Almanac Footy: People who had a footy career before becoming famous for something else

Hi all,

I am doing some research on people who tried a footy career (in the VFL/AFL) before becoming famous for something totally different.

I was wondering if you knew of anyone else who played for Under 19, Reserves or Senior teams over the years (mainly 1950s-2010s) that went on to become far better known for doing something totally different.

So far, I’ve found these players:

VFL/AFL Seniors:


Simon O’Donnell (Cricketer), St. Kilda 1982-83, 24 games

Max Walker (Cricketer), Melbourne, 1967-72, 85 games

Jamie Siddons (Cricketer), Sydney 1984, 2 games

Don Chipp (Politician), Fitzroy 1947, 3 games

Lindsay Fox (Business owner – Linfox), St. Kilda 1959-1961, 20 games

Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald (Radio host), Sydney/Adelaide, 1999-2002, 18 games

Bill Lang (Boxer), Richmond, 1908-09, 14 games



Mick Malone (Cricketer), South Melbourne, 1977

Shane Warne (Cricketer), St. Kilda, 1988, 1 game (and a full season in Saints’ Under 19s)

Dennis Cometti (Football commentator), Footscray, 1971, 4 games

Graeme Richmond (Football administrator – Richmond), Richmond, 1952-53

Mike Willesee (TV host), South Melbourne, 1964, 8 games

George Pell (Cardinal of the Catholic Church), Richmond, 1959

Tony Wilson (Author), Hawthorn, 1990-92

Brad Hodge (Cricket), Melbourne, 1994

James Tomkins (Olympic rower – “Oarsome Foursome”), Melbourne, 1988

Colin Ridgway (American footballer – Dallas Cowboys), Carl, 1955

Rodney Hogg (Cricketer), Collingwood, 1970

Geoff Walsh (General Manager – Collingwood), Collingwood, 1973-75

David Morgan (CEO – Westpac), Richmond, 1967

Under 19s:

Brad Robinson (Musician – Australian Crawl) Hawthorn, 1976

Lindsay Gaze (Basketballer), Melbourne, 1955

Jamie Cox (Cricketer), Essendon 1987

Ray “Slug” Jordon (Football commentator & Coach), Richmond, 1953-55

Sam Pang (Comedian and TV host), Collingwood, 1991

Richard Pratt (Business owner – Visy), Carlton, 1953 (won 1953 Morrish Medal)

Jeff Browne (Head of Channel 9 & lawyer), Collingwood, 1972

David Buttifant (Sports science director – Collingwood), Collingwood, 1983. David also played 2 games for Richmond seniors in 1987



AFL boss Gil McLachlan once trialed with Carlton and was on their supplementary list in 1996-97.

Eddie McGuire once trailed with Nth Melbourne Under 19s in 1982.

Vance Joy (aka James Keogh) played for Coburg in the VFL, 2008-09.

Richard di Natale played for Coburg & Oakleigh in the VFA, 1988-1994.

Merv Hughes, once trialed with Geelong U19s in 1979 & played for Werribee in the VFA, 1978-82, 95 games.

Alex Carey captained & won GWS’s B & F the year before they joined the AFL.

Pat Cash (Pat’s dad played senior football for Hawthorn in 1951–55) was a gun junior forward.

Lleyton Hewitt (Lleyton’s dad Glynn played for Richmond reserves in 1973-74, got a flag in ’73, his uncle Darryl played for St. Kilda seniors in 1981-82) was a decent junior footballer.

David Boon, Patty Mills & Ricky Ponting were also very good junior footballers.

Mills was invited to train with the Sydney Swans 2004 but he declined.


Can you think of any others?



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  1. Mordi Bromberg – played seniors at St Kilda before becoming a Supreme Court judge?

  2. That’s a ripper Smokie, Justice Bromberg wouldn’t have too many peers I’d imagine…

    How about Warrick Capper (Meter man)?

    On a more serious note, Jordan Bannister (Umpire) is one that comes to mind.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Barry Ion (Footscray/Woodville) – prominent radio identity in Adelaide/Melbourne

    George Pell never played at Richmond full stop according to their historian Rhett Bartlett

  4. Rugby League has a few. The recently departed, Jack Mundy, played for Parramatta in its formative years.
    Author and actor, Matt Nable, played for Manly Warringah, as did actor Ian Roberts. Roberts of course, was the first openly gay footballer in Oz.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Depending on your definition of “far better known”

    Politicians etc

    Sir Doug Nicholls (Fitzroy)
    Darrel Baldock (St K/East D’Port/Latrobe/New Norfolk)
    Stephen Patterson (Coll/Norwood)
    Justin Madden (Ess/Carl)
    Gil Langley (Ess/Sturt) – also Test ‘keeper
    Ray Groom (Mel/Cooee)
    Brian Dixon (Mel)

  6. Actor Gary Sweet played reserves football for Glenelg in the SANFL, including a grand final

  7. Peter Fuller says

    Ahmed Fahour former CEO of Australia Post trained with Carlton Under 19s; I can’t confirm that he played. He said that he gave up his football ambitions because he couldn’t match his contemporary Stephen Silvagni in the under 19s.
    Ken Bennett, rover in the 1958 Collingwood premiership was national secretary of the Labor Party.
    John Devine was a Member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly at the same time as Darrel Baldock, in the period between their VFL playing careers and their coaching stints. My recollection is that Baldock was in the Ministry, but not Devine.
    As has been previously recorded on the website (by Glen?) John Curtin PM played for Brunswick in the VFA.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Very interesting research. I’m certain the list could be extended a great deal, as the comments on the piece indicate.

  9. John McLoughlin says

    Mordi Bromberg (who was an industrial law barrister) is on the Federal Court rather than the Supreme Court.
    Judge Mark Gamble of the County Court played for St Kilda in the ’80’s (and was known to say bitterly in later times that he was always made to stand Plugger at training)
    Nick Jewell, long time opener for VIctoria in state cricket (son of Tony, Richmond premiership coach) played one senior game for Richmond under Jeff Gieshen and many more reserves games.
    On the reverse, Alex Keath played 7 games for VIctoria in State cricket before turning to football first for Adelaide and now the Bulldogs. He is the last person to play AFL and state cricket.

  10. Peter Fuller says

    A couple we’ve missed that appeared on this or a similar thread on Big Footy.
    Ray Groom was a Minister in the Fraser Government and later Premier of Tasmania. He had a decent career at Melbourne,
    John Winneke Hawthorn Premiership ruckman 1961 had a distinguished legal career culminating in senior judicial appointments in Victoria. He is the third generation of Winneke judges, and as his son seems likely to follow the family destiny. Of course Sir Henry, John’s father was Governor of Victoria.
    Robert Hickmott (Essendon, Melbourne) was Loyd Williams private trainer and so saddled the 2012 Melbourne Cup winner, Green Moon.
    A couple of more obscure ones which I’ve dredged up:
    Mac Holten (Collingwood,1940s and later Wangaratta) was a Minister for a term in the Gorton/McMahon Governments.I’m sure that John’s Wangaratta correspondent has written about him, but I can’t locate it in the KBHill archive.
    Mike Codd won the Mulrooney Medal (the ACT Brownlow) in 1962. He was a senior public servant in the Hawke years, serving as secretary of Prime Minister’s & Cabinet Department – so virtually the top banana.
    Des Bethke (Sth. Melb.) was town clerk of Melbourne City Council, i.e. the most senior local government adminisrator in Victoria. He features in Jan Courtin’s book.

  11. Daryl Schramm says

    Interesting reading. Are there others in SA and WA that fit the category of prominence and have played for a League club in their state?

  12. Keiran Croker says

    Some great names in there. How about Jim Wilkinson. Played 15 games for South Melbourne between 1970 -1972 before returning to Hobart where he played footy and cricket for Sandy Bay, including some first class cricket. He went on to a career in the media and Parliament for sometime. Still practices as a lawyer.

    Some minor corrections. I’d think Ray “Slug” Jordon is best known for his career in cricket as Victorian wicketkeeper. And Lleyton’s dad Glynn Hewett did play seniors for Richmond in 1973/74.

    I’ll get my thinking cap on, particularly in regard to Swans past players. One that immediately comes to mind is Graeme John. While his footy credentials are top notch – player, Coach & President at South and AFL Board member – he went on to be CEO at TNT Transport and Australia Post.

  13. Mordecai Bromberg often appeared as an advocate on behalf of workers prior to proceeding to be a judge. A handy back pocket for the Saints in the early 70’s.

    ‘Nipper’ Trezise was probably on a par for his status as a VFL footballer & an ALP parliamentarian.

    How do we rate Denis Pagan’s status as a horse trainer?

    On a less palatable note a few footballers have obtained notoriety post career, for illegal actions. I’m not naming them but i’m sure we’re all aware of more than one.


  14. Wayne Carroll played 56 games. He started with South Melbourne, then after they were wound up he chose to play for Sydney.

    The last few decades he’s been a handy race horse trainer in Wagga,


  15. Glen “On a less palatable note a few footballers have obtained notoriety post career, for illegal actions. I’m not naming them but i’m sure we’re all aware of more than one.” doesn’t that include staging for free kicks or worse? I’m thinking ‘Big Nick’ 1967. Richmond will never forgive him for the suspension Neville Crowe received

  16. PS: It’s why Richmond will always hate Carlton more than any other team in the comp!!!

  17. Peter Fuller says

    The feeling’s mutual at least for this Blueboy; memories of that day of infamy 29th September 1973.

  18. Dr Peter Barnes won the 1979 Reserves Magarey Medal and played some SANFL league games for West Torrens. Would have played a lot more but concentrated on his medical studies. Became team doctor for the gold medal winning Australian Olympic cycling team. Pioneer of sports medicine and founded a highly successful Adelaide practice.
    Wayne Jackson played 71 games for West Torrens in the SANFL and also coached them before becoming CEO of Hardy’s Wines then CEO at the AFL.
    Similarly Mike Fitzpatrick with a flag at Subiaco and 3 at Carlton before setting up a major funds management/superannuation manager and company director and Chair of AFL.

  19. Daryl Schramm says

    Brian Martin?

  20. Graeme Watson is another for this list. He played 18 games for Melbourne in 1964, 1965 with also being an emergency in the 1964 premiership side.

    An all round cricketer for Victoria, he gained an Australian green cap when touring South Africa in 1966-67 making a 50 on debut.

    Later on he played cricket for Western Australia, getting a recall to the Australian team.

    Subsequently played a handful of games with New South Wales, he also appeared in the WSC cavalcade.

    Another Melbourne footballer who found fame in another field was Robert Hickmott. He played two games in 1990 but is best known for training Casino heavyweight, Lloyd Williams’ horses. Among the Group One victories he oversaw was Green Moon in the 2012 Melbourne Cup.


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