Harry Beitzel: Pioneer and founder of the Australian Irish connection 70 years on

Australians are not good at recognising their history, unless it is official history.


Perhaps now is the time to recognise the founder, the pioneer, the late Harry Beitzel, at the International Rules matches in November?


A formal procession or gathering of those who played from the past, from the VFL, the SANFL, the WAFL and the TFL players could join with Barassi, Skilton, and Kevin Bartlett (who is rumoured to have handballed in Rumania on the 1968 tour).


That would be the right salute to Harry’s selfless innovation.


Here is an excerpt from my book chapter (in a book on Australia and Ireland) on the Irish connection from 29 October 1967 when the Galahs beat the All Ireland champions Meath at Croke Park, in an astonishing sporting result, to the 1990s.


It includes Harry’s marvellous story, quite a lot of blarney for a former umpire, a footy commentator and publisher with a German name.


A link to a web version of the chapter is below.*


The team arrived in Dublin after a bitterly cold night match before a small crowd of 4,000 at London’s Crystal Palace. By then, with great difficulty, a match had finally been arranged at the cathedral of Gaelic football, Croke Park, and against the All Ireland champions, Meath. This was being slowly organised despite an understandable scepticism about these novices at the Gaelic game with their diverse membership, including the Italian-sounding name of Ron ‘Barassi’, the captain coach, and the Germanic ring of Harry ‘Beitzel’. At the airport press conference on a wet Dublin day, the journalist, John D Hickey, who knew of the duststorm which had arisen in Melbourne after their departure, asked, in his Irish brogue, about the term galah. ‘Would you be telling us what’s with this name, “the Galahs”? What does it mean?’ As Harry Beitzel tells the story, he responded with a fanciful almost Irish tale of this magic bird:


I told him what it meant. ‘It meant according to aboriginal folklore that it was a very rare bird, hardly ever sighted, golden wings, a great big bird, golden wings and if it ever flew over you you’d have golden sunshine in your lives, in your hearts for the rest of your lives. The Galah has flown over Dublin today. Look outside and it’s raining. Come Sunday we’ll have perfect sunshine.’ ‘You obviously haven’t seen the weather forecast,’ he said… And there were a lot of negatives, and we turned it all around… I said: ‘We may not win this game as it’s a game we don’t know but I can assure you of four things: 1. you’ll never have seen athletes like you see our Australian boys. 2. you’ll never ever see your game played like we will play it. 3. you’ll never forget us and 4. we will change the way you play your game – I can guarantee these things – we’re going to bring excitement to it.






  1. bring back the torp says

    Great story, Prof.!

    And yes -of course there should be official recognition for Harry at the game.

    He is a worthy Hall Of Famer.

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