They're the best I have ever seen
Unflinching courage, versatility, quick thinking, and a sound knowledge of the game are the attributes that made League champions like Dick Reynolds and Bobby Rose. They knew how to use their weight fairly, they played with the sublime confidence that perfect condition and a sound technique engenders, and their work was an inspiration to team mates.
Giving this opinion, former chief League umpire, Jack McMurray junior, believes that postwar League football has not produced half the number of really great players such as those who delighted fans between the wars.
A clear indication of this can be seen in the fact that this year some clubs have re-included in their line-up former stars who have now reached the veteran stage.
In 16 years or umpiring I have seen probably 4,000 players in action, but in that period real champions and personalities have been fewer than in the thirties. As dominating and inspiring forces playing anywhere on the field, I have seen no equals to Bob Rose and Dick Reynolds.
Rose was a prototype of Reynolds, although Dick was the faster mover. Bob Rose knew no fear. He was a superb rover who rose to his greatest heights when the going was really tough. With a jerky run of short steps, Bob was adept at boring through a pack or getting himself out of a tight, corner. He used his weight intelligently and fairly. At wing half-forward he was as uncannily accurate as Reynolds in shooting for goal on the run.
What a towering job Bob Rose did for Collingwood in the Grand Final of 1953! Not since the heyday of Reynolds and Laurie Nash have I seen one player take such control. Rose became the very head and front of the Magpies. By his own magnificent work he inspired team mates of fair average quality to play above themselves.
I shall never forget Bob Rose that day, out on his feet in the later stages, but still making attacking openings, and later stimulating every Magpie to hang on against a stern late challenge by the Cats.
After Dick Reynolds, I would name Bill Hutchison as the most telling player I have seen with Essendon. We all know, of course, the ability of John Coleman as a position player at full forward. But someone had to get the ball up to Coleman. That is where the smooth, effortless roving of "Hutchy" against all manner of opponents became what I consider one of the mainsprings of the Dons' success. A scrupulously fair player, his work always has a masterly touch about it.
If I had the height, strength and rucking ability of Richmond's Roy Wright I wouldn't fear any opposing follower in the game. He can punch a ball as far as some players can kick it, and if he became a "killer" type in the packs he would strike awe into every other ruckman playing today.
I bracket with Wright another great Richmond ruckman of different type, tall, slimly-built Bill Morris. His passing and his faultless palming of the ball to his rovers were simply terrific; Bill was one of the fairest players who ever took the field. I hardly ever saw him bump any opponent, but his ruck work had a touch of genius.
To my mind Footscray's best player is vice-captain and back pocket defender Wally Donald. He doesn't often hit the headlines but he is one of the Bulldogs' greatest assets. He never gives his opponent a yard. He never wanders from position. And he never sidesteps the heavy stuff.
South Melbourne's Ron Clegg, at his top, is a superb footballer. Everything he does has a touch of class about it. He is a spectacular mark, the kind the crowds' love. He is a lithe, fast mover, and a great position player. And his long, skimming kicks that are seldom wasted are a delight.
Fitzroy skipper, Bill Stephen, a tallish back pocket player, has always impressed me. He is level- headed, a graceful mover, and re- liable mark. He clears the ball from the back pocket with fine de- termination and an effortless style.
My number one centre half back is Carlton's former champion Bert Deacon, a great footballer and a gentleman. Deacon covered a lot of ground, was a beautiful mark, and kicked splendidly. He was always looking for a team mate in front of him, and was one of those inspiring players who are rare today.
I always felt Carlton defender Arthur Sanger would have become a League champion had he not broken his arm at Victoria Park in 1947. Sanger was a rugged back man who would go straight through using his hips and shoulders fairly. He knew no fear and was adept at protecting his full back. His football career ended too soon.
I rank Geelong skipper Bob Davis as a League champion. His football is electric. Although he takes short steps, he is the fastest 14-stoner in the game today. I have often marvelled on how Davis works up such blistering pace so suddenly, and I have always admired his ball handling when racing in from the flank at full throttle. I rate him as the greatest driving force in Geelong's team and every opposing defender finds the dynamic Bob very hard to stop.
Fred Flanagan, Geelong and, State centre half-forward, was a top-liner whose polished football was a sheer delight to watch. Fred was a debonair player, lithe and graceful in all his movements, a lovely mark, and fine skimming drop kick. He gave great punch to the Cats' attack and none played the game cleaner.
Les Foote, at his top, was the best North Melbourne player I can recall. A great ball handler, Foote was audacious and clever. By his own efforts he could swing a game in a few minutes. He was an inspiring force like Reynolds and Rose, but a little unorthodox in his methods. He was apt to drift from position and try to do too much.
My St. Kilda choice is full back Bruce Phillips, who always shadows his opposing forward, is always on the move, and always in position to meet a flank thrust. Phillips is a reliable mark and a fine driving kick. Technically his game in goals I consider the equal of any full back in the League.
Don Cordner, 1946 Brownlow Medallist, is the best player I can recall in the Melbourne colors. A ruckman of rare skill who co-operated perfectly with his rover, Don was a driving force with the Demons.
Best Hawthorn player I've seen was that personification of rugged tenacity, back pocket defender Colin Austen. He played a terrier-like game, never giving up and conceding no quarter to his opponent. Game as they come, Austen would thrash his way through a bunch of heavyweights and seldom lost his kick. He, too, was one of those players capable of inspiring his side.
Title: They're the best I have ever seen Publisher: The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria: 1848 - 1957) Author: Jack McMurray (as told to Hugh Buggy) Date: Saturday, 5 May 1956, p. 38 (Article) Web: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71801131