The Quinn boys of Port Adelaide
For nearly 50 years, the name of Quinn has been synonymous with the tops in football at Port Adelaide. It is unlikely that any other State can claim a father and his four sons who all played league football.
The father, Mr. John Quinn, roved for Port and the State before World War I. Of his sons, the eldest, Jack, was a half-back and ruckman who played for the seniors and captained the seconds.
Next, Tommy played for Port for two seasons then went to Geelong in 1931. He was at the time, and still is, regarded as one of the best rovers of all time, in any State. In his 10 years with Geelong he played in the mighty 1937 grand final when the Cats beat Collingwood before an 85,000 crowd. That game is still looked upon as one of the greatest Victorian grand finals ever.
Killed in action
Bob was next. He is the former South Australian and Port captain who has just been appointed non-playing coach for the SA team for the carnival.
George, the baby of the family, was next. He was a little more robust than Bob and stronger, and played half a dozen games for Port as rover and half-forward before joining the AIF. With the 2/24 Infantry Battalion he was killed in action at El Alamein in 1942. He was only 22 then.
A footballing legend
Bob Quinn became a football legend even during his career, something which happens only to the champions. When he left Le Fevres Peninsula School he played first for Semaphore Juniors, a second team of the Centrals, for two years. In 1933, he trained at Alberton Oval, and was in and out of the senior team most of the year. He was only 18, and stood just under 5 ft. 7 in. His first full season was in 1934, when in a sensational grand final, Glenelg won their first premiership.
The Magarey and the Military Medal
The next year he was chosen for South Australia. From then until he enlisted in the AIF in June 1940, he was never out of a State side. He won his first Magarey Medal in 1938. He earned his second MM—the Military Medal—the hardest way, as a sergeant with the 2/43 Infantry Batallion.
In an action on Tobruk perimeter he was wounded in the face and legs. He had his commission as a lieutenant by the time of El Alamein in October, 1942. Then, when the 2/43rd was in the Ninth Division's assault on Lae in 1943, Quinn got another issue, a bullet wound in the arm.
He was seconded for duty to Adelaide for a time in 1944, and turned out for Port-Torrens combine
In the semi-finals, Quinn hurt his previously wounded arm badly at the start of the third quarter. He remarked to Lew Roberts that it felt ‘pretty bad. He had it tightly strapped, and played out the game. He played with the useless arm dangling at his side. After the game it was found that his arm was broken. That incident, more than any other, illustrates what Quinn meant by ‘guts’ when he used to talk about the need for that quality in football. Those are the facts.
Any of Quinn's contemporaries in league and State football could give scores of instances of his courage. Quinn believed in playing the game hard, and those whom he suspected of yielding when the going was heavy, knew they were in for a roasting.
Tempted to Victoria
Perhaps Quinn's biggest disappointment in State football was when South Australia folded up against Victoria in the 1947 Hobart carnival. Those who were on the inside of some straight talking which followed can still hear the air crackling.
When he returned to league football in 1945, Quinn won his second Magarey Medal. He led South Australia again against Victoria to an easy win. Next year at Carlton, he inspired the side to a second half rally which produced one of the greatest State recoveries ever. Only a desperate late burst by Victoria brought about a draw.
Yet twice before the war, Quinn was tempted to stay in Victoria. When the SA team was there in 1935 he went down to Geelong for a run with brother Tom. He was interested in staying, but returned to Port. Then at the end of 1938 season he received a choice offer from St. Kilda. He spent a week in Melbourne as their guest and signed with them. A few months later, however, he was appointed coach and captain of Port for 1939 and stayed in South Australia. South Australia had come within an ace of losing one of their greatest footballers in 50 years.
What made Quinn a champion? Haydn Bunton says guts, an outstanding mark for his inches, great ability as a ground player, a beautiful stab pass or longer kick, the ability to turn either way, and the knack of never appearing to be in trouble plus great confidence. There doesn't seem any other quality a champion can possibly require. But down Port Adelaide way you'll find plenty who still argue over who was the better rover, Tommy or Bob. Some claim Bob was faster, but Tommy a better stab pass. Others say it's vice versa. It seems to me it doesn't really matter. They were both champions of the game in Australia.
Title: Sporting profile: Quinns have been tops in football for 50 years Author: Lawrie Jervis Publisher: News (Adelaide, SA: 1923 - 1954) Date: Saturday, 27 June 1953, p.15 (Article Illustrated) Link: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/129974360