Almanac (Footy) Memoir: The days I met the wonderful John Coleman








G’day my fellow Footy Almanac friends.


The first time I met the great Essendon full forward John Coleman was when I was a Herald boy selling Heralds, which was the evening newspaper in Melbourne for many years, at the Brickmakers Arms Hotel in Essendon.


On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’d race home from school and catch a tram to the pub.


My papers didn’t arrive until later so it gave me time to race up to Windy Hill and watch my beloved Dons train for a while.


I’d then race back to the pub and sell my papers.


One Thursday, after doing my rounds inside the pub, I was at my stand outside. I was then approached by none other than the wonderful John Coleman. I was almost frozen in front of the great man.


“What’s your name, son?” he asked me.


I told him it was John.


“Oh,” he said, “the same as mine.”


He bought a paper. They were threepence then. He gave me two bob (two shillings).


I groped around in my pockets for his change. “No,” he said, “that’s your tip.”


A lot of money for a young boy.






The second time I met the wonderful John Coleman, I was selling Heralds at the Imperial Hotel, down from the Windsor Hotel and across Spring Street from Victorian Parliament House.


In those days some of the VFL coaches drank at the Imperial: Ron Barrassi, Allan Jeans, Ted Whitten snr, Bill Stephen, Bob Rose and Des Tuddenham.


I was doing my inside rounds and nearly fainted when I saw the great man again.


He called me over to buy a paper.


He immediately said: “We’ve met before, your name is John.”


You can imagine how I felt.


He again gave me two bob and refused to take his change. “That’s your tip,” he said.


I was on Cloud Nine for weeks.






So, finally, the third time I met the wonderful John Coleman.


I was working at an automotive store – EA Machin, then the oldest of its kind in Australia.


The department next to mine sold car batteries.


My colleague (also John) rushed up to me to tell me that my hero was buying a battery.


John also got the great man’s autograph for me.


Of course, I still have it, and it sits with some of my very special items.


By then the great man had issues with his back so it was suggested that I carry the battery to his car. Which I did.


To my amazement the great man again said that we had met before and that my name was John. He also remembered that I had sold papers to him. To say I was amazed and stunned is a massive understatement.


A champion footballer and a champion bloke.


I will never forget our meetings.


Sadly, he passed away oh so young, in 1973.


Thank you to my fellow Footy Almanac friends for allowing me to share my story.


My love and warmest Karma to you all and all your family and friends.


Cheers Johno (Snowy) Nugent – but that’s another story.



Read the Australian Dictionary of Biography John Coleman entry:


Read the Wikipedia entry on John Coleman:


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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    My dad, who was a one-eyed Bulldogs supporter, always told me stories about John Coleman and what a fabulous player he was. You are a very fortunate person to be able to say you met the great John Coleman. What a privilege!

  2. That is an amazing yarn, John.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Allan Barden says

    Excellent memoir/story John. Enjoyed the read – very special. Brought back memories for me of when as a teenager I first met and trained under the great John Devine, when I met and had a long conversation over a few beers with Len Thompson (embarrassingly, not recognising who he was for some time !) and a great conversation at Sydney airport I once had with the great Ray Lindwall.
    Wonderful memories.

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