No 53: Red heads, hyphens and grand finals


In the fourth of this 10-part series, another Geelong champion has been revealed as the custodian of the Number 53, as has a West Coast premiership player and one of the game’s greatest hyphens.

Number 53 – Ron Watt and Barry Stoneham

Ron Watt was another local recruit in this list, from Geelong West, who made his two appearances in the hoops in the number 53.  He appeared in two games in mid-1984: an exciting win over Richmond at the MCG in round 11 and a loss to Footscray in the wet at the Western Oval the following week.  After his VFL days ended, Watt was a very good player and coach in the Geelong Football League.  He coached North Shore from 1993 to 1997, including four flags in the club’s stellar run from 1990 to 2000, which yielded seven premierships.

Watt joined the Geelong Football Club in 1999 as coach of its VFL side.  His charges went on to claim a memorable VFL premiership in 2002, winning the Grand Final in a come-from-behind performance over Port Melbourne at Princes Park.  The VFL side on that day boasted some of Geelong’s great players in the current run of success, such as Gary Ablett Junior, Jimmy Bartel, Steve Johnson, Paul Chapman and James Kelly, plus veterans Tim McGrath, David Mensch and Mitchell White.  Since 2005, Watt has been the development coach at Geelong and has established a fine reputation in this role.

A surprise member of the Fifties club is former Geelong champion Barry Stoneham, who was given the nickname “Rhubarb” in his 1990 Stimorol football card.  Stoneham wore 53 in his debut game against Footscray in round 6, 1986 at Kardinia Park, which resulted in a breakthrough victory to Geelong after five losses to open the season.  Stoneham moved to his customary number 26 jumper the following week against Melbourne at Waverley Park and stayed with that number for the remainder of his senior career.  In his first season, Stoneham joined the ranks of the Geelong “rangas”, which included the legendary Robert “Scratcher” Neal and Neville Bruns.

Recruited from local football nursery St Joseph’s, Stoneham had a very good career, playing 241 matches from 1986-2000 and captaining the club in 1996 (co-captain with Gary Ablett) and 1997-1998.  He played at centre-half forward, in the ruck and sometimes at centre-half back.  He was arguably at the peak of his powers from 1989 to 1992 as a mobile centre-half forward and relief ruckman, playing several State games in this period, winning the Geelong best and fairest in 1990 and All-Australian selection in 1992.  Off the field, Stoneham made forays into the food industry, in 1993 operating the short-lived Kebazza’s on Shannon Avenue, Geelong West, a stall that served kebabs and Middle Eastern cuisine, and going into business with Billy Brownless in 1994 with Geelong CBD cafe/restaurant Players on Malop.

Stoneham suffered a shocking injury in August 1994, breaking his leg after landing awkwardly from a marking contest in a game against Fitzroy at Princes Park.  The injury and complications kept Stoneham out of action for the whole of the 1995 season.  He made his comeback in round 1, 1996 and gradually improved his form.  Stoneham was never the same after his leg injury, although his performances were of a sound standard and his leadership on the ground was well respected.  He called it a day after Geelong’s narrow loss to Hawthorn at the Docklands in the 2000 Elimination Final, the first finals match played at the Docklands.

Stoneham has again joined forces with Brownless to form the Brownless Stoneham Club in 2012, a club that will hold functions for Geelong supporters.  Stoneham can frequently be found walking along Collins Street or Bourke Street in the Melbourne CBD, dressed in a suit and standing out from the masses with his athletic stature and red hair.

Some 53 players from other clubs:

CarltonSimon Minton-Connell started out in 53 in 1989.

RichmondBarry Young wore 53 in 1989-1990.

West CoastAshley McIntosh wore 53 in his first year of 1991, including the unsuccessful Grand Final appearance.




  1. Jenny Grapsas says

    Slight correction James.

    Kebazza’s was located in Pakington Street Geelong West :)


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