Almanac Footy (History) – Jack Mueller: The Power of One



Jack Mueller was one of the most formidable footballers of his era and an all-time champion of Melbourne.    In his book entitled, ‘Captain Blood’, Jack Dyer wrote that Jack Mueller “was a Premiership winner and Melbourne won Premierships with him that they should never have won.” In all, Jack was the classic example of the ‘power of one’ in sport.



Jack Mueller was recruited to Melbourne in 1933; and, from the moment that he stepped onto the ground, he appeared destined for greatness. It was not only his powerful frame (188cm, 89kg) that set him apart but there was something else that caught the imagination of others.

Jack Mueller was a giant in the saga of the Melbourne Football Club and this fact presented a very real challenge in writing this article for Footy Almanac. It was difficult to judge what to include and/or omit in such a story; and, consequently, it was necessary to ‘cherry pick’ aspects of Jack’s career at MFC.

Despite that, it is hoped is that this article does justice to a superstar in that era of the VFL and gives younger readers some appreciation of his brilliance.



John Ernest Arthur Mueller better known as ‘Jack’ (born September 1915) was the son of Frank and Eliza Mueller. The other children of the Mueller family were Carl, Mary, Aileen, Catherine and Estelle.

The name ‘Mueller’ is most prominent in the history of Echuca; and Carl Mueller (1834-1916) was an early pioneer in Bendigo and district.  Carl’s family was active in community life. His son, Frank C. Mueller was an accountant with William Wallace & Co. and later the President of the Echuca Football League.  At certain times during his active life in the community, Frank was the Chairman of the EFL’s Independent Tribunal, President of the Echuca Athletic Association and the choirmaster at the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.




The above photographs are of Carl (top) and Frank Mueller. Sources: ‘Bendigo Advertiser’ August 16th 1916 and ‘The Riverine Herald’ November 21st 1945. Both Carl and Frank were dynamic citizens who gave freely and selflessly to their local communities.


There is another important branch on the Mueller family tree that should be noted. Jack Mueller was the cousin of former Melbourne champion full back Arthur Mueller Pearce. Arthur, better known as ‘Joe’ (born 1885), played 152 games (1904-13) for Melbourne FC and was the regarded as the mainstay of the defence. Joe died in action with the 7th Battalion at the landing at Gallipoli on April 25th 1915…



Arthur Mueller Pearce, aka Joe, (1885-1915) – A champion in his time with  Melbourne. Sources: Top:  “Herald Sun’,  extract below: ‘Referee’ June 16th 1915.


“While making for the fisherman’s hut … to take place in the landing at Gallipoli on 25th April, Pearce was killed by machinegun fire or rifle fire.  He was buried with 20 or 30 others on the beach. ..Professor Geoffrey Blainey has identified Joe Pearce as the first VFL footballer to die at Gallipoli. His sister, Ethel, placed an advertisement in the ‘Argus’ In Memoriam column for forty years, as did his old friend from Bendigo, W. F. (William Farrington) Hastings. A plaque honouring his memory was installed at Holy Trinity by his devoted family.” Source: ‘East Melbourne Historical Society’ website.



Jack Mueller was a player of boundless potential and was an emerging star with Echuca Imperials FC  in early 1933. Jack received praise in April for his promising performance at a training session with Echuca and in the match against Eaglehawk in May, Jack starred with a haul of seven goals. There is some evidence that young Jack kicked three of his goals in the first minutes of the game. It was quite a debut in Senior XVIII football…

 “…but the outstanding performance was the Initial appearance of Jack Mueller, who bagged seven goals. He deserved his success as he scouted well for the ball and was always in position. One angle shot especially was an excellent, effort. Jack received a great deal of attention from his opponents, a lot of which escaped the attention of the umpire whose decisions at times were bewildering to the Echuca players.”



Jack Mueller booted seven goals against Eaglehawk in May 1933. By the end of June, he had signed to play with Melbourne.  Source: ‘The Riverine Herald’ May 8th 1933, Page 2.


In the clash against Kyneton, Jack gave another ‘dashing’ display and received praise from the central umpire for his skill.  His early performances signalled that he was not only a sharpshooter but a mature footballer who was not to be ‘pushed around’ in any man-on-man contest.  With such a resumé, for one so young, Jack attracted wide interest and it appeared to be only a matter of time before VFL talent spotters were making a ‘trail to his door.’



As was often the case in pre-draft days, VFL officials could break land speed records in the race to gain a youngster’s signature and, by late June 1933, Jack had signed with Melbourne and was on his way to the ‘big smoke’.  Jack, who was working in a flour mill in Echuca, was just seventeen years of age when he left the quiet life on the Murray River for the hustle and bustle of the city. ..

 “Every football follower will regret the departure of Jack Mueller, who has been granted a clearance by the Imperials to join the Melbourne Football Club. Jack was an outstanding figure in the Echuca League and quickly came under the notice of the vigilant metropolitan scouts. Everyone will join in wishing him the best.”  Source: ‘Riverine Herald’ June 30th 1933, Page 2.



 According to the Melbourne Football Club’s website, Hawthorn missed out in gaining Jack’s clearance by just a few hours. Hawthorn’s loss would prove to Melbourne’s long-lasting gain. Jack’s story exemplifies how desperate VFL clubs were in building their lists with ‘boys from the bush.’

When Jack arrived at Melbourne he was under the tutelage of Senior XVIII coach Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes and the Second XVIII captain and coach Bill Adams. (Frank is shown below and Bill underneath)…





Jack Mueller was only 17 years of age when he arrived in Melbourne in 1933; and what a contrast the MCG must have been compared to the rustic setting of  Victoria Park in Crofton Street, Echuca.

It is not widely known that as part of the agreement for Jack to be cleared to Melbourne, his Father had  instructed Melbourne FC that Jack was to play only Second Grade football for the remainder of that 1933 season…


Source: ‘Weekly Times’ July 25th 1936. Page: 72


The VFL Seconds competition was a solid base for young Jack to ‘hone his skills’ and prepare for the hurly burly of VFL Senior XVIII football. Under the watchful eyes of Frank Hughes and Bill Adams, Jack Mueller not only gained confidence but carved quite a reputation for himself in just nine games. The highlight of Jack’s season was the Seconds Grand Final against St Kilda.

The match was held on the Thursday (Melbourne Show Day) prior to the Senior Grade Final. According to The Herald, Jack was selected at centre half-forward; he kicked two important goals and was named as Melbourne’s best player. In a tight and combative game, Melbourne won by one point.

The final score that day was: Melbourne: 10.15 (75) defeated St Kilda 10.14 (74). The Argus journalist, who went by the pen-name of ‘Onlooker’, gave prominence to the fact that Jack was reported in that match…

“Mueller the young Melbourne player was reported on a charge of having elbowed Miller (St Kilda) in the last quarter…” Source: ‘The Argus’ September 29th 1933, Page 13.

Note: Guesswork only… There is a small chance that the player Miller involved in the above incident may have been Ray Miller who later played with Brighton FC and was the brother of Australia’s famous cricketer and former St Kilda player Keith Miller. Any assistance in confirming this would be appreciated.



 Jack’s first senior game for Melbourne was in Round 1 in 1934 against Richmond at the Punt Road Oval. AFL archives indicate that Jack was 18 years and 238 days of age. Jack was one of two teenagers to play for Melbourne that day; the other being Ron Wilson (ex-Donald FC) who departed from the Demons at the end of 1934 and crossed to St Kilda.

Other players who made their debut that day were Alan La Fontaine and Bert Taylor. Melbourne’s oldest player was Billy Libbis (ex- Collingwood) who was 30 years of age. According to Holmesby and Main, Gordon Coventry described Billy as the best rover he had ever seen.



Ron Wilson (top) who also made a name for himself in professional running. Billy Libbis (below) was a member of Collingwood’s ‘Machine’ teams which won four consecutive flag (1927-30). He also represented Victoria in 12 games . Sources: ‘The Herald’ & Demonwiki.  


Melbourne was easily defeated but Jack stamped his authority on the game with four goals. Jack was raw-boned and had a lot to learn that day but his coach,  ‘Checker’ Hughes,  would have been impressed with what he witnessed. In the following match against Hawthorn, Jack booted seven goals and had the scribes excited…

“Melbourne’s team work was very evident, the all-round dash and cohesion leaving the opposition stranded. Mueller was easily the best man on the ground. His high-marking at hall-forward was simply marvellous, and be kicked excellently.”  Source: ‘The Australasian’ May 19th 1934, Page 52.



Jack‘s performances for Echuca, Melbourne Seconds (1933) and his early form in Senior XVIII football created an impact. The Weekly Times, one of Victoria’s most popular newspapers,  published the article (below) about  Jack and Frank Mueller in June 1934.  The forecast that Jack could ‘make a name for himself in League Football’ was prophetic….


 Source: ‘The Weekly Times’ June 2nd 1934, Page 57.



It is never easy to track and/or summarise a champion’s career. There is so much to absorb in Jack’s career but perhaps one of the most interesting games to study in Jack’s first VFL season was the Round 7 clash against Footscray at the Western Oval.

On that day, Jack would have seen at close quarters the brilliance of one football’s most enigmatic and flamboyant characters, Frank Kelly. While Jack Mueller booted five goals and led the Demons to a 47 point victory, it was Frank Kelly ‘who stole the show’ with a dazzling performance on the wing that earned him three Brownlow votes.

Frank James Kelly was born in Richmond in 1910 and among his known child hood interests were cricket and singing (he was regarded as a budding soprano). He was an extraordinary young footballer who was signed by Collingwood in 1930.  It was the beginning of a colourful and controversial career that saw him ‘travelling far and wide’ as a player and coach.

In all, Frank played 116 VFL games and booted 44 goals. It is not well known that Frank captained St Kilda. His VFL career included: Collingwood 1930-31 and then again in 1933 for a total of 34 games and 8 goals; Melbourne 1934-36 for 31 games, 1 goal; Essendon 1927-39 for 30 games, 7 goals; and St Kilda 1942-44 for 21 games, 28 goals.

In 1932, Frank created ‘big news’ when he starred with Beechworth FC. Michael Roberts, the highly respected and authoritative Historian at Collingwood FC wrote…

 “Frank Kelly’s story is the classic sporting tale of the flawed genius…Frank Kelly was one of the most colourful characters of his era. He loved sport, loved a beer (at one point he managed to combine two of his great passions by playing footy for a brewery team on Saturday mornings), loved a punt and trained greyhounds…”



The match details from Round 7, 1934 (above). Frank Kelly (below) blitzed on his wing and Jack Mueller kicked five goals. The image of Frank is from the ‘Collingwood Forever’ website.  


Following his VFL career, Frank coached Port Melbourne to a VFA pennant in 1940. Frank played 41 games with PMFC in two stints in the 1940’s and kicked 34 goals and also coached country clubs in Central Gippsland.



By the end of the season Jack had kicked 52 goals. The leading goal kickers up to Round 18 that season were Bob Pratt (138 goals), Gordon Coventry (100),  Bob Green Hawthorn  (80), Jack Titus  (69), Bill Mohr (66), Tom Fitzmaurice (63), Ted  Freyer (61) and Jack Mueller had booted 52 goals at an average  of 3.71 goals per game.

Melbourne’s leading goal kickers in 1934 were Jack (52), Allan La Fontaine (32), Percy Beames (28) and Eric Glass kicked 20 goals. In what could be best described as an auspicious start to his league career, Jack had inscribed his name in the MFC’s archives as the leading goal kicker in 1934.



Source: ‘The Argus’ September 17th 1934, Page 15. The photograph of Allan La Fontaine, who kicked 32 goals for Melbourne that year, was found on the ‘Associated Catholic Colleges’ website.   


Melbourne climbed four rungs on the VFL Ladder that season to finish 6th. It is fair to say that the teenager from Echuca had provided the team with an avenue to goal with his assertive style, sure hands and accurate conversion.






Above: Source: ‘The Independent’ August 10th 1934. Below: Jack Mueller is shown on the rub down table at Melbourne FC.  Source: ‘The Herald’ April 4th 1934, Page 22.


In August that season, Melbourne journeyed to play a match against a combine team from the Echuca FL. It was common practice for VFL clubs to play against country teams from whence recruits had been drawn. The match was played at the Echuca Oval on the 10th August and was described as a highlight of the season. The extract above is from The Independent (Deniliquin NSW) on August 10th 1934.

A large crowd attended the eagerly awaited affair and the gate receipts totalled £94/5/- which was described as a ‘splendid figure and exceeded expectations.’ Melbourne played an exciting brand of football and defeated the EFL by 61 points. Jack Mueller performed well in the forward line and kicked four goals. The Deniliquin Independent summarized Jack’s performance as…

“When JackMueller got into his stride he marked and kicked brilliantly; and though it was not until the third quarter that he kicked his first goal he finished with four. He has filled out into a fine physical specimen and should make a finished footballer.” 14th August 1934.

It is interesting that at the after-match banquet and celebrations, that the Mueller family of Echuca received praise in the toasts and words of appreciation during the evening’s formalities.

The match and elaborate civic reception-banquet was also fully covered by the Riverine Herald on the 13th August 1934. The following paragraphs explain the reasons for the MFC’s visit to Echuca that year…

“The visit of the team to Echuca was sponsored by the Victorian Football League with a view to increasing Interest in the game. But there was something more attaching to the visit than that they had decided very early, even before the scheme of the League was considered, to come to Echuca. The team wished to visit Echuca because Jack Mueller’s people lived there and the visit was personal tribute to the Mueller family.” 



While Jack had ended his first season of VFL football on a high note, it was only a short time later that he suffered a serious setback.  While working as an employee of a box manufacturing factory in Carlton, Jack was using a hole punching machine when his right hand slipped and he severed two middle fingers (above the knuckles) and seriously damaged his little finger.



The full text of the above extract explains the mishap clearly…

 “Jack Mueller, the well-known Melbourne footballer, and second son of Mr and Mrs F. C. Mueller, of Echuca, lost the second and third fingers of his right hand on Friday when he caught it in machinery whilst at work at the box manufacturing company of McLaren and Co. Pty., Peltham Street, Carlton.

He was taken to hospital where an operation was performed and although he is still suffering slightly from shock it was expected he would be home on Sunday. Interviewed, Mueller said he was working a machine that punches holes through cardboard boxes, when something slipped and his hand went under the punch. All he hoped was that the accident would not interfere with his football.

His father, who had been on a visit to the city, was about to return to Echuca when he heard of the unfortunate mishap and immediately went to the hospital.” Source: ‘The Independent’ 30th November 1934.

There were very real fears that Jack’s football career had come to an abrupt end. However, according to the The Argus, Jack was in attendance at the club’s first pre-season training session in March 1935 and apparently trained unhampered by the injury. His swift return to the track probably accentuates his tough fighting spirit in life.

Note: There is some disparity between several sources regarding the date of Jack’s accident. However, the weight of evidence seems to point to the day of the calamity being Friday 23rd November 1934.



Jack was selected for the first game of the 1935 season. The fact that he wore a glove to protect his injured hand created interest and comment ….

“Wearing a protective glove Mueller came back the next year…his marking, that eight-finger grip that was to become a famous part of his play, had fortunately been spared.” Source: Hobbs & Palmer ‘Football’s Greatest 50’

One of the great photographs related to Jack  Mueller’s disability was published in the Sporting Globe  and shows Jack soaring in the goal square and marking at full stretch with his gloved hand high above Footscray’s Bert McTaggart.




Jack played six games in attack in 1935 and then ‘Checker’ Hughes decided that Jack may serve the team better in the backline…

 “Melbourne which gradually wore Essendon down and gained the day. For Melbourne, Glass played a strong, rugged game, and Wartman, Long, Ogden and Mueller did well in defence.”  Source: ‘The Australasian’ 20th July 1935.

Jack did not miss a game in 1935 and had proven to be an adept footballer at either end of the ground. He was still a teenager but in his first years at Melbourne he had played with all the confidence and vigour of a seasoned veteran. Despite the setback of the amputation, and the necessary adjustment for such a disability Jack’s football actually went from strength to strength.



The following table is an attempt to give readers some appreciation of Jack’s milestones in the period 1934-42. In 1943, Jack enlisted for military service and, consequently, his football ‘took a back seat’… (as it did with many other young men who responded to the  ‘call to arms’).

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, Jack’s story is a saga of a Goliath of Australian sport and apologies for the need to condense some important events in Jack’s career.






1934 14 52 7 VFL debut. MFC’s Leading goal-kicker.
1935 18 16 8  
1936 18 5 11 50th VFL Game. Victorian team.
1937 19 16 17 MFC Best & Fairest. Victorian team.
1938 13 7 8  
1939 16 25 11 MFC Best & Fairest. Premiership team.
1940 21 38 5 100th VFL Game. Premiership team.
1941 20 45 5 Victorian team. Premiership team.  
1942 13 26 0 150th VFL Game.


Note 1: In the period 1934-42, Jack missed very few games because of injury but he was suspended in 1938 (4 matches) and in also 1939 was penalised by the VFL Tribunal for four matches. (See details below).

Note 2: In VFL seasons 1943, 1944 and 1945, Jack played a total of just 11 games due to military commitments. (See details below).



This superb sketch above of Jack was part of Col Body’s series of ‘Melbourne’s Team of the Century’ drawings. The photo below is from an article regarding country footballers who graduated to VFL and was published in ‘The Herald’ on May 2nd 1947.



It would be negligent to record the life and times of Jack Mueller without reference to ‘Checker’ Hughes.  Francis Vane Hughes (born 1894) played football with Richmond from 1914 -1923. ‘Checker’ did not play VFL football for four seasons due to military service during World War I.



In his 87 games with Richmond, Frank Hughes kicked 51 goals and won a handsome reputation as a lively and wily rover. He was a member of Richmond’s premiership teams of 1921 and 22. ‘Checker’ then coached Ulverstone (Tasmania);   and in 1927 the Richmond FC Committee appointed him as coach. He coached Richmond for six seasons with considerable success.  Under his astute leadership, Richmond FC never missed a final series and played in five Grand Finals. ‘Patience is a virtue’ and in 1932 Richmond defeated Carlton to win the flag. ‘Checker’ fully deserved the plaudits for his perseverance.

In a bold but wise move Melbourne FC snared ‘Checker’ in 1933 as coach and a new era for Melbourne began. Not only did ‘Checker’ change the name of the club, from the ‘Fuchsias’ to the ‘Demons’, but he recruited aggressively in order build a solid foundation for future success.

With a list that included such talented players as Allan La Fontaine, Wally Lock, Ron Barassi (Snr), Norm Smith, Maurie Gibb, Percy Beames, Alby Rodda and Jack Mueller, ‘Checker’ Hughes set about moulding the Demons into a club with authority and clout and,  in short, he was the architect of the ‘new look’ Melbourne team.


Although this photograph of Frank Hughes at a MFC training session was published in ‘The Herald’ on May 15th 1954 it is not known in what season it was actually taken. Frank coached at Richmond and Melbourne in a total of 378 games.


Checker’s dedicated creativity eventually brought success to MFC and, as history shows, ‘Checker’ and his charges went on to win four premierships, including the  ‘hat-trick’ of 1939-40-41. (See below)

 ‘Checker’ coached in three stints at Melbourne FC. His first period as coach was from 1933 until 1941. Percy Beames coached the club from 1942-44 and then ‘Checker’ was re-appointed for four seasons in 1945-48.

Historical note: ‘Checker’ was recalled back to the club to coach for one game in 1965 (i.e. Round 13 v North Melbourne). He took over during the calamitous upheaval that occurred at the club following the sacking of Norm Smith in July that year. On that day ‘Checker’ was 71 years of age. North won the match by 21 points.

One source stated that the players strongly lobbied for the return of Norm Smith. Norm was re-appointed in time to coach against Fitzroy in Round 14. ‘Checker’ bowed out as a coach after 378 games with a win-loss ratio of 65%. He had taken his team(s) to eleven Grand Finals and had claimed five premierships flags on a football journey that rates with the best of all time.



‘Checker’ Hughes successfully prepared Jack Mueller and the other Demon young tyros into a fit and fearsome fighting unit that set new standards at Melbourne and in VFL football. Success in football is based around leadership, fitness, skill and tactics. Jack’s long kicking, brilliant marking and his pugnacious style of play gave the Demon’s the edge.

To ‘Checker’ the presence of Jack Mueller was everything a coach could ask for in building a young team. The Australian Football website cites ‘Checker’ in regard to Jack’s importance in the Demon’s game plan…

“When Smithy led out, Ron Baggott, centre half forward, one of those loosely put together players who was always hard to beat, ran in. Smithy sometimes took a pass, but a quick hand pass to the running Baggott created more trouble for the defenders. Then we played a trump card by keeping Jack Mueller hanging around the goal square. One of the best marks in the game, he was a problem child in himself. No defender could leave him for a second.” Source: Notes on ‘Checker’ Hughes as written by John Devaney.


These frame by frame photographs of Jack Mueller taking an overhead mark were part of series related to mastering basic football skills.  The sequence was entitled ‘Jack Mueller Melbourne Star Shows How to Take a High Mark’ and was published in ‘The Argus’ on March 12th 1940 on page 6.


It is recorded that Jack’s direct and physical approach to football sometimes upset ‘Checker’ and his plans on match day…

“…he (Jack)….joked that that the old coach (‘Checker’) said he had  inherited the worst characteristics  of his parents …one Irish and one German.”  ‘Holmesby & Main’, Page 421.




 ‘Checker’ slowly but steadily transformed the Demons into a potent combination during this period and in 1939 the team won the right to play Collingwood in the Grand Final. Melbourne had not won a flag since 1926 and the supporters were hopeful that the ‘drought’ would end. Many prayers were answered that day as Melbourne cut Collingwood down in the last term of the match to win by almost ten goals.

The scores were:

Melbourne:            3.5      10.10   15.14   21.22 (148)
Collingwood:          6.5      10.6      13.9     14.11 (95)

Melbourne: Beames 4 Rodda 4 Jones 3 Ball 2 Mueller 2 Truscott 2 Smith Wartman La Fontaine, Baggott
Collingwood: Todd 6 Fothergill 3 Knight 2 Balfour MacRae Doherty

Melbourne: Roberts Beames Anderson Wartman Truscott Smith Mueller
Collingwood: Regan Todd Knight H. Collier Ross Hocking



Melbourne in 1939. This is not the premiership team; the photograph was taken in June 1939.  Jack Mueller can be seen fifth from the left in the back row, Ron Barassi Senior is in the front and Syd Anderson is in the back row second from the left. Source: ‘The Age’ June 7th 1939, Page 6.




Photographs from the 1939 VFL Final series. Above: Jack Mueller (12) is shown in a contested pack mark in the Demon’s forward line. Other players in the action are  Harold Ball (Melbourne 11), Jack Regan (Collingwood 18), Gordon Hocking (Collingwood 10) and Norm Smith (4). The image below shows Jack battling against Bervyn Woods and Jack Regan, two of the Magpies finest defenders of that era. Sources: Melbourne FC archives and ‘The Sporting Globe’, September 30th 1939, Page 4.


Jack Mueller won his second MFC Best and Fairest Trophy in 1939. His previous win was in 1937. In 1939, Jack played 16 games and booted 25 goals. Norm Smith won the club goal kicking trophy that season with 54 goals.


 Richie Emselle who played in the back pocket in the 1939 Grand Final. It was a triumphant day for the Demon defence as Collingwood’s forward line included Ron Todd, Jack Knight, Phonse Kyne, Des Fothergill and Vin Doherty. However, the Melbourne backline held firm and restricted the Magpies to just four goals after half-time. Richie was another example of the importance of VFL Seconds football in blooding players. Richie played in the Melbourne Second XVIII premiership team in 1935 and later played in three Senior XVIII premierships. He stepped down after sustaining a serious knee injury after 92 Senior XVIII games. Richie’s son, Ken, was also a fine player for MFC and a member of the 1964 premiership team. Ken also won the Gardiner Medal for the Best & Fairest in the VFL Reserves competition in 1969. Source: Melbourne FC website.



In 1940 the Demons defeated Richmond in the Grand Final by 39 points. Jack was named in the best for Melbourne again. The highlights of the game were Norm Smith’s bag of seven goals and ‘Checker’ Hughes’ brilliant tactics to nullify the Tigers’ strong man Jack Dyer. ‘Checker’ must have gained a lot of satisfaction from outwitting the Richmond bench that day.





Melbourne’s gallant quartet. From the top: Harold Ball, Ron Barassi (Senior), Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott and Syd Anderson. Harold, Ron, Keith and Syd were all members of the 1940 premiership team which defeated Richmond by 39 points. These four players died on active service during World War II. Each player has a story that should be appreciated and younger readers will  find the book entitled Fallen: The Ultimate Heroes written by Jim Main an enlightening reference on these and other  VFL footballers who died in times of war.



The Demon’s third consecutive flag was won at the expense of Essendon in 1941. On that day 76,687 people watched as Melbourne went on a rampage in the first half to set up a comfortable win. Jack Mueller was named third best for Melbourne and kicked three goals…

“This, their third successive flag, ended the ‘Golden Era’. During the three years 1939-40-41 the Redlegs had played sixty-one games, winning forty-nine……In those sixty-one games they had kicked over 100 points forty-six times…” Source:  ‘The Courage Book of VFL Finals’, Page 131.

Little did Melbourne supporters know  at that stage that Norm Smith, who had played in the three flags in that era, would repeat the ‘triple-treat-feat’ of his former coach and mentor Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes some time ‘down the track.’


Jack Mueller is shown marking in the 1941 Grand Final. Jack’s brilliant marking and three goals were influential factors in Melbourne overcoming Essendon that day. The other player is Essendon’s ruckman Fred Green who later coached St Kilda in 1951.  It is not well known that Fred Green was awarded a CBE (Order of the British Empire in 1976) for ‘public service’. Sources: ‘The Age’ September 29th 1941, Page 7; and regarding Fred Green, ‘Canberra Times’ December 31st 1976, Page 7.



There is no argument about Jack’s courage and tenacity in contests. Alf Brown once wrote that Jack had the capacity to win games ‘off his own boot.’ Well known football writers Greg Hobbs and Scot Palmer rated Jack as one of the best the game had ever seen and….

“Mueller, a powerful man in a powerhouse in football…had the ability to inject life into seemingly beaten Melbourne teams with sheer explosiveness…’  Source: ‘Football’s Greatest 50′, Page 19.

Unfortunately, there is little or no film footage that allows modern football fans to study Jack’s marking and robust style of play in either attack or defence, hence the photographs of earlier times (as shown below) become important in gauging Jack’s capability.

Perhaps two of the best comments about Jack Mueller came from Melbourne’s brilliant skipper Allan La Fontaine and former defender Wally Lock….

“La Fontaine said, “Jack and I started our League careers on the same day, in a match against Richmond. He was one of the best on the ground that day, and I was the worst…Since then I have seen many players, but none as  great as Mueller “…‘ Argus football writer and former champion defender, Wally Lock, agreed with La Fontaine about Mueller’s ability. He said “Mueller was the best I ever saw, and nobody could swing a game so quickly.“  Source: The Argus, August 14th, 1950.



Above: a banner headline about Jack Mueller from the ‘The Sporting Globe’ in June 1939. The photograph below shows Jack out marking Fitzroy’s famous fullback Vic Chanter. Note: Younger readers may be surprised to hear that Vic Chanter was the only VFL fullback to keep John Coleman goal-less in a VFL match. It was in the Round 10 at the Brunswick Oval in 1952. On the day that Vic met Jack Mueller (as shown above), Jack booted four of Melbourne lowly six goals.  Source: The Argus.  



 Jack represented the VFL in four interstate clashes. His first appearance for Victoria was in 1936 in the match against South Australia at the Adelaide Oval…and what a game to witness! Some 24,012 eager fans packed the ground to watch some of Australia’s finest footballers battle for the Centenary Cup.

Charlie Gaudion (North Melbourne – shown below) was the Victorian captain and the team included such stars as Herbie Matthews (South Melbourne), Jack Regan (Collingwood), Jack Dyer (Richmond), Bill Mohr (St Kilda),  Dick Reynolds (Essendon),  Laurie Nash (South Melbourne)  and Dick Harris the Richmond rover from Warrnambool.

Melbourne’s representatives in the squad were Alan La Fontaine and Jack Mueller. As can be seen in the Victorian line-up, Jack Mueller stated in defence but a reliable source stated that he went into the ruck with some impact. It was also reported (but hard to verify) that Alan La Fontaine suffered a hand injury in the first half of the match.

Stan Lloyd of St Kilda was most effective that day and is sadly another forgotten name in VFL football. Stan captained St Kilda (1940), played 117 games and won the Best & Fairest award in 1938.




Backs: Gaudlon   Regan   Mills.

Half-backs: Lloyd. Mueller, Hale.

Centres: Matthews La Fontaine, Hawking           

Half-forwards: Nash. Kyne Shea.

Forwards: Ware. Mohr, Reynolds.

Followers: Dyer. Curcio.

Rover: Harris.

19th man:  L Hardiman.

Emergency: Forbes.



In a contest that did wonders for promoting a national concept, Victoria held on to win the game by two points.  Victoria made hard work of the task due to inaccuracy in front of goal. The VFL kicked twenty behinds and virtually kept South Australia within touch across the four quarters. St Kilda’s champion spearhead was the star of the game with 7 goals. The final score was Victoria 13. 27 (105) defeated South Australia 15.13 (103).

Goal kickers for Victoria: Mohr 7, Shea 2, Kyne 2, Harris, Dyer and Matthews
Best players for Victoria (these names varied in several newspaper reports of the game): Mohr, Harris, Gaudion, Regan, Shea, Lloyd, Ware, Hawking.


This photograph of the Victorian team was published in the ‘Australasian’ on August 15th 1936. Jack Mueller is second from the left in the back row next to the legendary Jack Dyer.


Jack also played for Victoria in 1937 (i.e. two games at the Perth Carnival) and also in 1941. It was discovered that Jack was forced to withdraw (due to employment reasons) from the Victorian State squad that journeyed to South Australia and Perth in 1939.



Source: ‘The Argus’  May 31st 1939. The photograph is of Jack Mueller in full flight in a promotional  photograph  for the 1937 Perth Carnival (‘Western Australian’, July 6th 1937).  Caption text: VICTORIAN HIGH-MARKER. J. Mueller, a Victorian player who will be seen in action in Perth shortly with the Victorian Carnival football team, flying over two other players.



In his VFL career from 1934 to 1950, Jack Mueller polled a total of 73 votes in the Brownlow Medal, including seven in his very first season with Melbourne. A tabulated summary of Jack’s Brownlow Medal votes is shown below.

YEAR 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1946 TOTAL
VOTES 7 8 11 17 8 11 5 5 1 73


In 1937, Jack finished third in the Brownlow Medal as shown:

27 votes Dick Reynolds, Essendon
23 votes Herb Matthews, South Melbourne
17 votes Jack Mueller, Melbourne
16 votes Keith Shea, Carlton
16 votes Jack Regan, Collingwood
15 votes Norm Ware, Footscray

In 1936, Alan La Fontaine polled 19 votes and in 1939 Jack polled the most votes of any Melbourne player with 11 votes.

Jack’s major awards at Melbourne included:
Three times Best and Fairest winner (1937-1939 -1946);  leading goal kicker award in 1934 (52 goals) and 1946 when he booted with 58 goals (two more than Fred Fanning that season).

It should be remembered that Jack was not only a dangerous forward but was, at times, a key follower and defender for Melbourne.



The conflagration in Europe and the fall of Singapore had an obvious impact on the social and recreational life of all Australians. Naturally, the importance of VFL football waned and fell into the long shadows of wartime austerity and hardship. Melbourne paid a heavy price in those years and MFC players like ‘Bluey’ Truscott, Ron Barassi (Snr), Harold Ball, Noel Ellis, Syd Anderson and John Atkins all died on active service.

Jack Mueller’s initial attempt to enlist for military service was unsuccessful because of his missing fingers but he persisted. In January 1943 he registered for Army duties. According to the ‘Demonwiki’ website …

“Rejected by the Army due to his injuries, Mueller was ironically still able to play in the 1940 and 1941 premiership sides….He finally managed to find his way into the Army in 1943 and missed the entire season after the first round. He had five game stints in both 1944 and 1945 before returning as a regular in 1946.”

It is difficult to ascertain the exact duties that Jack undertook during the war years but he was based, for some time, at the Mt Martha Camp on the Mornington Peninsula.

Note: The Mt Martha Army Camp was later to be become known as the Balcombe Army Apprentice Camp.


This photo of the Mt Martha Area Army football team shows Jack Mueller in the centre of the back row. Other well-known VFL players in that team included Bert Mills (Hawthorn), Phonse Kyne (Collingwood) and Horrie Edmonds who played with Collingwood,  Richmond, and Footscray. Horrie was the captain of the above team. Source: SLV Reference: 122/124.


An interesting snippet in a reference book called The Clubs states that Jack (based at the Mt Martha Camp) and Alan La Fontaine (Puckapunyal Training Depot) played for the Combined Services League team against a Richmond/Fitzroy combine on 12th July 1942. Richmond/Fitzroy won the clash which was played before an enthusiastic crowd of some 25,000 fans.

The money raised (i.e. gate receipts of £850) was forwarded to the Patriotic Fund to assist in the war effort.

Later in the year, Jack and Alan participated in another comparable fixture against a VFL representative team selected by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir Frank Beaurepaire. The Combined Services ‘turned the tables’ on that occasion and won a thrilling match by five points.


Jack Mueller is mentioned in the above extract regarding the clash between Infantry and Army in the Inter-Services Competition in 1942.  Source: ‘The Sporting Globe’ July 22nd 1942, Page 13.


The World War II Nominal Roll states that Jack (VX 121465), had risen to the  rank of Corporal when he was discharged from the Army on the 13th December 1945.



 If required to select one of Jack’s finest performances in attack, his eight goals in the 1946 Preliminary Final would be high on any list. On that day, in front of a crowd of 59,000, Jack tore the Magpie defence apart  and helped Melbourne to a celebrated win over Jock McHale’s strong combination. Jack’s brilliant last quarter carried the Demons to victory…

 “But then the Magpies resistance collapsed, and Melbourne veteran  Jack Mueller took control in the air to boot four goals in the last twenty minutes…”   Source:   Graeme Atkinson, The Courage Book of Finals.

Note: It is interesting to read (above) how Norm Smith played the role of  decoy full forward to perfection that day in 1946, i.e. by allowing Jack to stay at home and compete ‘one out’ in the air. Decoy forwards were unselfish players who sacrificed their own interests to advance  the aims of the team.

Norm would later employ the same strategy in his time as coach of Melbourne. For example, Athol Webb would lead the opposition fullback on a ‘merry dance’ up-field leaving Bob Johnson with plenty of space in the goal square.

Both Norm and Athol were masters at the art of  creating space for their fellow forwards. In later years, Alan Rowarth (ex-Birregurra in the Polwarth FL) also took the role of decoy full forward. Like Athol he was a selfless team man and, in 70 games with Melbourne (1958-1963), Alan kicked 70 goals and created many more for others.


The extract and the photograph of Jack Mueller were  from the same edition
of the ‘The Sporting Globe’ (October 2nd 1946, Page 13).  



 A lot of things happened in football in 1946. The cessation of hostilities in Europe and in the Pacific brought the focus of a ‘football starved’ public back to watch the battles of the VFL ‘suburban warriors.’ The VFL finals were back at the MCG, crowd numbers had increased and an Under 19 Grade competition was in ‘full swing’. To top that off, Essendon FC, led by the irrepressible Dick Reynolds, had emerged as the new power in football.

 ‘Checker’ Hughes was still at the helm at Melbourne and Jack Mueller was ‘firing on all cylinders’ having played every home and away fixture that season.


Jack received top-billing in the match preview of the 1946 Grand Final
between Melbourne and Essendon. Source:  ‘The Age’ October 2nd 1946, Page 36.


Essendon was the glamour team of the VFL in 1946 and were clear favourites to take the flag having won 15 games in the season (including a winning streak of eight wins earlier in the season). Melbourne finished fourth on the table.

As history shows, Jack (at the age of 31 years) played a lone hand up forward for Melbourne in that Grand Final against the powerful Essendon outfit. Despite a lack-lustre display by Melbourne, Jack kicked six of the team’s total of 13 goals that day. Essendon thrashed Melbourne by 63 points but many in the crowd of 73,000 could only admire the manner in which Jack ‘stood tall’ for the Demons that day.

According to Graeme Atkinson’s authoritative reviews, in the three final matches in which Melbourne played in 1946, Jack Mueller was listed as the team’s best player twice and second best in the First Semi-final against Footscray. Furthermore Jack kicked 18 goals in that final series.

1946 had been a stellar season for the big-hearted Demon and he was a most deserving recipient of his third MFC Best and Fairest award. As mentioned above, Jack won the club’s goal kicking award for the second time with a total of 58 goals. Despite the Demons stumbling at the last hurdle, the win of Don Cordner in the Brownlow Medal brought smiles all round. Don polled 20 votes to win by one vote from Carlton’s revered forward-follower Jack Howell.

According to the AFL archives, Jack kicked total of 62 goals in finals. This figure remains the highest total by any Melbourne player in VFL/AFL history. Although requiring verification, it appears that Norm Smith may be next on the list with 36 goals in finals.

NOTE: CAUTION REQUIRED. Researching Jack Mueller’s performances in finals can be a little confusing because not only did Jack kick eight goals against Collingwood in the 1946 Preliminary Final but he also repeated the feat against Collingwood in the 1948 Preliminary Final. In 1948, he kicked 20 goals including 6 in each Grand Final (as a replay was required as described below).



 In 1947, another exciting and highly talented recruit arrived at Melbourne from  Echuca. His name was Edward (aka Ted) Jackson and it was a significant occasion in the history of Australian Rules football…

 “… One of the first indigenous players to make his mark in league football, Jackson initially wanted to join Richmond but Jack Mueller helped lure him to the Demons…”   Source: Demonwiki.

 Ted Jackson made an immmediate impact  and won the award for the Best First Year Player. He went onto play 84 games and was a part of the 1948 premiership team.

Ted was an extremely popular player and a trailblazer for indigenous footballers to join VFL/ AFL ranks. Other well-known indigenous players recruited to Melbourne include: Les Bambleltt, Jeff Farmer, Andy Lovell, Matt Whelan, Aaron Davey, Byron Pickett, Neville Jetta, Liam Jurrah, Jeff Gartlett and Kysaiah Pickett. The extract below is from The Herald ( March 27th 1947).




In 1948, Jack declared that he had stepped down from Senior Grade VFL and was duly appointed coach of the MFC Reserves. At that juncture, Jack had played 202 games and, at the age of  almost 32 years, he reasoned it was time to step back from the ‘frontline’ and prepare the ‘green/raw’ recruits for senior ranks.

Jack began that season with the conviction that he was the playing coach of the Melbourne Second XVIII…but…‘the best laid plans of mice and men.’ It can’t be proven and it is not recorded in any literature but perhaps ‘Checker’ Hughes had another plan ‘up his sleeve’ for Jack that year. Surprisingly (i.e. to the press and outsiders)    Jack Mueller was selected in Senior XVIII team in the Round 13 clash against St Kilda and booted six goals …

“ ..Where Mueller, who was making a brilliant comeback, was the dominant figure…”  Source: ‘The Argus’ July 17th 1948, Page 12.

Jack also played against Fitzroy in Round 14 (2 goals) and again clearly demonstrated that he hadn’t lost his ‘magic touch’ or measured aggression.



Two undisputed champions of Melbourne. Above is Don Cordner who won the Brownlow Medal in 1946.  The second image is of Norm Smith who is an iconic figure at Melbourne FC and an  influential force in changing the face of football.


Some observers believed that Melbourne was in with a ‘chance’ of winning the flag that season. However, doubts crept in after the drubbing at the hands of Essendon in the Second Semi-Final and the moment had arrived when ‘Checker’ played his ace and caught the opposition off guard…

“Jack Mueller…  coach of Melbourne Seconds came back into the senior line-up for the preliminary final against Collingwood…” Source: ‘The Courage Book of Finals’, Page 154.



In a dynamic exhibition in the Preliminary Final against Collingwood, Jack Mueller booted 8 goals to lead Melbourne into the Grand Final against the highly fancied Essendon the following week. It was a masterly stroke of coaching supported by a gifted and resolute veteran (i.e. Jack Mueller) who had celebrated his 33rd birthday a couple of weeks earlier.

The Grand Final, which was played on October the 2nd, was a thrilling tie with Melbourne being ‘let off the hook’ by Essendon’s dreadful inaccuracy in front of goal. Essendon kicked 7 goals 27 behinds. Jack again starred for Melbourne with six goals. The Bombers had thrown away a golden opportunity to take the title that day and Dick Reynolds and his combine would need to wait another week to ‘pop the cork’.


Percy Beames, the former Melbourne champion, filed the above match report for ‘The Age’ on October 4th 1948.  It is an informative extract as it reports on the attendance (85,658) and stated that it was the first drawn Grand Final in VFL history (up to that point in time).


The Grand Final Replay was held on the following Saturday and, for some strange reason, the crowd was bitterly disappointing (52,226). Perhaps it was the miserable weather or simply that the result appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

Any hope of Essendon winning the pennant that season dissipated in the first term as Melbourne rattled on six goals and held the languid Bombers goal-less. Jack kicked six goals that day. While Norm Smith and Jack Mueller were the heroes of the Demon’s win, the bulk of credit, for the planning and execution of the strategies, went to ‘Checker’ Hughes.

“Today Melbourne seemed much more positive, intent on providing a rich parting gift for the retiring coach Checker Hughes. ….bringing Mueller out of retirement was a master-stroke as he kicked 20 goals in three games.” Source: ‘100 years of Australian Football’, Page 181. 


Caption text: ESSENDON ATTEMPT TO SPOIL MELBOURNE. Bushby (Essendon) punches from behind in one of his attempts to spoil marks by Mueller (Melbourne) during the Grand Final on Saturday. Source: ‘The Argus” October 4th 1948, Page 15.





Above: 1948 Jack Mueller and Essendon’s defender Percy Bushby in aerial battle. Percy was recruited to Essendon from Narrandera and he played 142 games and won the club’s Best & Fairest award in 1944. Source: ‘Lost Narrandera’ website. Below: VFL Finals Guide 1948.



Both of the above photographs, of Jack Mueller, were published in ‘The Argus’ (but different editions in October 1948).  The photograph above shows Jack and Denis Cordner carrying Don Cordner from the ground after Melbourne’s 39 point victory over Essendon in the 1948 Grand Final. The other image depicts Jack in the action with Geoff Collins and Eddie Craddock. Geoff Collins later skippered the Demons in 1954 after returning to play with MFC after active service in the Korean War.


The Melbourne premiership team of 1948. ‘Checker’ Hughes is sitting next to Don Cordner. Jack Mueller can be seen standing next to Denis Cordner (centre, second row) and Norm Smith is centre in the back row.  




Headlines again…Jack Mueller was recalled to the Melbourne team for the clash against St Kilda in Round: 6 in 1949. Source:  ‘The Age’ May 20th 1949, Page 7.


The 1948 Grand Final was not Jack’s last senior game. He found it hard to leave the ‘big stage’ as he kept ‘taking curtain calls’ for his new coach and old friend Allan La Fontaine during 1949. Despite the fact that he was playing-coach of the MFC Reserves, the following season (1949) Jack played 4 senior games.

In 1950, the Melbourne’s selectors again re-called Jack Mueller for the last five rounds of the season. It was hoped that history would repeat itself and Jack would lift the Demons to victory in the First Semi-Final against the much improved Geelong team. ..

“…again Mueller was hauled back from the seconds he was coaching to help the senior side in yet another finals assault. By this time Mueller was 35, he kicked two goals – Melbourne managed only six – and the Demons were pushed out in the First Semi-final. Source: ‘Hobbs & Palmer’, Page 19.

Jack bowed out of VFL Senior Grade football after that disappointing defeat by the Cats and there were no more  ‘comebacks’. Jack had played 216 games and kicked 378 goals. With those two goals in that Semi- Final Jack had brought his tally of goals in VFL finals to 62 in 18 appearances at a commendable average of 3.44 goals per finals match. For a ‘rough and ready’ comparison’, Gordon Coventry goals per final average is calculated to be 3.61.

 It is reasonable to say Jack was ‘up with the best’ when it counted in VFL finals. His strong hands, powerful bodywork and prodigious kicking were worth so much to Melbourne on those ‘Saturdays in September.’ Jack played on in the VFL Reserves competition and it is known that his last match for the MFC Reserves was in 1954.



Jack coached the MFC Reserves from 1948 to 1954. He was appointed as playing-coach of the team but, as MFC records indicate, he also played Senior XVIII matches as required up until the end of the 1950 VFL season.  The highlight of his coaching career with the young Demons was winning the pennant in 1949. On that day, Melbourne 17.10 (112) defeated Essendon 9.14 (64).  According to the Hobart Mercury, Jack kicked seven goals. It is also documented that Jack won the MFC’s Seconds goal-kicking award in 1952.

As the coach of the MFC Second XVIII, Jack played a vital role in the preparation of young players for senior football. His credentials were undeniable and his belief in fitness, teamwork and the values,  as imparted to him by ‘Checker’ Hughes in earlier years, were his ‘mantra’ and the key for developing  emerging footballers.

One of the players that Jack met in 1953 was a teenager named Ron Barassi. Jack had played with his father (Ron Snr) in earlier years but young Ron’s (Jnr) performance in one particular Reserves match raised Jack’s ‘eyebrow and perhaps his hackles…

“Jack Mueller, a Demon legend and team-mate of Ron’s father can only recall coaching young Ron in one game. It was enough to convince Mueller that the boy was a handful.  In a note to the senior selection committee, Mueller commented: “This boy thinks he can do what he likes….”…Source: ‘Barassi’ by Peter McFarline, Page 31.

When Norm Smith, the Senior XVIII coach of the Demons, received Jack’s written observations about Ron he promptly gave ‘the boy’ a short but very sharp lesson on the ‘facts of life’ in football. In time, Ronald Dale Barassi would arguably rival Jack as the most inspiring footballer to have ever donned a Melbourne Guernsey. Norm, Jack and Ron have become iconic figures in the story of the Melbourne Football Club.



A photograph of Ron Barassi (Junior) with Jack Mueller was difficult to unearth for this article for Footy Almanac however the relationship between Ron Barassi and Norm Smith is another compelling story in the history of the Demons. Source: Melbourne FC website.



It would be easy to gloss over Jack’s transgressions in football but it would not only be wrong but also create the impression that Jack was a ‘saintly character’ on the football field. In truth, Jack was a belligerent and forceful Demon and, by the end of his illustrious career,  Jack was ‘well acquainted’ with the seating arrangements at the VFL Independent Tribunal.

According to the available statistics, Jack appeared at the VFL Tribunal on five occasions. Although verification is required, it seems that Jack’s appearances during his career (i.e. 1938-1950) resulted in a total of 16 weeks suspension. He was found guilty of elbowing (twice), striking (once) and abusive language (once). He received a sentence of four weeks on each occasion. In 1950 Jack was reported for striking but was found not guilty of the charge.


Source: The Age May 25th 1949, Page 20.


The Argus newspaper coverage of Jack’s tribunal hearing in 1938 was alongside a photograph of the legendary Don Bradman hitting a boundary in a cricket match during an Australian tour match in England. Jack’s report was big news and that particular tribunal hearing grabbed the headlines as shown below. Furthermore, the newspaper’s comprehensive version of the incident would have done justice to any episode of TV’s famous lawyer ‘Perry Mason’.


‘The Argus’, May 25th 1938: Big news: Century for Bradman & Jack Mueller ‘Out for Four.’


During the hearing, central umpire Stan Morgan went to great lengths to validate his report while Jack tried valiantly to convince the VFL Independent Tribunal Chairman (Mr. Moir) that the contact he made with the ‘said player’ was within the rules of the game. While some confusion existed regarding the actual Footscray player involved in the incident (either Jim Miller or Rob Sainsbury), in the end nothing could save Jack from being found ‘guilty’…

“Last night the Victorian Football League tribunal disqualified J. Mueller, the Melbourne half-back, from playing in the next four games in which his club is engaged. It found that a charge against Mueller of having elbowed a Footscray player in the last quarter of the match at the Melbourne cricket-ground last Saturday had been sustained.” Source: ‘The Argus’ May 25th 1938.

The various accounts of Jack’s appearances at the Independent Tribunal make fascinating reading and underline how different football commentary was in those days. Television, radio, streaming, rolling news services and social media have changed the way people receive their news today.

Without the 24/7 media coverage of  sport that exists today, football fans, of that era, particularly Melbourne’s faithful, would have rushed to the news-stands to obtain a copy of The Argus to read the summary of Jack’s plight. Another example of Jack Mueller’s visit to the VFL tribunal is shown below. On that occasion (July 1939) the hearing involved Godfrey Goldin of Essendon.

 Note: Godfrey Robert Goldin died on active service in New Guinea in World War II in 1943. Godfrey (ex-Coburg Amateurs VAFA) played just eight games for Essendon before enlisting in the Second AIF.


Source: ‘The Argus’ July 19th 1939, Page 23.



In June 1954, at the age of 38 years, Jack Mueller hit front page news in The Sporting Globe when he played for Millers’ Rope Works in the Sunday Amateur League. The extract below was found on page one of the ‘Globe’ on June 2nd 1954…



For younger readers, ‘Millers’ were one of the largest rope manufacturers in Australia and at one stage had 500 workers on its payroll. It is stated that the company had a strong connection with the Melbourne Football Club.  In 1954, Millers was coached by Len Smith (Norm’s famous brother). Other teams in the competition that season included  Kensington, Carlton Stars, Fitzroy Rovers, Collingwood, Sunshine, Richmond, Brooklyn, Williamstown, Ivanhoe and Brunswick.

The Sunday competition boasted a sizeable number of former VFL players and the games were very popular outings for football devotees. In a photograph of the Millers team at the Port Melbourne Ground in 1954, the grandstand was packed to capacity. Players of Jack Mueller’s calibre would have certainly created plenty of interest in the league. According to The Argus, the 1954 SAL Grand Final, between Brunswick and Carlton, attracted some 28,000 fans.

Radio Station 3UZ broadcast the ‘match of the day’ each week and a well-known and popular celebrity of that era, Fred Tupper, was the commentator. It appears that often the proceeds of the games were given to worthy charitable organizations.  The Sunday Amateur League was formed in 1947 and became defunct/non-operational in 1964.



This summary attempts to convey Jack’s achievements in VFL football. Unfortunately, such facts cannot accurately portray his skill, indomitable spirit, his flair and the excitement he generated among the Melbourne fans. Jack’s highlights included:

216 senior VFL games between 1933 and 1950;
378 goals;
Kicked 62 goals in VFL finals matches;
Played in 4 VFL Premierships 1939-40-41-50;
Represented Victoria on 4 occasions;
Won Melbourne’s Best & Fairest Trophy in 1937-39-46;
Won Melbourne’s Goal kicking trophy on two occasions 1934-46;
Captain & coach of Melbourne Reserves team;
Won the MFC Reserves goal kicking award in 1952;
A possible VFL record of 14 marks in one quarter v Carlton in 1936. *Note: This could not be verified for the article for Footy Almanac;
Played in two Reserve Grade premierships for MFC (1933 & 1949);
Inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996;
Listed in Melbourne’s 150 Heroes;
Awarded Life Membership of Melbourne in 1943;
Selected in the MFC team of the Century (see below);
Jack later became a commentator on radio station 3KZ ( see below).

Although, not a sporting highlight, it is stated in one text (but again difficult to verify) that Jack won first prize (£10,000) in the Tatts lottery in 1959.





Jack Mueller appeared on the front page of ‘The Age’ newspaper in 1977. In the lead up to the Grand Final Replay between North Melbourne and Collingwood. Phil Baker, North Melbourne’s spearhead, is shown with Jack. Caption Text: Jack Mueller kicked six goals in the 1948 Grand Final Replay. North’s Phil Baker is hoping he can do the same tomorrow. Sources: ‘The Age’ September 30th 1977, Page 1 & ‘The Age’ March 16th 1953, Page 12.



Jack was selected in the Melbourne Team of the Century. The forward line of Mueller, Smith and Beames is remarkable in the fact that those three players all represented Melbourne in the same era.

Allan La Fontaine, who played his first VFL game with Jack, was named in the centre. Ron Barassi (Jnr), who Jack had expressed serious doubts about in 1953, was named captain of the team.



B: John Beckwith Tassie Johnson Don Cordner
HB: Noel McMahen Gary Hardeman Don Williams
C: Brian Dixon Allan LaFontaine Robert Flower
HF: Hassa Mann Ivor Warne-Smith Garry Lyon
F: Jack Mueller Norm Smith Percy Beames
Foll: Denis Cordner Ron Barassi (Captain) Stuart Spencer
Int: Frank Adams Albert Chadwick Wally Lock
Laurie Mithen Jim Stynes Todd Viney
Coach: Norm Smith



Jack Mueller wore the number 12 jumper from 1934-1949. When he stepped back from Senior XVIII football, the jumper number was presented to Stuart Spencer, ex-Portland (i.e. another country recruit). Stuart wore the number with great distinction at Melbourne and won the club’s Best & Fairest awards in 1955 and 1956.


Melbourne’s champion rover Stuart Spencer wore number 12 with great distinction. Stuart was selected in the Melbourne FC’s ‘Team of the Century’ as rover (see above) and played 122 games and kicked 146 goals for the Demons. Source: ‘The Hickey Stand’ website. Original source of this photo was not given.



Jack died on June 14th 2001. He was buried at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery. The following obituary was published in The Riverine Herald on June 29th 2001…



The complete text of the above is re-printed below …



“The late Jack Mueller, originally from Echuca, was acclaimed by many as Melbourne Football Club’s best player ever. Jack, who died on June 15, aged 85, played a total of 216 games from 1934 to 1950, kicked 378 goals, won the club best and fairest three times, played in four premiership teams and was an original member of the AFL Hall of Fame.

The greatest tribute to his talent came in 1948, the year Jack turned 33, after he had retired from playing seniors to take on the role of playing coach with the reserves. He was recalled to the seniors for the preliminary final and kicked eight goals against Collingwood, Jack then kicked six goals in both the drawn grand final and the replay, which Melbourne won easily over Essendon.

Jack was born in Echuca in 1915 to solicitor and noted athlete Frank Mueller and his wife, Eliza. Other family members were Brother Carl and sisters Mary, Aileen, Catherine and Estelle. Mr Mueller first played at the Brigidine Convent, progressing to the Echuca Technical College team and the Echuca seniors, where his potential was recognised. His parents agonised over Melbourne Football Club’s offer to sign up Jack and find him a job in Melbourne at age 17. It was during his first year of work at a box manufacturing company at Carlton that Jack lost the middle and ring fingers above the knuckle on his left hand. He played the following year wearing a protective glove and continued to star.

A stint in the second Australian Infantry Forces was the only interruption to his career. Jack excelled at cricket and later at golf and lawn bowls. Jack’s funeral was held at St Dominics in Camberwell, Jack’s parish church. His stepson John Curtain gave the eulogy, which paid tribute not only to Jack’s prowess as a footballer, but to his fine qualities as a family man, friend and role model. Mr Mueller is mourned by his widow Del (Curtain) and sisters Cath (Mrs Lynch) and Estelle (Mrs Jackson).”




This image of Jack is part of the E.C.H. Taylor’s book entitled:  ‘100 Years of Football.’
Source:  State Library of Victoria Collection. 


In closing, perhaps John Devaney’s summary of Jack is one of the best (of many written about Jack) and is shown below…

“Mueller was much more than just a goal kicker, however. An immensely versatile footballer, he was at full back in Melbourne’s 1939 premiership team, rucked for the 1940 and 1941 flag winning combinations, and represented the VFL at both ends of the ground as well as an on-baller. Never the most elegant of players, he was nonetheless more than adequately endowed with all the major skills of the game and it was this, combined with his formidable physique and typically effervescent, explosive attack on the football which made Jack Mueller so inordinately effective – more so, it might be said, than the ostensible ‘sum of his parts.”  Source: ‘Australian Football’ website.


This article was written for ‘Footy Almanac’ by Roger Spaull in December 2023.


To read more by Roger Spaull click HERE.


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  1. Another epic, enthralling essay, Roger, to add to your Almanac catalogue. In the midst of the impressive array of Jack’s achievements, I was pleased to see that you also recorded his strong-minded thinking and his on-field misdemeanours. That’s good balance.

  2. This is simply amazing, Roger.

    Bravo on an excellent piece, well-researched, and brilliantly laid-out before us.

  3. Hayden Kelly says

    A great read thank you .

  4. roger lowrey says

    Great read mate. You are an adornment to the name of Roger.


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