Number 56: Gerard Toohey, a triple premiership captain and Woof Woof

Number 56 – David Simpson and Gerard Toohey

Recruited from Numurkah, not far from Shepparton, David “Harry” Simpson was a tall player (190 cm) who played three games for the Cats in the number 56 guernsey at the tail end of the 1984 season.

Simpson arrived at Kardinia Park in 1981 and showed early promise as a centre-half forward with a good pair of hands.  He found the going difficult in attack in the early days and was tried at centre-half back.  His 1984 campaign had a rocky start: a shoulder injury and, in a separate incident, two cracked ribs resulted from a collision with rugged utility Damian Drum at match practice training.

Late in the 1984 season, numerous senior players were injured and on the eve of the Cats’ round 21 clash against Fitzroy at the Junction Oval, Mark Yeates injured his hamstring at training on the Thursday night.  As “Yeater” was earmarked to match up against former St Kilda and Geelong forward Gary Sidebottom, who managed to find transport to this game, the selectors elevated Simpson from the Reserves to play at centre half-back against Sidebottom.

On debut, Simpson managed a handy 16 disposals, plus three hit outs, in Geelong’s loss.  He replicated that possession count in Geelong’s big win over Richmond at Kardinia Park the following week.  In his final senior appearance against Hawthorn at Waverley Park in round 22, a game that Geelong had to win to qualify for the finals, Simpson had a reasonably quiet game in a heavy defeat.

Simpson retained his spot on the Geelong list in 1985, moving down to number 46, his number 56 guernsey being allocated to Gerard Toohey.

Toohey was described in early editions of the Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers simply as “Bernard’s brother”.  Like Bernard, G Toohey was recruited from Barooga.  A photograph from the Geelong Advertiser on the day of Toohey’s senior debut showed him working as an electrician at a building site in Clifton Springs, near Geelong, and his facial features are similar to Bernard’s.  However, Gerard is 12 cm shorter than his elder brother, who could fill a key position when required.  Gerard Toohey played two seasons at senior level with Barooga as a teenager and, aged 18, he started 1985 in the Geelong Under 19s, playing mainly as a centre.

In the week prior to his debut, Toohey played against high profile Hawthorn recruit Stephen Malaxos in the Reserves at Princes Park, the curtain raiser for the Hawthorn vs Geelong senior match in round 12, 1985 which featured the Leigh Matthews-Neville Bruns-Steven Hocking incident.  Hit by injuries and suspensions from the Hawks clash, including the suspension of B Toohey, Geelong made five changes to the team, which included bringing in Toohey the younger, for the round 13 game against Collingwood at Victoria Park.  Toohey was selected with a plan for him to play as a rover, changing with Andrew Bews.

Toohey, stepping out in number 56 on debut, spent time on the ball in this match and gathered nine disposals.  Despite having key players Ablett, B Toohey and Jackson out of the side, the Cats stunned the Magpies and raced to a 45 lead at half time, with Greg Williams and “Scratcher” Neal finding plenty of the ball.  Collingwood fought back hard in the second half and were a chance to steal the game in the last quarter.  A late steadier from tall forward Craig Alderdice sealed the issue for Geelong, resulting in a six point win.

Unfortunately, this game was to be Toohey’s sole appearance at senior level.  He was retained on Geelong’s list in the 1985 and 1986 seasons and spent more time in the Reserves.  After leaving Kardinia Park, he moved to Adelaide where he carved out a good career with West Torrens in the SANFL.

Some 56 players from other clubs

Brisbane Bears – notably, legend Michael Voss wore number 56 in 1992, his first season at the Bears.

CarltonAng Christou wore 56 in his debut game in round 24, 1991, before settling into number 39 for the rest of his stellar career.


  1. Numurkah, who else was recruited from there? Geelong got a lot of players from around that neck of the woods when that was their recruiting zone; obviously. But who was the best player to come out of Northern Victoria, Southern New South Wales? Bernard Toohey, Billy Brownless, Jack Hawkisn, Jeff Cassidy, i wonder who?

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Interesting stuff. Why no.56?

  3. Crawf

  4. Andrew, this is the sixth in a ten-part series, from number 50 onwards. Next installment on Wednesday.

  5. Skip of Skipton says

    Neville Bruns from Leitchville was one of the better ones.

  6. True Brunnsy gave the Cats a good 10+ years.


  7. Skip of Skipton says

    Just looking at the Footy Record for the ’81 prelim final. Mark Bos from Wandella is another. Dual B&F, played for the Big V a few times.

  8. Mark Doyle says

    Glen, notwithstanding that the Murray League was zoned to Geelong in the 1970’s, Geelong have recruited a number of good players from Southern NSW and Northern Victoria over the years. I think the best was Garry Hocking who won four B&F’s and came from Cobram in Northern Victoria. Mark Bos was another very good player who won two B&F’s in the 1980’s, and I think he came from Southern NSW near Swan Hill. Steve Hocking was another very good player who came from Cobram. Do we include John Barnes, who also came to Geelong, via Essendon, from Cobram. I would think that both Wangaratta and Bendigo are in Northern Victoria, being north of the Great Dividing Range and therefore, you would have to include both Steve Johnson and Joel Selwood . Also, some others who were at least as good as Bernard Toohey, Bill Brownless and Jeff Cassidy: John Sharrock,who was from Tooleybuc in Southern NSW in the 1960’s; Neville Bruns,who came from Leitchville in Northern Victoria in the 1980’s; Tom Lonergan, who I think was from Yarrawonga in Northern Victoria; and Tom Hawkins who was from Finley in Southern NSW.

  9. Andrew Fithall says

    I played basketball against Mark Bos in the early ’80s in Kerang, which is resonably local to Wandella. He would come back to the area in the summer months. His brother Andrew was also a handy basketballer who played a fair bit of footy in the Northern Territory. is a link to a Daff article about Wandella in the Age from 2003

  10. Bos came back and played for Tooleybuc in the then Mid-Murray Football League in the early 90s.

  11. Skip of Skipton says

    Mark, I think we’re talking about the old country zone of Geelong’s around the mid-Murray. That would include the Hockings from Cobram but exclude Bendigo, Wang etc that were Carlton and North’s zones respectively.

  12. Well compiled Mark, there are some good names there. Buddha Hocking was an out and out champ. Also Darren Flanagan from Katamatite was a good player for the Cats. There were also lots of lesser lights that Geelong picked u from tha neck of the woods.I’m not sure about Bendigo, and Wangaratta as they are different leagues, and different parts of the state.


  13. Skip of Skipton says

    Mark Bos had only just turned 29 when he pulled the pin after the ’89 GF. Keen to get back to the family farm and rural life, was the word. Fair enough. One of those really top low-key sort of players that the sands of time quickly cover.

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