The Story of Peter Reville – The Champion of the Brown Coal Mine

 By Roger Spaull

Peter Reville was a gifted footballer who commenced his senior football career as a teenager at Yallourn North FC (Brown Coal Mine FC~ affiliated with the Mirboo & Morwell FA). Peter became a champion of South Melbourne and a personality of VFL and VFA football. This is his story. ‘The Traralgon Record’ (page: 4, March 27th 1925) reported… “…Reville who played with the Brown Coal Mine and Moe teams last year has been training at South Melbourne.” (Note: There is evidence to suggest that Peter’s game at Moe was a practice match against Leongatha).

Henry James Reville was born at Carisbrooke (near Maryborough, Victoria) on the 5th October 1904.  He adopted the name ‘Peter’ (his father’s first name) later in his life. Peter had three sisters named Rose, Lillian and Francis. Peter’s younger days appear to have been spent in Geelong. Although he was not an orphan, according to a reliable source, he attended the St Augustine Orphanage School in Newtown, Geelong.

The name ‘Reville’ can be found in Gippsland papers in the 1920’s and ‘L. Reville’ played cricket with Yallourn Cricket Club in that era. Peter Reville is mentioned twice (but only briefly on pages 123&125) in Kath Ringin’s 1982 book entitled ‘The Old Brown Coal Mine.’

It is said, that Fitzroy FC sought to recruit Peter but nothing ever materialised. Jim Main wrote… “The tardiness of the Fitzroy FC gave South Melbourne a player of rare quality”. Peter left Brown Coal Mine early in 1925… “…he joined South Melbourne in 1925. He was a raw recruit from Moe but on the last kick of the day in the Easter practice match he sent a ball through the goals, after which he was promptly asked to sign on the dotted line.” (‘The Age’) Peter was selected for South Melbourne in the Round: 2 clash against Footscray. He was 20 years of age on debut for the Swans.

Peter went onto play 156 games with South Melbourne and he kicked 207 games. When used as a forward his long kicking and strength in overhead contests gave South Melbourne ‘an edge’ in attack. He was described as… “…a first class follower and forward who was one of the best utility players in the league.”

Another press release heaped even greater praise on him … “Peter Reville is one of the most natural footballers who has ever played our national game. On his day, he is a pleasure to watch…”

Peter must have been an imposing player as in 1926 he was selected in the Victorian representative team. In 1930 he polled strongly in the Brownlow Medal and was a joint runner-up to Allan Hopkins (Footscray), Harry Collier (Collingwood) and Stan Judkins (Richmond). ‘The Kalgoorlie Miner’ (August 4th 1930) reported that Peter played for Victoria in an exhibition match against Subiaco FC in Melbourne.

1933 was the best year for the Swans and Peter. The club recruited widely and aggressively and put together a ‘star-studded’ combination which was dubbed the ‘Foreign Legion.’ The line-up included Laurie Nash, Hugh Mc Laughlin, Austin Robertson, Jack Bissett, Ron Hillis, Bill Faul (said to be the brother of Yallourn sporting identity Alan), Herbie Matthews, Brighton Diggins and Bob Pratt.

South Melbourne defeated Richmond in the VFL Grand Final by 42 points. Peter played a major role in the win by kicking three goals. In one authoritative text, Peter was listed in ‘the best’ for his team. It was the ‘cream on the cake’ for him that year.  In a stellar season, Peter had played 20 games and kicked 39 goals including a ‘bag’ of seven against Geelong in Round: 18. Only the legendary Bob Pratt (109) had kicked more goals than Peter for the Swans that season.

Richmond (19.14.128) turned the tables on South Melbourne (12.17.89) the following season. In front of a crowd of 65,335 at the MCG, Richmond ‘blew the Swans away’ in a devastating third quarter. Richmond kicked six in that term while keeping South Melbourne goal-less. Laurie Nash kicked six goals. Bob Pratt managed only two goals but he brought up his 150th (a VFL record) for the season with his second major during the last quarter.

Peter was listed ‘second best’ for South Melbourne but as history shows he ‘stained his copy-book’ that day. It was to prove the worst day in his VFL career. ‘Grand Finals 1897-1939’, written by Geoff Slattery, gives a detailed account of Peter’s fit of rage that day…“…with Richmond victory assured South Melbourne Vice-captain Peter Reville, began to vent his frustration”.


That put the situation mildly. Peter went ‘berserk.’ It seems he was uncontrollable as he ‘waded’ into anyone who wore a yellow and black guernsey. He flattened Bert Taylor, crunched Peter O’Neill, wrestled with Martin Bolger and connected with others. It was an ugly spectacle and Peter was reported on three serious charges. The available documentation related to the tribunal hearing made no mention of Peter being provoked. He may have ‘snapped’ or perhaps it was his ‘last hurrah’. It made little difference as the tribunal came down on him like a ‘ton of bricks’. He was suspended for twenty weeks… which really meant the entire 1935 VFL season.

Rather than stand aside for a year, Peter accepted an offer to coach Coburg FC (VFA) in 1935. In January 1935, tragedy struck Peter and his family in the worst possible way. His son (Peter) and nephew (Alfred) were drowned. ‘The Morwell Advertiser’ (31st January 1935) carried the heartbreaking story…“Two children well known at the Brown Coal Mine were drowned in the Yarra…They were cousins and one of them was the son of Peter Reville, the South Melbourne footballer, formerly of Brown Coal Mine”.


Several days later ‘The Argus’ newspaper reported…

“Peter John Reville, aged 8 years, and Alfred Amos Spokes, aged 9 years, who were drowned in the River Yarra, near the Willsmere swimming pool, East Kew, on Monday, were buried in the same grave in the New Melbourne General Cemetery, Fawkner, yesterday afternoon. The boys were cousins. Peter, who was a son of Mr. Peter Reville, the South Melbourne footballer, jumped into the river in an effort to rescue his cousin”.

How Peter coped with the death of his son will be never known but his three year stint at Coburg was successful in lifting the club up the VFA ladder. On June 19th 1936, ‘The Age’ reported on Coburg’s progress…“…rising steadily…under the vigourous leadership of Peter Reville… Under Reville’s inspiring captaincy…” In 1936 Peter was the joint winner of the Recorder Cup (the forerunner to the Liston Trophy) which was awarded to the Best & Fairest player in the VFA. Peter shared the award with another well known football personality of that era Bert Hyde of Hawthorn and Preston fame.

{Note: In 1935 Prahran rover Les White (ex-Yallourn FC 1929-31) won the Recorder Cup. Les played 229 games with Prahran and kicked 361 goals. In 1962 another Yallourn footballer   Gary Butler (coach-1964) won the Field Trophy in the Second Division of the VFA}.

It appears that Peter gained celebrity status within the circles of the VFA competition. ‘The Williamston Chronicle’ (June 12th 1937) suggested…

“Peter Reville, the Coburg showman of football, still has football in him.”

It is known that Peter received offers to coach other clubs ( Tasmania) during his playing career. In 1937 ‘The Horsham Times’ reported that the Nhill FC had placed a very attractive proposition in front of him. After due consideration Peter declined the opportunity to coach in the country.

Peter returned to the VFL in 1938 but this time with Fitzroy FC. Peter played 22 games (27 goals) with the Gorillas.

(Note: Fitzroy FC was known as the ‘Gorillas’ around this time. In 1957 the club became the ‘Lions’).

Peter played his last game with Fitzroy against Carlton in Round: 11 of the 1939 season. He was almost 35 years of age when he retired from VFL football.

By the time he had ‘hung up his boots’ he had played a total of 178 VFL games, kicked 234 goals in a career that was impressive, widely acclaimed but not without ‘blemish.’

When nominated for the Sydney Swans’ ‘Team of the Century’, Jim Main provided this description of Peter….

“…being ‘lion-hearted’ and was a marvellous protector of smaller team-mates. Reville therefore was the ultimate team player who did not stop trying to the final bell.”

According to Peter’s War Service record, he enlisted in the Australian Army at Clifton Hill on the 17th November 1939. It is said that he served with the 6th Division in the Middle East and in New Guinea. Jim Main refers to Peter attaining the rank of ‘sergeant’ during his time with the Australian Army Canteen Service. He was discharged from the Army on December 23rd 1943.

Note: While on active duty, Peter wrote an insightful story regarding his recollections of playing VFL football for the ‘A.I.F News.’ (Published in Palestine in 1940).

Peter had a busy life after the war with football playing a part. At one stage, he was a match day reporter of the 3AW commentary team. Peter was unwell for a lengthy period prior to his death. Peter died on the 4th March 1970. He was aged 65 years. Peter is buried at the Fawkner Cemetery.

Peter Reville is another player of which the Yallourn North (Brown Coal Mine) FC can be justly proud. He was a true champion and a player of immense ability and spirit.



  1. Special thanks to Dr. Bob Grogan (ex-South Melbourne FC Medical Officer) for his kind assistance in validating the early years of Peter Reville’s life and providing further documentation of SMFC.
  2. Appreciation is also expressed to Julie Fenley (Monash Universty Churchill Campus), Marion Steele (Rosebud Library), Ken Emselle (ex-Melbourne FC& Prahran FC), Barb Cullen (Sydney Swans FC) and Rohan Bounds (YYNFC President).
  3. Jim Main’s book entitled ‘Honour the Names’ published in 2003 provides photographs and further details on Peter’s period at SMFC.


  1. Great story Roger. Thanks for all the research and sharing it with us.
    What a life and what an indomitable spirit Peter had. A bit like the footy version of Facey’s “A Fortunate Life”. Farmed out by poor parents; footy star; lengthy suspension; terrible family tragedy; successful coach; Middle East and New Guinea in WWII; and then a radio commentator after all that.
    ‘Stuff’ happened and you got on with it. Now there is a double page spread in the glossies if a ‘star’ breaks a fingernail.
    Top stuff Roger.

  2. Great stuff Roger. It’s nice to read about blokes from my neck of the woods making it in the big time, especially stories from yesteryear which are rarely told anymore. Good on you for doing the research and putting this together

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Brilliant Article Roger having been involved with Chocka Blochs History Book of
    South Aust Amateur FL I no how much work goes in to chasing up the Info to write a article such as this you are to be congratulated on the detail warmth and affection and honesty in this article Fascinating Another Almanac Special Well Done !

  4. G’day Rog,
    My name is Gil Julin from the Yallourn Yallourn North Football Club Past Players and am trying to locatecany family of Peter Reville. We produced Era Teams this past season an obviously Peter was in the Brown Coal Mine team. I would appreciate any info no matter how small. I see you spoke to Rohan Bounds from the Club, but we have very little info from the Yallourn North side of the Club as it all went mysteriously missing in a ‘fire’
    You can reach my via email or call on 0423201243.


    Gil Julin.

  5. John, Roger got in touch but I have somehow lost what you and he sent me., could you please resend to me. Sorry. Actually Roger knew a lot about my sister who I related his info to her. Don’t know where it went from there. 0423201243. Dinosaurbme!


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