was held in the Fitzroy football club rooms at which ‘There gathered hundreds of footballers past and present, surrounding the coffin of their dead friend, reverently listening to his virtues extolled. He had been a great club man.’ The coffin was carried by his football and cricket club friends to a hearse and there transported back to Maryborough where he was laid to rest with his father. McMichael concluded poetically at the loss too young, of another footballing champion; ‘Tom Banks, one-time famous Fitzroy footballer, is dead. In the fullness of manhood’s prime, death came. Of giant stature, his strength had no avail. Thus they pass, strong men and weak, a stream to the shadows, day by day, year by year; rushing with ever increasing velocity, and endless.’

 

 

 

Portrait of Tom Banks [Source: Author]

 

 

This is no doubt a sad and tragic ending, but worse was to come for matriarch Sarah Jane, with the loss of another son, Albert, just ten years later, aged only 46. James Albert apparently tried out for South Melbourne in the first decade of the twentieth century, but for some reason not clear, departed for Perth (It may have been that South Fremantle were captained in 1906 by Albert Trim who had come to the club from South Melbourne with a team-mate Percy Abercrombie) and in May 1907 Albert played the first of 148 successive games for South Fremantle.

 

 

Albert Banks was from all accounts, also an outstanding footballer. Although photos suggest he did not have the immense physical presence of his father and brother, he does appear tall and strong. It appears that he was called  ‘Bert’ from a foreshortened ‘Albert’, but he was also bestowed with a nickname which derived from his skin colouring. He was also called ‘Darky.’ Not just among his team mates. The sporting news articles of the time and the official South records refer to him as Albert ‘Darky’ Banks. The first South Fremantle history (Harrison and Lee, 1975) records that the 1907 recruits included ‘a talented dark-skinned footballer named Banks. Banks, who was also a top class cricketer and who represented the state in both cricket and football, was named Albert, but he was never known other than as ‘Darky’.’

 

 

 

The 1913 South Fremantle team. Albert Banks is in the middle of the third row. Fred Mitchell is on the right end of the back row. [Source: Southerners Forever More, Steve Errington]

 

 

Let us allow that this was the first decade of the 20th century. That moniker and others like it were bestowed on many players whose skin was not white. Indeed, playing with Banks from 1912 was one of the first footballers of Chinese descent to play senior football, Frederick Nom Chong from Boulder City, who played under his step father’s surname as Frederick Mitchell. (To ensure his slightly different colouring did not go unrecognised, and, no doubt to distinguish him from Banks, he was ‘cleverly’ given the nickname ‘Darkie’). It must also be noted that Banks was made South Fremantle captain in 1909 and 1914 and captain coach in 1912 (for which he was paid £26) and was on the committee from 1909, so it could be hard to argue that his colour was the basis of any major discrimination.

 

 

But what must he have felt privately at being singled out (or perhaps with Mitchell, jointly separated) and constantly reminded of his different appearance by the constant repetition and widespread public adoption of his nickname? Did he feel it honoured the father who lived as a slave and who was pursued by hounds to his freedom? Or did he feel that such a heritage deserved better than being called out as something that was different to (nearly) everyone else’s?

 

 

And in a separate but related question; what would the aspiring Nyoongar players who wanted to follow Jimmy Melbourne’s path into football have thought of the description and the primary identification of a star player by reference to the colour of his skin – something which set him apart rather than encouraged collegiality and inclusion?

 

 

We will probably never know the answers to these questions, but we do know, that despite his 148 consecutive games for the Southerners, and his name on the Honour Boards at the port, including as a premiership captain in 1914, Banks left South Fremantle suddenly in the middle of 1915 and never played with the club again. And we know that, according to the Daily News in 1930 that: ‘It was as a half-back that ‘Darky’ made his name.  He rarely played in any other position and he was a very awkward customer to handle on the field, making it willing for opponents, irrespective of their size or their reputation’ (which has resonances of the response of later Indigenous players to onfield racist abuse). We also know of his end, which we will come to shortly.

 

 

As the South historians noted, Albert Banks was also a very fine cricketer who represented his adopted  state in two first class matches, the first in 1908-09 and the second and last in 1920-21, after his football career had finished. There was no doubt about Banks’ ability as a fast-medium bowler. In 1911-12 he took 74 wickets for Fremantle in 13 games at an average of 7.41 with a best of 7 for 11. He probably opened the bowling with the legendary fast bowler Ernie Jones who played for Fremantle and WA in this era, Ernie being the man who was reputed to have bowled a ball through WG Grace’ beard when opening for Australia.

 

 

In Making the Grade the official history of WA grade cricket, Bill Reynolds observes that Banks also played for the Claremont club. He was playing for that club when he returned to the state team in 1920. The conjunction of his football for South Fremantle and his cricket for the two clubs makes it highly likely that his path crossed with John Curtin the future Prime Minister who was, according to the 1999 biography by David Day (John Curtin – A Life),  a keen follower of local league football and cricket when he was living in Cottesloe from 1918, in the electorate of Fremantle, and was vice president of the local Cottesloe cricket club which had shortly before, and would again, amalgamate with Claremont.

 

 

The South historians had perhaps overstated the case when they said that Banks also represented the state in football. He was certainly selected to do so in the 1911 Carnival in Adelaide. But the Southerners had been fundraising for a mid-season trip to Melbourne to play Fitzroy, whose secretary was of course Banks’ brother, Thomas. Steve Errington in Southerners Forevermore records that when the League officials refused permission to Banks to play in Melbourne and then return via the carnival in Adelaide, Banks showed a wilful and loyal spirit by electing to travel with his club and spend time with his brother rather than going to Adelaide for the carnival.

 

 

Albert apparently was again close to selection for WA in the Sydney carnival in 1914. He was chosen as captain of a second team to play the state team prior to their departure. At the carnival, Thomas Banks was on a panel that chose Albert’s South Fremantle team mate – and wharfie – Bert Tapping, as the best WA player at the carnival, and recipient of The Referee gold medal.

 

 

Albert Banks was captain of South in 1914 and the side won the Premiership in the final against Subiaco at Fremantle Oval, just a few weeks after the country joined the British Empire in the war with Germany. In the WA system at the time, a team could be challenged for the title the next week, and East Fremantle threw down a ‘derby’ (the word had just been adopted to describe the game between the local rivals) challenge and won the game. Banks had been premiership captain for only a week!

 

 

Banks then suddenly left South midseason in 1915 for undisclosed reasons, described by Errington as ‘undisclosed tensions growing within the club.’ Banks turned up at the WACA the next season to play for Perth where Albert played (according to Alan East’s history From Redlegs to Demons, recorded in the official records as Albert ‘Darkie’ Banks) 39 games between 1916 and 1919.

 

 

It appears that Albert stayed in Perth, after his league football and state cricket careers concluded, as an obituary in the Daily News noted that ‘Right up to the time of his death he retained his sporting instincts, attending important football and cricket matches, in which he took the deepest interest.’

 

 

But something must have gone wrong.

 

 

The Perth Sunday Times on July 6th, 1930 carried this disturbing and mysterious report:

 

 

‘BODY FOUND IN YARD

Early Morning Discovery

The body of a man, later identified

as that of James Alfred Banks (53),

commonly known as ‘Darky’ Banks,

was found in the back yard of a lodging-

house at the corner of Moore and

Lord streets at 6 o’clock yesterday

morning.

 

 

The discovery was made by Patrick

O’Sullivan, who occupied the premises

and to whom deceased was a complete

stranger. The back yard is enclosed by

an 8ft. fence, and O’Sullivan was unable

to account for the presence of the body in the yard.

A receipt in the name of  ‘J. A. Banks,’

found in one of the pockets, led to

deceased’s identification.

The body bore no signs of violence

and no suspicious circumstances are

believed to be attached to the case.

Deceased was well known in athletic

circles and played with the South Fremantle

football team some years ago.’

 

 

The Moore-Lord Street area, just north of the city, was not a salubrious part of the metropolis.

 

 

To add to the mystery, Albert would only have been 47 not 53 in 1930, and some later records place his death in Toodyay, 73 kilometres away in WA’s wheat belt, but still as July 5th.

 

 

It is now impossible to speculate what might have gone wrong between Albert’s last state cricket game and this bizarre end. Albert does not appear to have married or had children. But to say that his death adds a layer of tragedy to the family history after Thomas’ untimely passing in 1919 is an understatement. The Daily News published an obituary on July 11th which added no further answers to the many questions that Albert’s strange death must have raised. It simply recorded under the heading:

 

 

VETERAN OF THE GAME

Death of ‘Darky’ Banks :

Although the present generation knew

him mostly by reputation or name, if

at all, to older football enthusiasts the

death of ‘Darky’ Banks stirred memories

of the game of some years ago.

‘Darky’ was not the only member

of the Banks family who became prominent

in the football world. His brother. Tom Banks, was

a star of Victorian football.’

 

 

And the paper concluded his legacy:

 

 

‘ ‘Darky’s’ death leaves another gap

in the ranks of the old-timers who did so much for the game.’

 

 

Sarah Jane Banks. Widow of Jordan Banks and the mother of Thomas and Albert outlived five of her seven children, and according to the Argus of June 3rd, 1940 passed away at her home in Union Street Northcote, on May 31st, 1940 aged 91. She was interred at Maryborough with Jordan and Thomas.

 

 

This had been a remarkable tale of a unique family that spanned 100 years, going from slavery to freedom, from the West Indies to Australia via the United States and Canada, and reaching the pinnacles of sporting achievement in two states. But also, like so many remarkable tales, seemingly also a tale of immense tragedy and loss.

 

 

 

Read more from John Gordon HERE.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Great read. Fine research. Tremendous story-telling.

    Such rich (and tragic) family and social history.

    I found the discussion of the nickname very interesting too.

    Thanks
    Darky Harms

  2. Jarrod_L says

    Wonderfully written John, thanks for putting it all togther – yet another thumbs up for our good friend Trove!

    As much as I was captured by the whole story, one part stuck out:

    ‘‘To-day footballers are picked for pace. Physique counts, too, but speed is the essential for artists of our winter game. When Tom Banks glittered, pace told also; but men were burlier, heavier. In the nineties, those halcyon days of football with champions in profusion, there were more good big men than now. The rules have tightened, and speed increased.’

    Such a comment could apply as much to the 1990s as the 1890s!

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Beaut John. What did you know about this story that made you want to dig deeper?

  4. John Gordon says

    Thanks for the kind words. Yes Jarrod some striking similarities. Actually it was fascinating to read of many of the same problems afflicting the game back then. There was a massive concern that there were too many players around the ball and play was too slow so they tried a number of rule changes to redress the problem. One was to introduce boundary umpires to throw the ball into the field of play! Another solution was to introduce a requirement that players had to kick the ball five yards for a mark to be paid. The problem was that umpires were having trouble judging the distance and awarding marks that hadn’t gone the distance; sound familiar? There was also a general concern that umpires were getting too involved which led to one wag at the Geelong – Richmond game in 1896 after the whistle was constantly sounding, asking the ump if he could oblige them with a tune on it!! Might be worth a piece on its own about how many things were the same 120 years ago.
    And Swish, It all started when I was inquiring as to whether any of the early WA cricketers appeared on a contemporary cigarette footy card. The intriguing name Albert ‘Darky” Banks’ came up on the cricket list and Tom came up on a card and away it went, Once I saw the article about Albert’s mysterious death I was fascinated to learn more, I was amazed how much information was available via Trove and of course the club histories were invaluable. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Kieran Dempsey says

    John – a fascinating story well told. A great example of little known biography shedding light on so many issues from our past.

  6. William Westerman says

    Thank you for this piece, John. A fascinating story, expertly researched and well told.

  7. What an intriguing read John. You’ve put some effort into this. A few points please.

    Intriguing to read that Joe Johnson in 1904 was the first indigenous footballer to appear in a VFL side. The VFL was formed in 1896, had its first on field season in 1897, then in 1904 Joe Johnson made his debut for Fitzroy. No great shock here, but it gives us the name of a ‘trail blazer’ in the sport.

    In a time where the WHITE AUSTRALIA policy was a standout feature of Australian society it is wonderful seeing the roles Tom Banks fulfilled post his on field career. As an administrator, then Fitzroy’s VFL delegate for 23 years overcame the racist impediments so typical of that period: a prod that remained long after his death.

    Re Albert’s first class cricket career. Western Australia did not enter the Sheffield Shield competition until well after World War 2. I’m curious who these two first class encounters were against; MCC?

    Keep up the good work John. This is a wonderful post.

    Glen!

  8. Glen, Cricinfo may be your friend on the early first class matches.

  9. Valid point re Cricinfo. Is that still a free service? I haven’t used it for yonks. I’m wondering if a paywall was set up on it , any how i’ll check.

    Ta,

    Glen!

  10. John Gordon says

    Thanks Glen. Bit of a sore point you have raised there. WA played the other state sides in first class games until admitted to the Sheffield Shield in 1947-48. WA often sought to be included in the Shield before then but were excluded . They also played visiting international teams – including Australian XIs heading overseas – in first class games. Tony Barker in the WACA History (The WACA; An Australian Cricket Success Story- 1998) says that the era 1900-1915 in which Banks first played (against South Australia in 1909-10) was “the most successful period for Western Australia in interstate competition prior to entry into the Sheffield Shield in 1947” but NSW continued to veto the joinder of the WACA to the Australian Cricket Board and any say in touring itineraries or competitions. In fact. with WWI there was no first class cricket played in WA until 1921. Banks’ second game for WA was in fact against an Australian XI at the WACA in march 192 in which he took the wickets of TJ Andrews, JM Taylor and EA McDonald all of whom represented Australia in Tests.

  11. Fascinating read.
    Thanks, John.

  12. Extraordinary story John. Why haven’t we heard more about Tom Banks before? Especially in the Fitzroy context. Sad tale as well. Seems they couldn’t outrun tragedy.

    Really enjoyed the read.

  13. Dr Rocket says

    Fabulous research and story.

    Went looking for Tom Banks in the Fitzroy Team of the Century.
    Of course, its not there…

    It should the ToC of the 2nd half of the 20th Century….

  14. John Gordon says

    I would have thought a pretty strong case for AFL Hall of Fame too, Doc. It raises directly the question of how the AFL treats the pre-VFL VFA period I suppose but given one became the other and if games were counted, it has to have some importance. Moreover, if Fitzroy (then a VFL club) and the VFL, and then the ANFC all felt it appropriate to bestow life membership on Tom, why should the AFL disregard part of the basis for such honours. And of course the AFL HOF honours (if somewhat diffidently) the stars of the WANFL and SANFL, as “predecessors” of the AFL, why not the VFA? His playing record, premiership, Victorian rep and captaincy, long service to the VFL as an administrator and high regard by all who spoke of him, surely stacks up?

  15. Dr Rocket says

    Yesss John!?
    They sure do stack up for Tom Banks!
    Only 5 Players from pre WW 2 in Fitzroy ToC…
    When they won all their VFL premierships!

    VFA should be counted pre 1897!

    Swans do but not acknowledged by AFL.

  16. Epic story telling. Epic lives.
    Lest it be thought that any Croweater would stoop so low as to take out Victorian star Tom Banks in a state game, it needs to be recorded that “Dolly Christie’s elbow” was playing for Victoria. Friendly fire. https://australianfootball.com/players/player/dave%2B%2527dolly%2527%2Bchristy/15553
    Loved the Sam McMichael report on Tom Banks. Such powerful images. Can’t imagine BT or Lingy quoting Shakespeare!
    The lives of Tom and Bert got me reflecting on several issues. How “race” is different to “colour”. We seem to take a different attitude to a Fijian like Nic Naitanui than an indigenous player like Liam Ryan or Willie Rioli. Similarly coloured American basketballers are seen as more hard working and somehow “worthy”. We reflect on individuals as somehow representing characteristics of their “people” rather than as individuals. Give a dog a bad name. Perhaps goes some way to explain why Tom and Bert were more widely accepted than indigenous players, particularly after their playing careers.
    The Avenging Eagle often reflects how as a school teacher she refused to read the previous year’s report cards of her students. Other teachers would say “he’s XXXX brother” or “he was only trouble for me last year”.
    People largely live up (or down) to their typecasting.
    One of my pet peeves is broadcasters labelling indigenous players as “freaks” or “freakish” as if it was a randomly bestowed (undeserved?) genetic gift. Heard Luke Darcy describe a Shai Bolton goal that way on Saturday night. Why not genius or extraordinary? Subtle racism and stereotyping to my ear.
    John Curtin’s family home in Cottesloe is 2 minutes walk from Seaview Golf Club where I play, and 5 minutes from the beach. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the National Trust has it available for short term rent on AirBNB. Near the train, shops and restaurants. Great option for Almanackers visiting from interstate.
    https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/46553451?source_impression_id=p3_1623200481_aRWgLI9qNDvjbBU%2B&guests=1&adults=1
    Thanks again JG.

  17. John,
    Tom Banks should almost be a legend of The Australian football Hall of Fame.
    The laughable case of Barry Hall (for example) being in there instead of guys such as Banks makes a mockery of the whole thing. But of course, Tom Banks never worked for Fox Sports.

  18. great Yarn John! love hearing all about these older players, which is never easy to research and can lead down many endless trove rabbit holes. With only 8 games in the VFL its a shame more isn’t made of his playing prowess and legend status at Fitzroy!
    Thanks for bringing his story to life.

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