The Numbers Game – Collingwood 2011

Well, it’s Good Friday and there’s only so much a man can take of Sandy Roberts, Peter Mitchell, Jennifer Keyte, Deeksy and even the old legend, the now dottery Dan (“number 12 please Mr”) Webb on the Good Friday Appeal, so I took up Peter and Mals’ best numbers challenge from late in the week to help pass the day.  And what a fascinating little research task it turned out to be.

As they say, “Google is your friend”.  And the Googster duly delivered by finding an old page from the CFC site that gave a comprehensive list up to 2006, albeit lacking in some quality control (correct spelling and provision of first names seemed optional).

My “live” experience only goes back to 1970 which is a small sample base, so I had to take a leap of faith from my recollections of readings from the history buffs for the pre 1970 players.  There were two other aspects which complicate this challenge; i/ the Pies use of numbers 1, 2 and 3 for the Captain, VC and DVC for many years and ii/ the practice of the early to mid 1900’s where players numbers either didn’t exist or they changed more often than Robert Walls’ mind on any footy topic.  From a quick scan through the site, the Coventrys and Colliers had more numbers than Warney has in his mobile phone!!

With Dane 36 Swan unanimously anointed as the best 36 by the FPS last year, I decided to check up on numbers 39 and 32 as nominated this week, picked the remainders from 2010 Copeland top 10 and a couple of other numbers to come up with some YES, NO and MAYBES.  I welcome the debate on these or others from the FPS faithful.


Dane 36 Swan – the inaugural inductee into the FPS best number Hall of Fame.

Heath 39 Shaw – Yep, Peter you have my vote of approval, he’s the best 39 by the length of the Flemington straight.  He’s a star, his GF smother of the century has etched him into football folklore and his only rivals are FPS favourite, Danny Roach (2000), Matty Lokan and Scotty Crow.  Interestingly, Scotty Crow is the only other Pies player to have worn 39 for more than 2 seasons!!

Travis 32 Cloke – In addition to the 32s mentioned by my bro, the closest rival I could come up with was Barry Hooker Harrison (1958-61) with his famous blanket job on RDB in 58 and Danny Hibbert (1969) who gets a nomination given his future starring role for Dandy in the VFA in the 70s feeding Frosty Miller with great passes every winters Sunday afternoon on Channel 0.

Scott 10 Pendlebury – I reckon he’s got Paul Williams, Vaughan Ellis (another old Dandy legend!), Strop Cooper, Peter Eakins and Mark “Orval-Foot-2-weeks” covered.  Gordon Coventry and Charlie Dibbs both wore it a couple of times in the number merry go round era, but not sure it was often enough to truly qualify for the accolade.


Alan 4 Didak – Dids is up there with longevity and performance with the best of them.  Leeter Collier wore it in premierships in 1927 & 28 and is an all time legend, but it was only two years.  If Dids can play in another flag or more, I’ll happily elevate him to numero uno for number four.  Hall of Famers Jack Beveridge and Harry Curtis wore it for 2 years each and Syd Coventry for one year. It’s a pretty lean number in recent times.  Perty and Wee Georgie Bissett did okay in their twilight years, Raines wore it well for a couple of years until the bucks ran out and Uncle Mark Hannebery was okay.  Murray Batt, Derek Shaw, Paul Morwood and Henry Coles are a few names that were a touch underwhelming in such a prestigious number.

Harry 8 O’Brien – Harry’s got some big names to compete with the number 8 – Jimmy Clement, Tuddy for 2 years, Jack Hamilton, the Colliers & Coventrys (Syd wore it for three years including the 28 and 29 flags) and Des Fothergill.  But, he’s a chance if he keeps on keeping on.

Dale 13 Thomas – I reckon the great Dick Lee’s got him covered at the moment.  But if Daisy keeps up his trendline and resists the temptation of GWS and free agency I just reckon he might give him a run for his money.  Special mention to Gabbo and Laurie Hill who obviously wore it with distinction.

Dayne 17  Beams – Sir Scott Burns rates extremely highly and Beamsy is almost the SSB apprentice at this early stage of his career.  At this stage Burnsy and Thorold Merrett have got him well covered, but one can hope he reaches these lofty standards.  A couple of classy HFFs of Dougie Barwick and Mike Richardson gave us plenty of thrills in the 80s and 90s.  The famous Jock McHale and Phonse Kyne donned the guernsey.  And some classics in the 70s and 80s including Colin Morse (once touted as the next Tuddy in a Sun article in my scrap book), Kevin “Tatts” Grose, Brad Reynolds 78, Geoff Austen 79, Michael Horsburgh 80, Geoff Austen again 81 and Golden Gordon Towan 82 (the oldest Pies debutant in my living memory).

Darren 18 Jolly – Wayne & Max Richardson and Licca wore it with great distinction, but in one year Jolly’s helped win us a flag.  If he can play like he did in 2010 and help deliver a few more flags, I reckon he’ll go to the top.  Interesting FPS favourite Michael Horsburg (sic) is listed as 18 in 1979 (and graduated to 17 in 1980 as per above reference).  There’s also a strong rejects trend through the 80s & 90s with Peter Bradbury, Tony Elshaug, Bradley Plain, Glenn Mclean, Peter Carter and David Young having a stint in the number 18.

I’ve thrown in Ben 20 Reid – 20 is another underwhelming number really –  Tazz in his first stint as an All Australian forward is probably close to the clubhouse leader,  but Ronnie Richards who wore it for nearly 10 years is just up on him.  Interestingly, brother Louie wore it for one year before Ronnie.  Ross Brewer tried hard in it and Brian Beers probably did much better than sons Tony and Mark did in their numbers 39 and 40 respectively.  I reckon Benny’s got a chance to make it his own if he wants it.


Nick 5 Maxwell – There was a bloke called Bucks who could play a bit that’s probably got him covered, but I’m sure he’ll take his Premiership Captain title as some consolation.  Others with claims of greatness include the Collier brothers, Gordon Coventry, Barry Price, Terry Waters and Ronnie Wearmouth.

Steele 22 Sidebottom – Sidey’s got two great GF performances and heaps of potential but by jingoes it’s a tough gig with Bobby Rose, Tony Shaw and John Greening in the stable.  Just makes you wonder what Jason Wild is doing there!!

Luke 12 Ball – A bit like Jols, helped deliver a flag with his much needed inside work.   Banksy was one of my favourites so can’t rate Bally above him on just one year so far.  Charlie Dibbs gets another mention with four years in the number 12 and others with claims include Des Healey, Errol Hutchison and Twiggy Dunne.

1-2-3 – Leon, Tazz and Johnny McCarthy have sadly got no chance with the old practice of 1, 2 & 3 for Capt, VC and DVC.

*disclaimer – I’m trusting the CFC website for the numbers as my footy record collection is still packed away in a box buried in the garage.

About Ramon Dobb

A footy and cricket fanatic. A lifelong passionate one eyed Mighty Magpie fanatic. My writing is unashamedly written with one black & white eye open only - so please don't take offence, it's nothing personal, it's just the black & white way! Also a lifelong player and member of Washington Park Cricket Club, the Mighty Sharks. My 15 minutes of fame includes regular contributions to Hot Pies, the 1999-2004 Fanzine, and regular contributor to the Coodabeen Champions weekly competition from their heady 3RRR days. Go Pies and Floreat Pica.


  1. Couch Crusader says

    Sorry ramondobb but Barwick, Burns, Richardson, Kyne and McHale are all a long, long way ahead of Beams.

    The other selections seem pretty spot on.

  2. Peter Flynn says

    Ian McOrist (number 46)

  3. Other great number 46s? From any club? Can’t think of one myself. Forsman? Did T. Lockett take 46 on his return? Memory a bit foggy today.

  4. Terry Domburg, No.41

  5. Sorry, full title:

    Terry Domburg, the postman from Hamilton, No.41

  6. Peter Flynn says

    S Byrnes started with 46. As did D Forssman. A Lockett finished with 46.

  7. Alovesupreme says

    I’m not a Maggpie supporter, so I guess I should keep my opinions to myself – but as my detractors would say “Since when has that stopped him?”
    Re: #8, I admire Harry O’Brien’s football ability and respect him for his non-football interests and attitudes; however from the memories of old-timers, I think Harry would have to defer to Des Fothergill, as well as Syd Coventry. Michael Costigan, a former Catholic priest and a distinguished figure in Australian literature, wrote an obituary for Fothergill, in which he remarked on the highlight of his life: “I’ve met two Popes, but I once rode in a lift with Des Fothergill”.

  8. ramondobb says

    Number 46?? Jungle Jim McAllister bagged 7 big ones for the Pies at the SCG back in 1984 with number 46 on his back, if memory serves me correctly! Cult figure, goal kicker and social club legend for a year or two at the Pies :-)

  9. Dave Nadel says

    #1 Kyne and McHale don’t count because Collingwood renumbered guernseys evey year in their time. Of the permanent no.17s Thorold Merrett is a long way ahead of the pack. Only Scott Burns comes close. And actually Beams is already at least as good as the overrated mercenary, Michael Richardson.

  10. johnharms says

    #7 That is a fantastic snippet; one which I will be quoting I’m sure (and attributing to Michael Costigan via your good self). Do you know where the Costigan obit was published?

    On a similar Pope-footballer theme, Lorenzo the barber on Elgin St, Carlton, has a number of photos and posters on his wall: Carlton in the early 80s (from memory), Stephen Kernahan, Juventus team photo, and the Pope.

  11. Damo Balassone says

    Luke Godden No. 43 slightly ahead of Ricky Barham.

  12. Dave Nadel says

    #10 I never knew the owner’s name, but the cafe in Sydney Rd Coburg, near the corner of Bell St, in the late 1970s used to have a picture of the Pope next to a picture of the cafe owner shaking hands with Bob Hawke. Hawkie’s expression was far more suggestive of infallibilty than the Pope’s.

  13. #6 a given?

  14. Alovesupreme says

    It’s a guess rather than a matter of knowledge, but I’d think the Age.
    There’s another lovely story of the Costigans, which I think Michael aired at the time of Peter’s(*) death. It was a lament that Frank (^) had deviated from the path of righteousness (Collingwood) and supported the Blues. Michael said that he and Peter prayed daily soliciting the Almighty to have Frank see the error of his ways, and repent.
    * Peter was a Melbourne Herald journalist, and had a term as Lord Mayor of Melbourne.
    ^ Frank was a prominent barrister, most notable for chairing the Royal Commission into the Painters and Dockers.

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