Almanac Footy History: How To Play Football – Don Roach 1969

Don Roach left an indelible imprint on Australian footy, spanning three states and four decades as a player, coach and administrator.

His league career started in 1958 as a lightly framed, left footed follower/flanker at West Adelaide, having previously played for Hawthorn fourths in his home state after being signed as a fifteen year old.

In 1961, Roach achieved personal highs as an SA state player at the Brisbane Carnival, also gaining All-Australian selection. Further success eluded Roach that year when he failed a fitness test on the morning of Westies’ premiership in the “Turkish Bath” decider against Norwood (in Neil Kerley’s first year as captain-coach).

After two more seasons at in the red and black, Roach decided to test himself in the VFL as did his team mate Jeff Bray, who joined the Swans. Roach made his Hawthorn senior debut in Round 7 of 1964 at Glenferrie Oval, the first of eleven straight games that year. In 1965 he appeared in all eighteen of the Hawks’ matches, but they disappointed with a 4-14 season (as did Footscray and Fitzroy), finishing twelfth.

Roach came back to a very different West Adelaide in 1966, but his VFL experience was deployed as their new captain-coach.

Roach was appointed as the SANFL’s first full time promotions officer in 1968, his coaching services no longer required after two mid-table finishes led to Westies’ appointment of Murray Weideman (but Roach stayed on as a player).

The much loved Coca-Cola Mini League was one of his first junior football innovations, alongside the introduction of Modified Rules and a renewed emphasis on football in schools.

It was in this newly created role that he also authored the publication “How To Play Football – The Basic Skills of Australian Rules”. This booklet was designed by Trevor Farrant, whose input into the 1969 Carnival program was discussed here

The rich photographic content came from live action shots and staged frame-by-frame setups, the latter set in the Adelaide parklands area that was once known as Park 10.

(click on any photo to enlarge)

The cover is pure 1969 Farrant, revisiting his favoured bright background treatment to a regulation monochrome action shot.

The optimistic use of “1” would indicate that this booklet was to be the first of a series, and the 80c price point was about the cost of two plastic footies.


The Rigby publishing house was ubiquitous in SA at this time. The SANFL’s approval is noted, but it is unclear whether this booklet was their direct work or something originating from Roach in his own time.


The first of several live action shots, with Bob Simunsen, Fred Phillis and Barrie Robran unable to stop Barry Davis – a metaphor for SA/Vic Footy relations of the era (two of those shown also played first class cricket for SA).


Roach held lofty ambitions for this book, having decided that many senior-level players were going around despite having “fundamental weaknesses” with “basic skills”.


The broad range of skills covered in the book is apparent here. There is a slight nod towards tactics in the Rucking chapter, but its emphasis was on execution of the basics.


Bob Shearman was the gold standard when it came to the skill of kicking.


Is there a better site in footy than a left foot “screwy”?


Huddo was synonymous with the flat punt, but how about the White Diamond boots?


Shearman again as the poster boy for the droppy, but more curious was the choice of Centrals hard-nosed utility Colin Stutley as the frame-by-frame exponent. I only remember sports store owner and future opal miner Stuts hastily slapping the pill out of defence with punts that could best be described as “mongrel”. The reason for such an unlikely role model became clear when I recently discovered that Stutley had a junior footy promotions role at Centrals in 1968/69.


Robert Day looks very comfortable showing off his wares adjacent the Park 10 grandstand, for many decades the home to the more social levels of AUFC Blacks footballers.


Bob Hammond’s classical roost out of defence at Prospect, in the lace-up monogrammed North is glorious.



It is easy to understand why the northern end of Adelaide Oval remained largely unchanged after the grounds’ much vaunted redevelopment. Was there really a need to replace the concrete terraces with plastic bucket seats?

Robert Oatey’s very low centre of gravity may have helped the execution of this “fancy” skill, but to my eyes, he’s caught the fat part of the ball fairly flush in the frame-by-frame example and I’d suggest that this shot would have gone “across the face of goal and out on the full” to paraphrase Channel Nine’s Max Hall.

Peter Endersbee was Eddie Betts in shorter shorts back in the 1960s.


I’m not sure whose chest that Barrie’s “lightning hands” found, but they sure wouldn’t have had to break stride.


In a rare non-SA shot, Laurie Dwyer contrasts starkly with the slog going on to his right. It is good to see that Ron Elleway has the long stops on.

No book on the skills of our national game would be complete without evidence of the “one-grab” abilities of Paul Bagshaw.


The original Sticks Phillips shows that muddy grounds were no match for his keen anticipation.

Bob Schmidt’s step-by-step rendition of the “easiest and safest” marking method is notable for the Teachers College building in the background and South’s white collars.

Nothing got past Bubbles Obst, ever.


Big Carl, Doc, Big Nick and Schoffy (and some blokes in hats)


More huge names in the action shots from the MCG. And Bob Schmidt.


JV Cahill to the fore once more, but the bigger question is “when and why did Port Adealide play against South Melbourne at Adelaide Oval?”


Stuts never took a bounce in his life.


Here’s Skilts in that same Adelaide Oval match, making ex-Uni Black Haslam look a bit silly.


Keith Chessell goes uncredited in the large photo. Teaser and Dennis Sachse both had turning circles measured in furlongs; I can only surmise that photos of baulks were thin on the ground.

That’s a very young Russell Ebert giving Bob Schmidt the run-around.


Roger Rigney releases himself.


The SANFL wasn’t known for its tackling stats back then, so this shot of Doc Baldock and “his Melbourne opponent” had to suffice.

You can see why from the local versions that were used.


The North v Saints game from Prospect must have been from the preseason, but I wish that one of the Saints players had been cropped for life.

The shot of Bob Kite et al should be in the National Gallery.


A pair of beautiful Adelaide Oval centre bounce tableaux


Remember when rucks could smother bounces?

I think that “grabbing” is now allowed again, but who knows what the rules will be next year?


Nothing new here. The junior game here was between a combined North Adelaide side and a team from Geelong held during a late season half time break in 1968.


That’s Geof Motley holding off Don Roach at what could possibly be a footy clinic held in the middle of Victoria Park racecourse.

I second those acknowledgements.


Don Roach’s impressive achievements by age 29; Wow


How could Don Roach ever top this?

He resumed his SANFL career with Norwood in 1970, after taking 1969 off altogether. His three Redleg seasons were highly regarded by those in the know at The Parade.

After continuing in his promotions position, Roach was, er, promoted to the position of SANFL General Manager in 1974, where he remained until 1984, overseeing what many still regard as League’s golden period. He was awarded SANFL Life Membership as both a player and administrator.

A slightly messy ending to the relationship resulted in Roach moving to Sydney, where his managerial acumen was snapped up by the Sydney Swans for two Edelsten-era years as CEO.

He then served the code in NSW as tribunal chairman before assuming the role of commission chairman until 1995.

Once his time in Footy was over, sailing was to benefit from Roach’s selfless devotion, as he spent many years as President of the Double Bay Sailing Club, before he passed away in 2011, on duty and on deck as a race starter.

To quote from Bernard Whimpress’ The South Australian Football Story, Don Roach was “absolutely devoted to Australian Football, treating his position as a vocation rather than a job”.

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. No handball credit for Bob Simunsen? Sacre bleu!

    “Park 10” is, I assume from the grandstand, the old Teachers College (later Student Teachers) cricket ground down at the far end of McKinnon Parade. Scored a few cricket matches in that stand – saw former Port Adelaide forward Rohan Smith make a very nice 40-odd for Port B Grade.

    And full marks for working in a gratuitous Max Hall reference – “there’ll be 7 minutes of edited highlights of this match on the Channel 9 Football Show, 12 noon Sunday”.

  2. Great piece of writing Swish. I enjoyed it immensely. It’s no wonder I’m a Swish fan. Please keep up the good work. PS have you been able to find the time to read my piece on Peter Box?

  3. Love these old coaching guides, much changes and much stays the same. The lad played cricket at Park 10 (No. 2 – a small ground at the back of the grandstand) on Sunday morning. Can confirm that the youngsters were less than captivated by the original condition of the grandstand’s facilities. A lot of people at the Parade in the early ’70s went largely unrecognised for the comparative success that followed.

  4. Great document and commentary Swish.
    I think it was a SANFL sanctioned book. That would explain why many of the punters were wearing SA guernseys for the photo session at Teachers Oval.
    On the other hand, they were not all wearing them. In those days players used to turn up to practise in their favourite guernsey. Often this was the highest honour they had, so Tony Burgan (Sturt) used to wear but All-Australian guernsey to practise all the time. Hence those that were selected to represent SA might have their SA guernseys to hand for a photo session so they could show it off with pride.
    Not a surprise to see an Oatey demonstrating a checkside punt.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I did give Simunsen an oblique cricketing nod McA. I’m surprised that you didn’t take issue with my assessment of Teaser’s agility.

    I’m getting to it Fisho, but I did see your five year old mug in Monday’s ‘Tiser

    I’m guessing that the young ‘uns got more out of the animal calls from the Zoo than the nearby facilities Dave.

    I think that Burgan slept in his, 6%

  6. Thanks Swish for this great piece on the late Don Roach.
    He was a very fine man. As you say he very passionate about the game.
    He was certainly ahead of the game, as were the SANFL, with junior development – well ahead of the VFL.

    I had a close association with Don when he came to Sydney.
    He took my place on the NSW AFL Commission and my role as delegate to the ANFC when I moved overseas.
    He was Chairman of the Sydney-based VFL Tribunal and I was the Secretary. Other members included Richmond’s 1967 premiership player Bill Brown and ex Hawthorn premiership player Mike Porter.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for the first-hand confirmation Rocket. I learned lots about Don from preparing this piece, especially about his time in NSW.

  8. Swish just so ironic re how many players still lack the fundamentals and basic skills and great to see
    Bob Neil number 2 used ( put it on face book Sanfl pages when you posted it so hope that helped re hits wise ) thank you

  9. Don’s influence on junior football development can be traced all the way to the current Auskick program. Ray Allsopp ran the Junior Football Council of Victoria and used some of Don’s ideas in developing Vickick which was the predecessor of Auskick. And Don’s tenure at the Swans was largely pre-Edelsten, with his appointment coming during the time the VFL had control of the Swans. Don was a highly principled man so was never likely to continue long under the new regime

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for that OTM. Yes, as you point out, I should have described Don’s time at Sydney a little differently.

  11. Don roach had a junior development gene that continued when he relocated to Sydney and was actively involved ( how else can one be involved of course) with the double bay sailing club juniors . Some of whom graduated to the 18 footers flying machine due to his skills as a coach.. did Col stutley have a White Russian and Yugoslav connection in his days as opal miner. The new Australians were the buyers of the opals. They travelled to cooper pedy in a white fairlane with well stocked gun racks. For protection u understand not as a marketing tool. Col stutley would not have been swayed

  12. Still have a copy at home. Great memories. The photos are awesome. Love the Bob Hammond Barrie Robran and Geoff Paull photos!!

  13. Michael Sexton says

    Brilliant Swish
    Bob Shearman photo reminds me of Jumbo Davies description of his first night training at Unley Oval. “Someone led out of the square at the southern end and Shearman’s drop kick hit him on the chest and put him into the bowling club”.
    I could be wrong here but South Melb played Port because Norm Smith was in charge of the Swans in the late 60s and was good mates with Fos Williams. It is thought to be the reason why both clubs have the old ‘Notre Dame Fight Song’ as their anthem – not sure who got it first.

  14. Bernard Whimpress says

    Well said Swish
    It was my pleasure to work with Don for 5 years in next to his – best years of my paid working life.

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