|V/AFL Clubs||Melbourne, Fitzroy|
After a fine 210 game, 540 goal playing career with Melbourne between 1934 and 1948, Norm Smith served a three season coaching apprenticeship with Fitzroy (during the first two of which he played a further 17 games and kicked another 26 goals) before returning 'home' in 1952 to succeed Alan La Fontaine at the helm of his old club. His achievements with the Demons would become legendary: five flags between 1955 and 1960 and a sixth in 1964 during a sequence of eleven successive finals appearances for an overall success rate during the period of more than 73%. Today, the medal awarded to the best player afield in each season's AFL grand final is named in his honour.
An astute football thinker, the flame-haired Smith also possessed a fiery temperament which saw him skirt controversy on various occasions during his career. The most notable such occurrence took place in the middle of the 1965 season when, following a slump in form by the Demons which saw them lose three out of four matches after winning their first eight, he was sensationally - indeed, most would say precipitously - sacked, only to be just as sensationally reinstated a week later after the side had been beaten yet again. The whole affair clearly took its toll on Smith, however, and he would only once again - in 1970, at the fresh pastures of the Lake Oval - steer a side into the major round. Nevertheless, it is with the irrepressible Melbourne sides of the 1950s and early 1960s that his name has rightly become synonymous.
Smith's premature death in 1973 at the age of fifty-eight robbed the game of one of its premier strategists, motivators and personalities.
Author - John Devaney