Oldest Surviving Footballers – Keith Rae

Keith Stanley Rae is the oldest surviving VFL player (as of 2018). Born on 30 July 1917, Rae was a diminutive midfielder, listed at 180cm tall and 70kg during his playing days.

Rae was born in Williamstown, attended Footscray Technical College and completed a welding course at the Williamstown Dockyards. In his early twenties, Rae played football for the Williamstown Seniors from 1937-39, kicking 31 goals in 30 games.

Rae was invited to try out for the Carlton team and after securing a spot played his first senior game of football in 1939, becoming the 550th player to pull on the old navy blue.

The Wednesday, August 16, 1939 edition of the Sporting Globe assessed that

“Rae handles the ball well, is an accurately (sic) pass and has rather an elusive turn”.

The paper also made mention of Rae’s other sporting efforts, noting that

“Keith is a useful cricketer and was the Colts’ slow bowler last season”.

After just two appearances for Carlton, Rae was called up to the Australian Navy to serve on the HMAS Nestor in 1940.

The Saturday, November 8, 1941 edition of Smith’s Weekly  also reported on Rae’s promise as a cricketer, recording that:

“During leave in England recently he played for Nomads against Havant, scoring 81 and taking 6 for 87, including the hat-trick”.

In 1942 Rae survived the sinking of the HMAS Nestor and returned to Melbourne in 1943.

Rae played another 13 games for Carlton before rejoining the Navy in 1944. He was discharged from service in 1946. However, rather than returning to Princes Park, Rae joined the Tigers. He was the 456th player to appear for Richmond.

The Friday, May 17, 1946 edition of The Argus reported Two New Men at Richmond when Rae made his debut for the Tigers alongside Tasmanian Ray Stokes (who would go on to play 93 games for the club):

“Ray Stokes, who comes with a great reputation from Tasmania, and Keith Rae, from Carlton, will have their first games with Richmond tomorrow. Stokes is a wing half-forward and Rae a wingman.”

Rae played two senior games for them in rounds 5 and 6 against Collingwood and Geelong and played in the Richmond Reserves for the remainder of the 1946 season, winning a premiership with the team.

Rae now lives on the Mornington Peninsula.

For more information about Keith Rae’s life and sporting career, take a look at the following links:

  • Read a fantastic interview with Rae, conducted as part of celebrations for his 100th birthday in 2017 HERE
  • The Blueseum also has a comprehensive biography of his football career HERE
  • An overview of Rae’s Richmond career can be found HERE
  • Rae’s senior football stats can be found HERE
  • Rae’s Wikipedia entry can be found HERE


Many of us involved with The Footy Almanac and plenty who follow Australian Football in general look to the past with fondness, foreign country though it may be. The Almanac is putting together stories and stats – be they comprehensive or patchy – on the oldest surviving pioneers of footy.

Sadly, either through lack of want or means, the stories of some of our earliest footballers haven’t been retained in the various archives, datasets or “almanacs” of the footy world. We owe it to the game we cherish and those who lay the foundations for where we are today to prevent this from happening ever again. Through a lot of hard work from passionate individuals (none more so than noted VFL/AFL historian/statistician, Col Hutchinson), efforts are being made to do just that, by searching high and low for the oldest living footballers.

A full list of the oldest surviving footballers can be found HERE.

We’re calling on readers to help us by sharing any stories or information that they have on anyone in the list either by leaving a comment or sending an email the editors if you have anything you’d like to share. You could even write a story about one of the players listed.

We’re also asking readers to spread the word! The more people that know about what we’re doing the more likely we are to uncover and share stories of the past.

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