Vale John Devaney: A hidden legend of footy

 

 

 

 

The name John Devaney is not one known to many followers of Australian rules football. But it should be. Devaney, who died suddenly this week aged 65, wrote somewhere in the vicinity of three million words about Australia’s national game, and the depth and breadth of his knowledge of the game’s history — from the highest level to backblocks leagues and clubs — is arguably unmatched.

 

What makes Devaney’s story all the more remarkable is that he was born in England, and spent only seven years living in Australia, from age six in 1963 until 1970, when his parents returned with him to their homeland when he was just 14.

 

It was back in England that Devaney wrote the first of his three million odd words on the game he fell in love with during his time down under (specifically in Adelaide). He wrote the last of them just two weeks ago, on November 18, when he made his last edit on australianfootball.com, a website that celebrates the history of Australia’s indigenous game. (I have been australianfootball.com’s contributing editor since 2012.)

 

The australianfootball.com website was born nine years ago in 2012. It was financed by independent football fan Adam Cardosi and designed by Slattery Media, but its genesis was largely a rebirth of another website, Full Points Footy, which was the creation of John Devaney.

 

As an early teen still living in Adelaide, Devaney began writing to clubs and leagues all over Australia, requesting copies of annual reports and other literature pertaining to those organisations and their seasons. He continued to do so long after he had returned to his native England. It was these that formed the basis of what would become Full Points Footy and then australianfootball.com.

 

Devaney’s fervour for collecting these ephemeral items resulted in a vast paper database of facts on which he could draw. Using that knowledge, he crafted thousands of player biographies — of not just the ‘big league’ players of the VFL/AFL, SANFL and WAFL, but also of local legends, whose feats were no less noteworthy. He did the same for the clubs themselves, and he also brought to life many games from long ago by creating ‘match reports’ using the information he’d gleaned.

 

Because his time in Australia was spent in Adelaide, Devaney developed an appreciation of the great players of the SANFL, one that many Victorians did not possess. Perhaps because he came to the game as an ‘outsider’, Devaney’s view of the game was not coloured by the state-based parochialism that tended to skew the perspective of those who were born into the game in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania.

 

John Devaney used his unique standing as a footy fan to amass a vast and vital repository of results, tables and data, which he, in turn, used to write more than a dozen books and create a website — now known as australianfootball.com — that is used as a research tool by many football historians, and fact-finder for countless fans.

 

While the AFL has done a reasonable job of recording and celebrating its own history, and that of its predecessor, the Victorian Football League, it has done little as the custodian of the game to ensure the history of lower level leagues has been preserved and acknowledged. John Devaney has filled that breech for nigh on half a century, telling stories that might have been otherwise forgotten.

 

John’s legacy to the game is larger than many will ever know, and his loss is a profound one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    You’ve said it all Gigs. That final line certainly resonates with me.

    I hope that John’s vast collection of historical materials is able to be preserved.

    Vale John Devaney

  2. Grand tribute Gigs. This piece of Devaney’s is my favourite footy writing. Rereading it again I’m 14yo living in country SA and hoping against hope that my West Torrens heroes can triumph. Vale John Devaney with gratitude from another fan in the outer.
    https://australianfootball.com/articles/view/SANFL%2B1969%2B1st%2BSemi%2BFinal%2BReplay%253A%2BWest%2BAdelaide%2Bvs.%2BWest%2BTorrens%2BNirvana%2Blost%2Band%2Bregained%2B-%2BPart%2B1/704

  3. A wonderful tribute to the vastly underrated John Devaney, Gigs.
    I’ve purchased several of John’s books, including his latest trilogy, “Creme de la Creme”, which profiles many of football’s lesser-known players.
    As you described, John’s recognition of players and teams outside the VFL/AFL mainstream was a feature of his work.
    His well-crafted match reports, of the type that Peter_B has included above, were fantastic.
    To acknowledge John’s wonderful contribution to Australian Rules football history, I hope that sports history officialdom one day inaugurates a “John Devaney award”.

  4. This is sad news. I never met John but we communicated by email. Probably not known to too many, but he was part of our tipping comp.

    HIs contribution to footy and footy history is immense. He did, for fun, what the VFL/AFL should have been doing as a significant cultural/sporting organisation. The AFL has always needed to fund Col Hutchinson properly and to employ a footy historian who could gather the troops together – so many people are wiling to contribute. And do the research themselves.

    So many writers/journos/historians/enthusasts referred to Full Points Footy all the time. In my case, while writing a lot, almost every day.

    Vale John Devaney.

  5. Thanks Gigs, for this important remembrance. Like others have noted, John’s work, his labour of love, is so deeply entwined in the understanding we share about footy to be staggering. Especially the recognition of footy beyond Victoria. The glass is raised.

  6. Dave Warner says

    A man to be celebrated. A fine tribute and insight.

  7. Sorry to hear this news Gigs.
    You will miss him.

    I had some contact with John and always found him courteous and respectful – and so knowledgeable about the game despite being based in the UK.

    He leaves a wonderful legacy with his books and the website that you currently curate.

    We can’t leave it to the AFL to write the history so thanks John – and you too Gigs!

  8. Daryl Schramm says

    Hidden no more. Thanks Andrew. I hadn’t heard of him and I wasn’t fully aware of the current website either. Looks like I have some research to do.

  9. A nice tribute to a tireless friend of the game we all cherish, thanks Gigs.

  10. Beautifully written Gigs. We need more people to take up the cudgels from John D. Have been agitating for a long while that it is NOT ONLY the “big leagues” that need history to be perpetuated. Perhaps sports historians et al should approach the AFL as a unified body to focus on the forgotten side of football history.
    Vale John Devaney

  11. Very sad news.

    I had some email correspondence with John many years ago when All Points was looking that is might be lost.

    I remember offering free hosting for Dave on my server to keep the site alive, thankfully for Dave a better offer came along and the most valuable of his contribution have been kept alive by Australian Football.

    As a community a lot of us are entering our autumn years and it is great to see that the hard work and legacy of a footy history nerd llke John is being preserved.

    May John’s legacy continue and the legacy of all of us who strive to preserve the history of this great game.

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

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