Remembering Robert Rose

Remembering Robert Rose (1952-1999)


The Sunday afternoon twilight clash at Docklands pits the Western Bulldogs, returning from their mid-season bye, against top four aspirant Collingwood. In addition to four premiership points the clubs will vie for the Robert Rose Cup.

Robert Peter Rose, the eldest son of Elsie & Bob Rose, was born on February 6, 1952. A second son, Peter, was welcomed into the family three years later. Bob Rose is a Collingwood legend, his resume includes four Copeland Trophy victories across a brilliant 152 game career, complemented by a successful if somewhat unlucky ten season/two stint tenure as coach of the Pies. In 1969 Roses’ eldest son would take the first tentative steps in becoming the fifth member of the family (uncles Bill, Kevin and Ralph had also represented the Pies at senior level) to don the famous Black & White vertical stripes of the Collingwood Football Club when he was recruited to Victoria Park from Haileybury College.

Robert Rose was selected to make his VFL debut on May 30 1970, a day that coincided with Victorians visiting their local polling booths to elect a new State government. The undefeated Magpies Round 9 assignment entailed a visit to the hostile confines of Windy Hill to take on a struggling Essendon outfit.  Starting the match on the bench Rose entered proceedings in the final quarter replacing a cramping Robert Dean. His presence wasn’t enough to get his team over the line, an inaccurate Collingwood (11.21-87) suffering their first loss of the seventies to a desperate Essendon (13.15-93), the Dons saluting for the fourth time during a tumultuous campaign that included five players going on strike during the opening weekend of the season.

Later that evening a 3.5% swing to Clyde Holding’s ALP couldn’t prevent Henry Bolte’s Liberal Party from securing their sixth successive state election victory. A “footy flavour” to the poll was infused in the (burly) shape of Geelong’s reigning Best and Fairest winner Doug Wade. Wade, whose three goal contribution that afternoon couldn’t prevent South Melbourne inflicting a 50 point belting of the Cats, was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempt to win the lower house seat of Polwarth for the Country Party.

Rose would make four appearances at senior level during his “rookie” year, Collingwood’s infamous second half fadeout on the last Saturday in September would result in perhaps the saddest of the three Grand Final losses his father would endure as coach at Victoria Park.

In addition to his blossoming football career, Robert Rose was a talented cricketer who’d made his Melbourne District cricket debut for Collingwood during the 1969/70 season. Whilst the winter tenants of Victoria Park were September regulars, the same couldn’t be said for their cricketing brethren who were mired in a pennant drought that stretched back to 1913. As recently as 1968/69 the willow wielding Woodsmen failed to register a single victory over the course of the season. Their fortunes took a turn for the better and they finished 1970/71 in fourth place. Rose played a major role in Collingwood’s semi-final win over the MCC, his timely innings of 48 helping the Magpies to a memorable victory against the establishment. A fortnight later the fairytale season got the happy ending it deserved. In their first appearance in a VCA First XI decider in 36 years the Pies prevailed in a tight finale over Richmond to procure a precious pennant with Hoddle Street bragging rights thrown in for good measure.

Rose emerged as an almost permanent fixture in the strong Collingwood (football) line-up in 1971 playing in 16 of the Magpies’ 23 games. However any satisfaction he would’ve garnered by his continued development as senior player was tempered by the club’s early September exit, Tom Hafey’s Tigers cruising to a comfortable seven goal victory over the Pies in the 1st Semi Final. Within days of the dust settling on yet another disappointing end to proceedings for the Black & White, 43 year old Bob Rose and Collingwood parted ways for the second time.

The remaining months of 1971 would bring change, and excitement, to the Rose family. Less than a month after relinquishing the head coaching role at Victoria Park, Bob accepted the monumental challenge of leading the perennially under performing Footscray Football Club out of the doldrums following the Dogs’ decision to dispense with the services of “Mr Football” Ted Whitten as its off-field general. Bob would spend the next four winters at the Kennel, leading the ‘battlin Bullies to their first September appearance in more than a dozen years in 1974. A fortnight prior to Christmas ’71 Robert was selected to make his Sheffield Shield debut against the visiting Western Australians at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. After losing the toss the hosts were bundled out for an embarrassing 1st innings total of 73, new boy RP Rose’s 8 run contribution the fourth top score. Western Australia took command to lead by 284 runs on the first innings. Rose announced his arrival as a first class cricketer scoring a hard earned 49 to help Victoria to 377 in their second dig. Set 94 runs for victory WA got the staggers but eventually passed the target with four wickets in hand. Despite an impressive first up performance under the navy blue VCA cap, Rose spent the remainder of the summer at District level with the reigning premiers.

It’s extraordinary to think that six of the twenty-two players involved in that December 1971 MCG encounter – Rose, John Stephens, John Scholes, and Max Walker for the home team and Graeme Watson & Bruce Duperouzel for the visitors – had either played senior VFL football or would do so within eighteen months. Sadly, it’s impossible to imagine a return to the days when young men could pursue two separate sporting pursuits at the highest level.

April ’72 rolled around and Robert Rose picked up where he’d left off six months earlier playing in five of Collingwood’s first eight matches under new coach Neil Mann. The Maggies’ Round 8 task comprised a visit from Bob Rose and his new employer. It would be a triumphant return to familiar surrounds as Rose snr and his ‘new boys’ pulled off a rare win at fortress Abbotsford, their 11.14-80 to 7.14-56 victory signalling the first time in more than a decade that Footscray left Victoria Park with the four premiership points in their keeping. Robert, who spent most of the afternoon on the home team bench, was dropped the following week and wouldn’t return to the senior team until he received a call up for the 1st Semi Final clash with St Kilda.  Trailing all day the Magpies eventually went down by three goals to depart the race for the 1972 Premiership, their flag famine reaching 14 years at that point.

Rose didn’t allow the disappointment of a winter of discontent to fester during the summer of 1972/73. Cementing a place in the Sheffield Shield team he made nine appearances for the state scoring 381 runs at an average just under 24. The high point of his break-out season came in late January during the Vics’ visit to the picturesque Adelaide Oval. Trailing by 205 on the first innings the visitors were forced to follow on. Rose opened the second innings with Paul Sheahan, and the pair proceeded to put on 217 for the first wicket before Rose was dismissed agonisingly close to a maiden first class hundred, his score of 94 not only helping to stave off certain defeat at the hands of Ken Cunningham’s South Australians, but also representing the highest score of his flourishing interstate career.

Believing his football would progress by moving to Melbourne’s western suburbs, Rose sought a clearance to join his father at Footscray in early 1973. When Collingwood kyboshed the idea, the recently married 21 year old put his VFL career on hold for three months and joined his uncle Kevin, the coach of VFA club Prahran. After making a handful of appearances for the Two Blues, Rose was finally granted a clearance to join his father on Barkly Street. As part of the deal the Bulldogs sent Laurie Rippon to Prahran. Borrowing from modern day jargon the trade would be viewed as “win/win” for both sides with Rippon playing a major role in Prahran’s late season surge to the finals and subsequent Grand Final victory over Oakleigh, whilst Rose appeared in nine of the Dogs’ remaining fixture of 1973.

A 21 kick/9 handball debut for the Bulldogs in a 26 point loss to Carlton at VFL Park on June 9 would, in hindsight, be Robert Rose’s finest afternoon in Red, White and Blue. Given guernsey 22, the number his father made famous at Collingwood, it would be the first time the jumper had been worn in a senior match for Footscray since Ron McGowan played the last of his 92 VFL games on May 20 1972 – the day Rose’s father celebrated a glorious return to Victoria Park. Barry Armstrong, Rose’s opponent on that overcast day 40 years ago, was celebrating his 50th senior appearance in Navy Blue and made it a memorable one by accumulating 30 kicks. Impressive performances by both centremen I’m sure you’d agree.

Footscray’s 1973 record of 7 wins, 1 draw and 14 losses would constitute Bob Rose’s least successful year as a coach in the Victorian Football League. Victories over eventual Grand Final combatants Carlton and Richmond in Rounds 21 & 22 respectively raised the hopes of the ‘Scray faithful that better days lay in wait. A one point win over the Tigers in their last official engagement of ’73 ended with Rose relieving the pressure on the Bulldogs defence with a clearing torpedo punt just seconds prior to the final siren. The Dogs 9th place finish meant that the Rose household would be a footy free zone during the business end of the season.

With his football commitments completed by the first day of spring, Rose jnr got an earlier than usual start on preparations for the upcoming cricket season. However, the Victorians stumbled out of the blocks in their opening Shield match of the 1973/74 campaign at the Gabba. Two deliveries into the season the visitors found themselves 2-0; Stackpole and Scholes back in the sheds neither having troubled the scorers, Tony Dell running amok. It got worse when Ian Redpath and Paul Sheahan were both dismissed cheaply, the men from down south now reeling at 43 for the loss of 4 wickets. As Rose joined Alan Sieler at the scene of the crime it’s doubtful either man could’ve imagined how successful their reparation efforts would be on that Friday afternoon in late October. The pair proceeded to initially tame, then torture, the Maroon bowlers adding 271 for the fifth wicket. When Sieler, a fine two discipline sportsman who later represented Victoria in Claxton Shield baseball, was dismissed for 157, stumps were drawn with the Victorians recovering to end the day in a position of strength at 5/314. Unbeaten on 118, Robert Rose had posted his maiden Sheffield Shield century.

Two days later Sieler & Rose found themselves in a similar position, the visitors teetering on the brink at 4/57 in their second innings, the lead a paltry 56 runs. This time the VCA’s first innings saviours combined for a 184 run partnership, Sieler (105) and Rose (88) ensuring the home team and its high profile recruits Greg Chappell and Majid Khan had to settle for a draw after an intense four days of interstate cricket.

Rose was front and centre a week later, his 48 not out in the second innings helped steer the home side to a dramatic victory over South Australia on Melbourne Cup Eve at the MCG.  With two games of the 73/74 interstate fixture completed he sported a gargantuan average of 141. Sadly this incredible run would come to end and Rose struggled to recapture his early season form for most of the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season. A half century in the second innings of the then traditional Victoria v NSW Boxing Day clash at Melbourne would be the only time he would pass 50 again that summer.  Despite Rose’s indifferent form the team kept itself in the running for the Interstate title and a mid-January appointment at the SCG would determine the Victorian’s fate that season. Faced with the task of scoring 170 runs in their second innings in just over a run a minute Robert Rose’s Shield season would end in much the same way it started the previous Spring. At 3/102 Rose, three weeks shy of his 22nd birthday, joined Paul Sheahan in the middle of the famous Moore Park arena. The pair proceeded to knock off the required runs with a minimum of fuss to give Victoria a fighting chance of grabbing its second title of the decade. Sheahan remained 70 not out, Rose’s undefeated 23 pushing his tally to 469 runs for the season at an average slightly in excess of 39. When Queensland fell at the final hurdle to NSW in early February, the Sheffield Shield returned to the MCG for the first time in four years.

On the evening of February 14, a mere three days after Victoria had been crowned Shield champions, Robert Rose and two friends were returning to Melbourne following a day at the races in Ballarat. At around 9.00pm the Volkswagen Rose was driving came to grief on the Western Highway. Despite the fact his body was unmarked the trauma he suffered as a result of the accident caused a dislocation of the vertebrae leaving him a quadriplegic. So severe were Rose’s injuries it was initially feared he would not survive the accident. Whilst the tragedy of St Valentines Day 1974 prematurely ended his sporting life, Robert Rose remained within the eye of the Melbourne sporting public, regularly attending matches involving the Collingwood Football Club as well as district and Shield cricket over the next two decades. On May 12 1999, at the age of 47, Robert Rose passed away.

Later that year the Robert Rose foundation was created to provide support to people with spinal cord injuries and their families. Since 2000 Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs have battled for the Robert Rose Cup, named to honour Robert’s contribution to sport. The match promotes, and recognises, the contribution of people with disabilities. A recent announcement suggests the two clubs will lobby the AFL for the match to receive “blockbuster” status, with a permanent slot in the fixture allocated as a result. Kudos to both teams for their combined efforts to this worthy cause, and to continuing honouring the memory and contributions of Robert and Bob Rose to the Collingwood & Footscray (Western Bulldogs) Football Clubs, and Victorian sport in general.

I mentioned earlier in this story Elsie & Bob Rose were blessed with a second son, Peter, three years after the birth of Robert. A novelist and poet, Peter is the editor of the Australian Book Review, and in 2001 Peter’s family memoir, Rose Boys, was published. My research for this piece afforded me the privilege of revisiting Roses’ tribute to the neverending love, commitment and dedication of his parents in caring for Robert, and to the courage and strength of his older brother. If you’re yet to experience this beautiful book I recommend you grab a copy at your earliest possible convenience.


  1. cowshedend says

    Mic,outstanding piece,what wonderful research.was EJ (jnr) the next no 22 at the Dogs?

  2. +1

    I’d also urge anyone to get their hands on the Rose Boys by Robert’s brother Peter. One of the most affecting books you could ever read. There were plans to make a movie primarily around Bob & Robert’s lives and relationship, I don’t know what happened with that.

    Thanks Mic.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Outstanding Mic. A well researched, great read. Saw Bob pushing Robert around in his wheelchair at the footy many times in the early to mid nineties. What a talent, I know a few people who saw Robert bat that believe he would have played Test cricket. The Rose Boys book is brilliant.

  4. Michael, once again a well researched, and splendidly written aticle. It’s sad to think back to that time ,when three young men associated with the Footscray Football Club, suffered horrible injuries curtailing their careers. As well as Robert Rose, there was the tragedy which befell Neil Sacshe in 1975, as well as the forgotten case of Stephen Boyle, whose traumatic eye injury nipped his promising career in the bud. Bad luck truly befell your dogs in that period. On a more positive note, keep up the great work


  5. sean gorman says

    Rose Boys is great

  6. Mic Rees says

    Thanks everyone for your kind words.

    CSE – I believe Daryl Collins (Go Brookers) wore #22 in his one and only senior game for the Dogs – Rd 1 1974 v Geelong at WO.

    JD – I seem to remember talk of a movie based on Rose Boys. I think Colin Freils was being sought out to play the role of Bob.

    Glen – Yes all the tragedies you refer to occured over the course of three seasons. Another promising youngster who suffered a serious injury was Charlie Pagnocollo, who copped a nasty whack to the throat and never recaptured the form he displayed in his first season.

    Luke, Sean – Thank you.


  7. Magnificent – as always Mic.
    Rose Boys is, indeed, a marvellous tribute.

    ….and, Alan Sieler – whatever became?

  8. Lord Bogan says

    Wonderful article Mic. Thank you for sharing. Rose Boys is definitely worth reading. So much courage and dignity in that family, especially from mother, Elsie.

  9. Crio, Lord, thank you both.

    Alan Sieler”s shield debut came in 69/70 at 21 years of age, played 39 Shield games for the Vics. Made 1800 runs @30 with 4 tons and took 41 wickets. Cricket career over by the time he turned 28 to concentrate on baseball. He made the Claxton Shield squad as an outfielder in 1979. 11 years at HEM in District ranks, member of their 71/72 pennant winning team. John Snow knocked him over for 30. Interesting chap, check him out on Google if you get the chance.


  10. Michael, jog my memory re the injury suffered by Charlie Pagnocollo. I recall he debuted in 1970, a handy forward pocket, rover, who finished his VFL career at Melbourne. He followed that with a season at ‘Sandy’ in the VFA, if my memory is correct.

    Re my memory, you mentioned Robert Rose made a ton in each innings of the Shield Clash at the Gabba, did he follow this with a pair in the return bout at the “G”? I feel so, but i can’t find my 1975 Wisden to make sure i’m certain.


  11. A lovely article, Mic, and I second all the recommendations for the Rose Boys which really captures a strong family and the quiet dignity and stoicism of Bob and Elsie.

  12. Outstanding Mic. So many great memories in your article. Agree with many others that Rose Boys is an inspiring book showing the Rose family to be truly one of the best.

  13. Mic Rees says

    Shane, Kerrie, thank you.

    Glen – Sieler made the pair of tons, Rose made 88 in the second innings of the game at the Gabba in 1973.

    The return match was a low scoring affair, the Vics collapsed early, QLD held a slender lead, the Vics didn’t make much second time around, QLD took the outright points losing 6 wkts in reaching the target. Rose did indeed make a duck in the first innings & 19 in the second. Sieler 3 & 8.

    I’m pretty sure the whole game was screened on the ABC, I seem to remember watching the Maroons almost throw it away on the last day.

    Charlie P got hurt in a practice match (WA – East Freo I think) He suffered a serious throat injury. Yes, you’re correct he finished his VFL career at Melbourne (1 game) before stints at Oakleigh & Mordialloc.



  14. Outstanding article Mic, thanks for providing such a thorough insight into the Rose family. Really well written, again!

  15. Dave Nadel says

    Excellent article, Mic. Like everyone else I too loved Peter Rose’s book about his family. Apart from Robert’s story, the other thing that emerges from Peter’s book is that Bob Rose wasn’t only one of Collingwood’s greatest ever footballers, he was also one of the finest human beings to be associated with the club.

  16. Thanks Dave.

    The word often used to describe Bob was dignified. Who would disagree?
    He did a terrific job during some extremely difficult times at the Dogs on top of the outstanding service provided to the CFC.

    Did you know Bob played one game of district cricket with Collingwood in 1952/53. It was against a South Melbourne team that included Ian Johnson & Ian Meckiff. He made a pair of 4’s, including a not out for an average of 8.


  17. Peter Fuller says

    Thanks Mic, quality research which I’m sure has jogged many memories; for me, your piece provided a lot of new knowledge, as well as filling in details for those better-informed than me.
    I’m grateful that a film wasn’t made of Rose Boys, as I’d be fearful that the temptation to make it a melodrama would have proved irresistible. The reality is better than that. So Peter Rose’s book stands on its own as a shining piece of literature, and a grand love story to his inspirational parents.
    I endorse Dave Nadel’s remarks about Bob being one of the finest human beings associated with football, never mind that smaller category of a single club.

  18. Chris Bracher says

    Mic- fabulous. A wonderful tale. As a young fella that Rose/Sieler partnership at the Gabba had me glued to my tranny ( in the days when “tranny” meant transistor, not transvestite!)
    You should be very proud of that piece.
    Good to meet you recently .

    Chris Bracher

  19. A really great story, Mic!

  20. Mic Rees says

    Aldo, Peter, Smokie thank you very much.

    Chris – Pleasure to meet you too. Shield cricket on the radio – geez it was good. More often than not the final session on many Shield matches the ABC covered made for compulsory viewing.


  21. Steve Fahey says

    I heartily endorse the comments of others, a fantastic article Mic. Thank you for it. Can also thoroughly recommend The Rose Boys.

    My dad, who was involved at the Pies for a lengthy time, always said that Bobby Rose was the greatest man he met. I also remember him saying that he saw many people come up to Bobby at the footy when he was with Robert in the wheel chair and ask how Robert was, instead of asking Robert directly. We have come a fair way in our understanding (and fear) of interacting with people with such injuries.

    I was at Vic Park at the footy the day the cricketing Pies broke their premiership drought. It must have been a practice game – I was only 8 so can’t remember this detail. Many people were glued to their transistors while the footy was on, and a cheer, unrelated to the footy, broke out across the members’ side of the ground when it was announced on the radio that the Pies had won the flag.

    In 1973/74 I was at a school cricket clinic conducted by Keith Stackpole (Junior) on the day of the final Shield match between Queensland and NSW. During the clinic someone told Stacky that Queensland had lost, meaning that the Vics won the Shield. The clinic continued !!! Such different days. I remember Stacky offering $1 to anyone who could knock his stumps over. Not surprisingly, he still has his $1 !!!

  22. Great stuff Mic.

    I’ve gotta read Rose Boys.

  23. Mic Rees says

    Les – Thanks. I’m pretty sure Rose Boys is still available (via the net).

    Steve – Love the anecdotes, District cricket on radio, Stacky keeping his cash firmly in his wallet. The practice match you attended pitted the Pies against Sth Fremantle, Collingwood romped it in 24.18 to the Dogs 5.5. Doug Gott missed the footy, he was busy taking 5/109 at the Albert Ground.

    The public’s lack of tact regarding Robert’s accident is referred to in “Rose Boys”. Yes, it’s good to see we’ve evolved in many ways, still a bit of work to do in many other fields however.

    Thank you for your kind words.


  24. Michael, who knows where Robert Rose test career might have gone in the 1974-75 season. We had a gap @ the top of the order. keith Stackpole, Paul Sheehan were no longer available, Ashley Woodcock got a sole test in 1973-74, so we started in 1974-75 with Wally Edwards opening with Ian Redpath. Edwards made 5 & 4 on debut, playing only the three tests with a top score of 30. How would Robert Rose performed ,given the chance ?


  25. Peter Binns says

    Very well written again Mic.

  26. Ken Jacobs says

    A wonderful article Mic – in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Robert was still a regular attendee at Sheffield Shield matches – bought along by Bob and he was always a welcome visitor in the Victorian dressing room .For a number of years Robert and Bob would also try to make one interstate trip a year -generally to Adelaide to watch a match against South Australia – they would stay at the same hotel as the Victorian team and players such as Trevor Laughlin,John Scholes, Max Walker, Richie Robinson, Jim Higgs, Shaun Graf etc would help Bob look after him- have him in the rooms at the Adelaide Oval where he was also well received by David Hookes, Ian and Greg Chappell etc .
    It became quite a highlight for Robert and Bob was always most grateful for the support he received from the players at the time.

  27. Gavin Mahoney says

    Awesome work Mr Rees

  28. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great Article Mic I conquer The Rose Boys by Peter Rose is a extraordinary book I was there as a 10 year old when Rob Rose and Paul Sheahan had the Partnership of 217 at Ad Oval in 73 74 season I had the Privledge of Speaking to Boobby and Rob when they made there annual trip to Ad each summer after the accident the obvious Love between Father and son while Bobby pushed the wheelchair is something I will always remember Well done Mic

Leave a Comment