Almanac Footy History – Dan Minogue: a Bendigo boy huge in the VFL


Richard Jones presents another story from footy’s past.



Born in September 1891 in Long Gully, all Danny Minogue wanted to do was escape his life as a miner.


As a young man he was cart-wheeled 20 metres down a Bendigo-area mineshaft following an explosion in the tunnel.


It was a terrible workplace accident.


Educated at Marist Brothers College Minogue played for St. Kilians in junior footy and then for California Gully in the Wednesday afternoon Bendigo Football Association senior competition.


He was working for the Long Gully-based Carlisle goldmine when the shaft accident happened, but very soon attracted the attention of VFL scouts.


After 14 games for nine goals with California Gully he eventually signed with Collingwood and on debut in Round 1, 1911 broke his collarbone.


But because the Pies (and the VFL system, at the time) didn’t have any reserves Danny played out the game.


Newspaper reports from the time affirm that his mineshaft fall hadn’t affected his judgment with medical records attesting to this diagnosis.


However a similar collarbone injury again struck Minogue in the 1911 grand final, but again he stayed on the field.


The Magpies went down by a goal to Essendon in the 1911 decider: 5.11 (41) to 4.11 (35).


Through these heroics in his first VFL season Minogue became a league legend and before WW1 was captaining Collingwood.


As with many other top-level footballers of his time Minogue’s career was put on hold when World War 1 started.


He boarded His Majesty’s transport ship Barambah in 1916 and headed to the feared trenches of France and Belgium. The Western Front, in fact.


Minogue was one of the lucky ones who returned from the battlefields of Europe unlike Carlton’s George Challis who was killed in France in 1916, less than a year after playing in a losing grand final.


Dan served as a gunner in the AIF and underwent training with the 3rdDivision armour column which trained on England’s Salisbury Plain — near Stonehenge.


While overseas Minogue won the heavyweight boxing title for his regiment and also before that a similar title on the ship which took him to France.


It’s been confirmed through research that the Long Gully boy organised an overseas demonstration of Aussie Rules in London in October of 1916.


Controversially Minogue turned his back on Collingwood, where he’d played 84 games for 37 goals captaining the Pies in 1914-16, upon return to Victoria.


He moved to Richmond playing his first game for the Tigers in Round 1 1920 against Fitzroy.


He ended up captain-coaching the Tigers and playing in back-to-back flags in 1920 and 1921, winning the club best and fairest award in premiership season 1920.


Minogue spent most of the next two decades coaching other VFL clubs –– Hawthorn (up from the VFA in 1925), Carlton, St Kilda and Fitzroy — although another premiership wasn’t to be his.


He finished up playing 180 games, booting 77 goals along the way but set a VFL/AFL coaching benchmark which has never been bettered.


Minogue coached five clubs between 1920-1942 for a total of 363 matches: 203 wins, 2 draws, 158 losses (a 55% winning ratio).


Ironically his old ‘enemy’ Carlton from his playing days at Collingwood and Richmond was where he racked up the most games as coach: 117 games between 1929 and 1934.


No one before or since has coached five VFL/AFL clubs.


Here’s a table of his VFL coaching stints:


Richmond 1920-25; Hawthorn 1926-27; Carlton 1929-34; St. Kilda 1935-37 and Fitzroy 1940-42.


Let’s look back at Minogue’s early days in the VFL.


He was best known as a ruckman and centre half-back and it was following a vigorous bump from Richmond’s Bill Schmidt that he broke his collarbone in his very first appearance.


In the 1911 grand final against Essendon — as noted earlier — Minogue suffered another broken collarbone. This time he was forced to prop in the forward pocket for the rest of play.


There were no reserves or interchange players back then.


The amazing thing is that Minogue booted a goal for Collingwood after taking a one-handed mark.


Newspaper reports of the time note Minogue as being “a strong, hard player” who was never reported during his career.


Never blessed with great pace he overcame this with excellent anticipation using his body well to gain the best position in the ruck and in marking contests.


A man of strong principles upon return to Australia at the conclusion of WW1 Minogue fell out with Collingwood over the treatment of one of his former teammates, Jim Sadler.


That’s why he stood out of footy in 1919 before crossing to Richmond for the start of the 1920 season.


As a result his photograph in the Collingwood rooms was turned around to face the wall and it wasn’t turned back until a new regime took over at Victoria Park in the 1950s.


It didn’t bother Danny. During his stint at Tigerland from 1920 to 1925 Richmond took home the 1920 and 1921 flags and were runners-up in 1924.


He was regarded as very cool in a crisis and not afraid to move players about.


“He was very shrewd and didn’t suffer fools gladly,” a 1920s teammate told the Argus in Melbourne


And between stints with two of his five VFL clubs (Hawthorn and Carlton), Minogue continued on with his role as a senior coach in 1928.


He’d journeyed to Tassie to become non-playing coach of New Town the club which formed the nucleus of later powerhouse Glenorchy, but pulled on the boots again before too long.


Arriving with the reputation as one of the best footy minds in the southern states the Launceston Daily Telegraph went into raptures about Minogue.


“So observant has he been during his connection with the game that Minogue has picked up points which many players would miss or pay no attention to.


“His qualities are second to none, as far as a captain is concerned.


“Minogue is not only a man who plays well and hard but will back up his statements in the dressing room by his actions on the field.”


New Town won 7 games from 15 matches along with one draw. Minogue booted 16 goals.


It was back to the VFL for the 1929 season and to Carlton where he took the coaching reins at Princes Park.


He later became the first players’ advocate at league Tribunal level and defended all manner of players charged with seemingly minor offences to serious striking charges.


As he’d shown during his playing and coaching career Minogue was vitally concerned with players rights, going back to the treatment of his Collingwood teammate Jim Sadler straight after WW1.


He was the first ex-player to become involved in the multiple issues regarding players’ right.


A life member of the VFL he died in July 1961 and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996.


Danny often said that nothing he ever did later compared with the rigours and horrors of the WW1 battlefields.


Minogue noted that “he’d humbly fought and survived a war” but added he was actually no hero.


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  1. Paul Daffey says

    Great piece, Richard.

    Another footy product of Rock Chopper College, Bendigo.

    Minogue seems a natural leader of men — and one of the major figures in footy history.

    He is screaming out for a book-length biography.

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