Dennis Modra: Norwood’s electrifying pacey wingman






Name:  Dennis Malcolm Modra


Date of birth:  27 September 1941


Career:  1960 to 1970


Position:  Wing


Recruited from:  Port Augusta


Games:  142


Goals:  33


Debut:  v West Torrens (Norwood), 23 April 1960


Finale:  v West Torrens (Thebarton), 9 May 1970


Best First Year player:  1960


Best Wingman:  1961, 1965, 1966, 1967


Effective Play Award:  1962



Most Effective Player:  1963


Five Year Certificate:  1964


Runner-up Best & Fairest:  1967


Advertiser Team of the Year:  1967


SANFL Life Membership:  1969


Norwood Life Member


Magarey Medal Votes:  21


Missed most of 1964 with a cartilage injury


Only player to play a game in each season in the 1960s.


His son Ben played 42 games for Norwood 1989-1994.


(Thanks to Graeme Adams from the NFC History Committee)





Dennis Modra turns 80! He was an electrifying pacey wingman for the Legs but let’s return to the beginning!


Dennis is the son of Ross and Elsie with siblings Roslyn, Graham, Joylene and Peter. He grew up in Port Augusta attending Port Augusta Primary and High Schools. His earliest prominent sporting memories are playing SAPSASA sport.* Dennis was a natural at all sports he had a crack at including cricket, swimming, golf, athletics, baseball. At Port Augusta High when Dennis was 15 he entered five events at the school sports day – the 75, 100 and 220 yard races the 75 yard hurdles and the high jump. He casually won the lot!


He won the Colts medal (Under 18) when he was 16. Allan Dighton his cricket opening batting partner was his mentor and adviser. Dennis made significant contributions to three (in a row) cricket premiership wins highlighted by a casual 147 not out in the last one!


Dennis and Allan used to do extra training on their nights off at Redbanks at Port Augusta, getting a regular strenuous workout.


Dennis ventured down to The Parade in 1960 debuting against West Torrens having a very good first year under the coaching of the hot gospeller Alan Killigrew. He got on well with Killer and certainly made an impression on him during Killer’s three year tenure because he tried to get Dennis to go with him to North Melbourne in 1963. Dennis was told in all likelihood Norwood would make him stand out for a year under the rules which were in place back then (how footy has changed).


Dennis missed the 1960 Grand Final through injury, which may have been the difference as the Legs went down by just five points to the Roosters. His first Grand Final was in 1961 which they lost to West Adelaide. Unfortunately injuries, particularly hamstrings, and a cartilage injury in 1964 dogged his career. He also had two serious concussions.





Dennis continued to be a very important player for the Legs dominating the best wingman award (a fascinating trophy from back then). He won the most effective player award in 63 and 5 year certificate in 1964 when Norwood was coached by the much loved Doug Olds.


The Legs were coached by Haydn Bunton from 1965 to`67. Again Dennis  left a lasting impression on Bunts as he wanted Dennis to go to WA to Subiaco with him. However, a certain young lady, Lexie Noonan was making a considerable impression at the time and may have been a large part why Dennis stayed at Norwood. Lexie and Dennis have been married for over 50 years!


Dennis had arguably his best season in 1967 finishing runner up in the best and fairest and making The Advertiser’s Team of the Year. Hewon the best wingman award again.


He then played under Robert Oatey from `68 to `70 achieving SANFL life membership in 1969.


He also became a life member of the Norwood Football Club. The concussion injuries played a large part in Dennis retiring from football.





Dennis worked originally in the Land Titles field but didn’t find that rewarding. He ended up working in the law courts for 27 years, the last 17 in particular as a court reporter specializing in taking shorthand evidence in the children’s court. This was challenging.


Dennis was very accomplished in several sports. He does wonder how far he could have gone in cricket. He was a very good runner and competed in various running events including the Bay Sheffield and the Whyalla Gift. He won The Appila Gift. Dennis was run out of the Bay Sheffield at the semi final stage one year. He then put his footy boots on and won the footballers’ race. Dennis got his golf handicap down to two and, when a couple of entrants withdrew from the SA Open one year, Dennis  competed as an amateur and actually outperformed the pros he was drawn to play against on the day.


Dennis and Lexie have three children: Simon, who many consider may have made it at The Parade had he not had not been working in the night club industry; Ben, am accomplished performer for the Legs across 42 games from `89 to `94 (unfortunately a knee injury affected Ben’s career) and Georgia who works for Rockford Wines. Dennis and Lexie lead a quiet life in general but I’m reliably informed the fish may shudder if they see Dennis heading out in his boat.


Dennis Modra is a very important part of the Norwood Football Club’s history and everyone  thanks Dennis for his fine contribution to the club and the game.


Read Dennis’s profile at the Redlegs Museum HERE.


Wally Miller adds:


Malcolm, I can’t add much more than you will find in his Redlegs Museum profile accept to reinforce that he was a very popular team mate who was highly regarded for his straight running, super pace, and excellent skills, particularly his booming kick.  Like so many small players he suffered leg injuries far too often which limited his career. He was right up there with the best of Norwood’s wingmen that I have seen over the years. A good all-round sportsman. He helped with the Past Players Association for a period.  He was employed as a court reporter and operated special type writing machines to record proceedings.


He now lives at Point Turton on the Yorke Peninsula and spends a lot of time fishing. It would be hard to find any dirt on Dennis! The Modras are a very good family and I wish them all luck.


Past Norwood team mate and good friend Bob Haines adds: Dennis was a fantastic footballer, quick and tough with a low centre of gravity which certainly helped him. He had exquisite balance. He is a quiet and humble man who, while proud of his achievements, never boasts.


A group of us used to meet at Dennis’s place before games and used to consume a medical concoction which was given the green light by the doctors and included Sustagen from the chemist. We used to have races in the Volkswagens down Henley way:Brian Norsworthy, Dennis and myself and surprise surprise, Dennis was the regular winner. He was a fierce competitor.


Peter Blood, Dennis and myself used to have a speedboat and we used to go down to Goolwa. Invariably the majority of the Norwood side would find out and would come down and go water skiing (they’d never put in any money for the fuel so we reckon remuneration is owed so with inflation added on let’s settle for say 20 grand, that should do the trick!) Dennis was also a huge lover of rabbit trapping on one occasion. I recall Horrie Nelson, Dennis and myself were having a crack at rabbiting and Dennis said, “We should we go home or go to the pub.” I replied, “What do you reckon!” We arrived at the Werooka pub and I went,”Sorry I’ve forgotten my wallet,” Dennis must have been expecting that old trick as he replied, “That’s ok, I took $50 bucks out of your wallet already back at the house!” Summing up, Dennis has been a good mate for over 50 years now we all enjoy his company immensely.My life is certainly for the better having had Dennis as a part of it. Thanks mate.



Note from Rulebook:

(There is talk of SAPSASA being removed, with lots of things are happening behind the scenes currently to try to make sure sporting institution is maintained. Hopefully sanity prevails.)



Editor’s Note 1: 


Rulebook also had the privilege of being coached by Killer at Norwood High. When Killer organized triple Brownlow Medalist Bob Skilton to present their awards he introduced Rulebook to Bob: “This is Malcolm. He has the best football brain of anyone I have ever coached.”


Skilton stood to attention thinking he’d just been introduced to a future champion. Killer followed up: “It’s just a pity he can’t play!”


Skilton was horrified. “You can’t say that,” he said.


“Nah, I’m shithouse,” Rulebook responded. “I’m just rapt that Killer rates my footy brain.”


Their gun player Olaf Bode (who went on to play for the Redlegs and the Panthers) couldn’t stop laughing either.




Editor’s Note 2:


Doug Olds played cricket for Payneham for the Olds and Bolds side – let’s say a collection of more mature gentlemen. Rulebook filled in for one game as a young buck. With Doug keeping, Rulebook fielded in the slips. Rulebook was enjoying the history lesson so much he told the batsmen to get their heads dwon and play for red ink so he could hear more stories.


All photos courtesy of the Modra family and also the  NFC History Committee



Read more from Rulebook HERE.


Contact Rulebook for the purchase of  The Definitive Rulebook HERE.



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  1. Thanks Malcolm,
    For those of us who followed Norwood during those lean years, Dennis Modra was a star and one of the finest wingmen to have played for the club.

  2. Peter Myers says

    As the son of an ex-Norwood player, and a family that came from Norwood, I grew up with red and blue blood coursing through my veins, even when we moved down to Henley Beach when I was only ten months old, at the end of 1960. We would regularly make the trip out to the Parade, dropping in to my grandparents’ place on Beulah Road, before going to the footy. I certainly remember Dennis Modra very well. I was too young to remember anything much about 1960 or ‘61, so may have missed some of Dennis’ best years. For the rest of his career he had the misfortune to play through a pretty unsuccessful period for Norwood, but I remember him as a very fine player.

  3. Gary Bennett says

    Besides being a very fine footballer, Denis Modra was also a really fine fellow. I know as I and another of my friends, Wayne Butcher, often swam with him in the Kensington and Norwood swimming pool during the early sixties. Over the years of enjoying his exciting play one particular game stands out in my mind. It was a game between Norwood and Centrals at the Adelaide Oval. The game was nearing its closure with Centrals a few points in front. Behind the stand a big storm was brewing as evidenced by big black clouds. The ball was delivered to Modra at half forward. In the process of taking the mark, Centrals’ playing coach, Daryl Hicks (if memory serves me correctly) crashed into Modra’s back in attempting a spoil. The umpire (only 1 in those days) allowed play to go on allowing Centrals to win. These days it would have been a free kick, a 25 metre penalty and a charging report laid. Years later, the officiating umpire, on K G Cunningham’s sports show admitted his error and also confessed he had a shocking day. Mods was a highly skilled ball player, with a delightful long and accurate kick and very fair. Always a delight to watch in action.

  4. Michael Rehn says

    Gary Bennett I recall that game too, the final minor round game of 1965. Tom Grulisich was the Central player who charged Denis Modra from behind, meaning that despite making the top four we started the season with a loss to Woodville and ended the minor round with a loss to Central. Brian Lees was the umpire, and so incensed with Lee’s lack of a decision, our Seconds full-forward of the time Sid Simeon ran onto the field post siren and had more than a word to Lees. I think the smack in the mouth to Lees earned Simeon, who had shown much promise during the season, a career ending ban from football !!!

  5. Graeme Adams says

    Dennis Modra was an extremely popular player with the Norwood fans. Towards the late 60s, he missed many games through injury. I remember a game against Woodville at the Parade in 1968, Modra was on the bench and Norwood were being well beaten. Finally, Modra came onto the ground amid huge cheers from the crowd. He then proceeded to kick a long drop kick goal in the wet, it brought the house down

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Good to see some of the earlier generation of Redlegs (Demons even) being covered ‘Book. Keep ’em comin’

  7. Tim Wedding says

    Such great names to come out of that era and unfortunately no premierships to show for it. Listening to Dad talk about footy, the name Dennis Modra came up many times, I would have loved to have seen him play. A true gentleman and Norwood great.

  8. Terry Schultz says

    I had the pleasure of playing golf with Dennis at Flagstaff Hill. He could hit a wedge the length of the Norwood Oval.

  9. Chris Bracher says

    Hi Malcolm
    Can I assume that there is a next generation family tie to Tony Modra?

  10. Gary Bennett says

    Dennis Modra was a much loved ball player for the Legs. My father, who knew quite a bit about footy and was a one eyed Red and Blue man, would often comment on Mod’s brilliant kicking style, in particular when on the run. Dad always said stab kicks or droppies to a player on the move rather than those high punt hospital balls were the way better option. Mods excelled with his kicks to position or a leading player. He also had a very nice turn of pace. Dad, in his twenties was a very good friend of Doug Drage Norwood’s second rover to Jack Oatey in the forties

  11. Dean Bogisch says

    What a great Norwood footballer (obviously a Demon under Killigrew and then a Redleg!). I only saw him play on tv replays, being a mid-north country boy I was never fortunate enough to see live SANFL games until I relocated the city in the late seventies. I did have a photo card of Dennis, along with others, but unfortunately lost them over the years. Another great story Rulebook.

  12. Martin Rumsby says

    As a young fella just becoming interested in footy and Norwood in particular, Dennis was one of my favourites. Thanks for the overview of his life before and after NFC, Malcolm.

  13. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Wynton and Peter thank you.Gary greatly appreciated for broadening our knowledge of Dennis.Michael Sid Simeon certainly a infamous name at the parade ! Grizz thank you and appreciate you’re help as always.
    Swish thank you.Tim thank you.Terry appreciated and I will chase up re that message.Chris from Ben
    Dennis and Lexie’s son – yes dads cousin is Tony’s father.Dean and Martin thank you.Ironically it was JTH who corrected me the correct spelling of Dennis as it was missing a n in the Norwood records I asked Dennis and he said the paper had spelt it that way one day and then it was copied and so everyone assumed that was correct, the NFC History Committee were v happy to find out and it has now been corrected thanks folks

  14. Correction necessary, earlier I named Daryl Hicks as Centrals coach in the controversial Dennis Modra non decision. In point of fact it was Ken Eustice. I should have known better.

  15. Andrew Killey says

    My Dennis Modra story.
    When I first arrived in Adelaide from NSW and met Pauline Sheridan, her father, the late John Sheridan used to take me to the footy and try and explain Aussie Rules Footy.
    The Sheridan’s lived in George St Norwood.
    Yep red and blue through and through.
    It was about my second game of Aussie Rules footy at the Parade and The Redlegs were playing Westies. At three quarter time John Sheridan asked me (a rugby player) who I thought was playing well for Norwood, who were winning. I told him the little fast bloke who no one could catch,kicked two and gave off 2 was my pick. John Sheridan beamed and said “He’s one of us!”
    Indeed D Modra was engaged to or just married the beautiful Lexi Noonan, John Sheridan’s Neice.
    I was the golden child from then on.
    Happy Birthday Den … champion bloke and now my friend. AK

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