Please Sir – Schoolteacher Footy Players

This article, from the 1986 VFL Grand Final Record, reminds us of the days when footy players were also members of the workaday workforce.

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School teaching was the most popular occupation it appears, with Harry Madden explaining why it worked for him back then.

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In a prescient nod to the Almanac’s current fad for themed teams, the Record also picked a Chalkies side. A quick scan of the squad shown throws up some unlikely names such as Dunstall, Nixon and Demetriou.

The move to full time footy has meant that, for better or worse, today’s students don’t have the opportunity to share a classroom with top level players. However, at the state league level, there are probably still quite a few teachers going around.

If anyone out there has a story about footy players as teachers, drop us a comment.

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. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks for the following comments which I’ve been able to resurrect. Apologies if I missed any.

    James Grapsas:
    Jason Dunstall was a teacher? Who would have thought? It would be interesting to see how he would have handled misbehaving pupils.

    Former Geelong player Tom Floyd was my grade 3 teacher in Geelong in 1982. He had to leave the post during the year to join Collingwood.

    Neil Anderson:
    Met Robert Walls at Donvale Primary School I think it was, where he was busy wrangling kids in the playground. It would have been about 1986.
    Also Noel Mugavin from Port Fairy I met in the Education Department in Warrnambool. I assume he was a teacher and he was also running junior football programs in South Western Victoria. Jonathan Brown’s uncle.

    Mickey Randall:
    Good one Swish. I’ll bet Rod Carter was the teacher with a “Eat more beef, you bastards” sticker on his rear window.

    Ricky Nixon’s obviously maintained an interest in the industry.

    Lots of CDFC stars graced the blackboard too.

    Dave Brown:
    Mark Mickan taught a couple of my significant other’s siblings at a Lutheran primary school in Adelaide before heading off to the bright lights of the Brisbane Bears.

    In sanfl don guerin of Sturt early 60s fame was a teacher at Parkside primary. He was cricket and footy coach and always genial, helpful and smiling. Even when Dave Bartlett got 9 for 7 for mitcham primary against Parkside and don was out there as umpire putting up the finger with rueful smile.

    Mickey Randall:
    If I squint and look at the photo of Justin Madden c.1986, he’s wearing Ciaks.

    Crash Thompson:
    Carl Ditterich was a teacher at Swan Hill Technical School.

    Charlie Brown:
    at a local SANFL level both John Paynter and Steven Trigg were school teachers as were (much earlier) North legends Ken and Maurie Francou.

    Gary “The Flea” Wilson taught me at secondary school, as did Craig Braddy (Fitzroy and Swans player).

    Rabid Dog:
    Sally Saywell. Richard Cochrane (Senior and Junior). Almost the whole Cochrane family! Paul Thomas. Richard Davis. Trevor Stanton. Freeling Fred. Luke Barmby. Luke Habel (and that’s only CDFC, and I’ve not even begin to think about a list).
    Swish, a placed Doggies team – there’s a challenge for ya!

    Steve Hodder:
    Yup, I was a bit stunned to learn J, Dunstall was a chalkie, maybe we should go for players who actually made it onto the payroll? I don’t remember Dunstable doing anything other that running bars, but I could be wrong.
    Gary Wilson was my teacher too Dips, also Greg Parke – remember him? Wilson was the most disinterested teacher I’ve ever come across, but I reckon he easily gets the roving spot. Simon Madden should be sharing ruck duties with Big Carl, who taught my younger brother at Box Hill Tech. Glen James was also his teacher at Box Hill, so we have one umpire. I do recall a maths teacher at Whitefriars by the name of Nichols, he was a boundary umpire who reported Don Scott for swearing. I never forgave Nichols for that. That’s another ump sorted
    Graham Jacobs played for Melbourne and South and then was a more than able coach in the outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, he probably should take some credit for developing the Vermont dreadnought that rampaged for more years than I care to remember. He was the first teacher I ever heard swear, yelling at me across the primary school yard “Hodder cut that shit out”! Which kinda prepared me for the rich and fascinating vocabulary of Ray Keane, who gets the runner’s position. Jacobs could play in the forward pocket or Centre Half Forward if Big Carl wanted a rest.
    Clarkson or J. Kennedy senior for coach?

    Colin Hobbs brother of Merv (Footscray) played at Fitzroy and taught me in Grade 6 at Eastwood PS in 1973.
    Ross Henshaw (North) taught at Boronia HS in the 1980s with my sister as did Alan McConnell (Footscray).

    Craig Braddy went on to be the main administrator at EFL in the 1990s.

    David Parkin was a lecturer at Deakin Uni for many years. My wife recalls him as inspirational.

    Phil Dimitriadis:
    Great stuff, Swish. Wish more footballers moonlighted as teachers today. Steve Malaxos was my PE teacher at Northcote High in 1985. He came over to play with Hawthorn and struggled under the weight of expectation. We used to give him heaps about kicking dew with the magoos. He was a placid fellow, very patient when having to deal with a bunch of Year 10 smartarses.

    Also for the mighty double blues ms jones @scotch college or was it me jones, John halbert unley high, Malc greenslade teachers Coll then unley high I think.
    John Birt ex bombers moved to Adelaide and taught at pulteney but never went near footy teams. Chalkies everywhere

    Neil Anderson:
    Ken Fraser was the Principal at Templestowe High School in the 1980’s. The other footy connection at that time was Joan Hamilton, wife of Jack, who was Principal of Camberwell South Primary School . Famous old-boy of this school was Barry Humphries.
    Ross Henshaw mentioned already was the sport’s teacher at my daughter’s school in Blackburn South.

    Peter Hille:
    As a Fitzroy man I rated the following 70s Chalkies of some interest :
    Robbie Walls, Daryl Stewart, David Wall and Harold “Cherry Picker” Martin


    I was taught Latin in 81 and 82 by the legendary Frank Virgona, VFA umpire extraordinaire.

    He was tiny but a ball of muscle, used to oil up before games at both school and VFA level and was a very serious man. Pioneered the hair transplants with little pods of hair implanted on his scone which, as he was shorter than most year 8 and 9 boys, caused great hilarity. But he was very scary and I never saw him laugh in class. Wore long black academic gowns that flowed like something from Harry Potter.

    So there’s your umpire, to go with Steve H’s Glen James recommendation

    David Parkin too

    Andrew Fithall:
    I would replace Dunstall as full forward with Peter McKenna. Primary school teacher at Fairfield in the late ’60s.

    Paul Belton
    Banger Baynes
    Bruce Nyland

    I was pretty excited as an Essendon-supporting 11-year-old in 1976 when Simon Madden came to Sacred Heart Primary School in St Albans as a student teacher. Still have the autograph somewhere. A couple of years later Garry Foulds became a teacher at the same school. I can remember him buying a sausage roll from the corner shop across the road and having a smoke after eating it.

    Jamie Simmons:
    My PE teacher (and I think he taught either history or maths as well) at Oak Park High School from 83-86 was Rod “Curly” Austin, 200 game and premiership player with Carlton. The same school that produced Donald McDonald, Brian Mannix of Uncanny X-Men fame and me of Footy Almanac fame. A fertile breeding ground of greatness that no longer stands.

    Darryl Kernaghan:
    Ted Potter,Collingwood full/c h back was phys ed teacher at Collingwood Tech,infamously handballed the ball that Barry Breen swooped on to kick the Saints winning point in the 66 g f,he heard all about it on the Monday

    Sarah Black:
    While not a player, AFL footy operations manager Mark Evans was a PE teacher before working for Hawthorn – could take an off-field position as an official, perhaps?

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    Peter Thorne, the two time Simpsons medalist and Claremont premiership player was a biology teacher at Safety Bay Senior High and, yes, he was a uncomprising hostile S.O.B much like his time as a player. I think he also had a couple of spells at Melbourne.

  3. Shane Backx says

    Peter McKenna and Big Carl were teachers in the 70s. Imagine having Ricky Nixon as your teacher…….

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    From the tweets:

    Tony Chinnock
    Greatest by a long way Neil “Coco” Roberts …legend

    John Baker
    Robert Doyle, Sth Melbourne ruckman, was a teacher at my primary school, Templestowe, in the late ’70s.

    Tone Greenberg
    Nathan Bower (P.E.). The week before playing West Coast/ Matera he’d be so excited he’d just let kids have a kick

    Trevor kemp
    Barry Gill Carlton champ n champion bloke

    Foley Collidge
    I was taught by Dean Notting and Craig Braddy

    FMI Challenge
    this bloke… (Terry Wheeler)

    Julianne Negri
    Rob Elliot who played for Saints and Demons was a school teacher in Beechworth…maybe retired by 1986 though.

    Am I the only one disturbed to see Ricky Nixon’s name on the list of teacher/vfl players? Or did you all know?

    Wayne Pennell
    I think Mike Nunan was a teacher?

    Mark Duffett
    If Jim Michalanney wasn’t a teacher in his playing days, he certainly is now

    My dad taught with a bloke called Phil Greaves who played a few league games for North Adelaide in the 70s #obscure

  5. Peter Fuller says

    Ricky Nixon taught at Carey Grammar. I believe that his career in sports management was initiated by the fact that Michelle Baumgartner, a 400 metre runner of conspicuous beauty was also on the staff. Nixon became her manager because of her grievances about the difficulty of earning enough to train full-time, a serendipitous trigger for his subsequent infamy .
    Neil Anderson, Rob Walls’ school was Park Orchards PS. He took a year off when he was appointed coach at Carlton, but felt unhappy as a full-time coach and chose to return to the school.
    Graham Jacobs was Principal at my children’s school, when I was School Council President; I found him an all-round good bloke. Steve H., I don’t recall hearing of his swearing at students, but then you have outed yourself as something of a tearaway in your school days. Graeme certainly had a strong voice.
    Geoff Tunbridge and Brian Dixon from Melbourne’s glory years in the 1950s and ’60s were teachers. Tunbridge was at one of the Ballarat private schools – College or Grammar, I’m unsure which – and commuted to Melbourne. He apparently played as an amateur, with his only remuneration a modest reimbursement of his petrol costs Dixon left education to become a State MP and a notable Minister for Sport in the Hamer Government. Kevin Coghlan was a maths teacher at Melbourne High,but is better known as a commentator on World of Sport and ABC radio.

  6. Swish
    My comment regarding Geoff Raines, accounting teacher at CBC St Josephs North Melbourne, must have been lost in the ether.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Yeh, sorry Smokester. I only asked myself the other night why I was keeping the comments’ emails, after all, the comments are on the site, so I cleaned a few out of my inbox. The remainder were the basis of the resurrected comments.

    Of course, the worst part about all of this is that my pithweak responses have also been lost in cloudland.

    This thread has legs of Jackie Love-like proportions.

  8. Neil Anderson says

    Peter Fuller
    I did get the school wrong where Robert Walls was teaching but for interstaters it was in the Donvale neighborhood. The north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
    Peter, do you know what year he was teaching out there? How could he be returning to teaching after he was appointed coach of Carlton?

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Swish and Sean Tasker is still teaching up in Brsbane now.While no longer playing,Sanfl triple magarey medalist,Jimmy Allan is a school teacher

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks ‘Book. Tasker and S. Schwerdt were mentioned in previous lost comments.

    Also noted that new Richmond rookie Adam Marcon was a PE teacher at PEGS last year.

  11. Ex-Bulldog Mark Hunter (father of current player Lachie) was a teacher.

  12. Scott Elliott says

    Hi Schwish

    A few that come to mind for me growing up in the NW suburbs of Melbourne in the 80’s and 90’s include-

    Rod ‘Curly’ Austin (Carlton)- remember he got caught in a muck up day prank on last day of school and ended up with flour all over his car. Wasn’t too happy! I think this was when he was coaching Fitzroy in late 80’s?
    Tony Furey (Nth Melb)- taught at primary school I attended
    Ken Fletcher (Essendon)- took PE at PEGS for a long period of time and was also coach of the first XVIII

  13. Andy Bennett Hawks was a teacher at Essendon Grammar in the 80’s – great bloke and teacher

  14. Barry Gill at Colac West PS in the early 80s. Best teacher. Always fair, actually taught things of value and had a soft spot for the underdog.

    A Hawthorn player was my library teacher at Maryborough PS in 1981. Can’t remember his name but he was short and wiry, had long curly hair and a gap between his two front teeth. Used to brag about winning a Brownlow but not sure he even played enough games to finish out a year.

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