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John Bryton Diggins
26 December 1906
Place of birth
Victoria Park, WA (6100)
14 July 1971 (aged 64)
Place of death
Mount Eliza, VIC (3930)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 25y 175d
Last game: 33y 144d
Height and weight
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 92 kg
Subiaco; South Melbourne; Carlton
South Melbourne: 17
Subiaco (1932); South Melbourne (1938)
State of origin
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only
AFL: 3,944th player to appear, 2,482nd most games played, 3,099th most goals kickedSouth Melbourne: 468th player to appear, 241st most games played, 313th most goals kickedCarlton: 540th player to appear, 446th most games played, 516th most goals kicked
Debuting with Subiaco in 1927, Brighton Diggins immediately captured attention with his robust, energetic and dashing play. Midway through the year he was selected in a West Australian 'second string' combination to take on Collingwood at Subiaco Oval, with "The WA Footballer" reporting that "playing on the half back line he was brilliancy personified in every department of the game"¹ as he helped his side to a crushing win.
Diggins made his debut for Western Australia's first choice side in 1928 against Canberra, and went on to play a total of 8 interstate matches. His approach to the game was felt to be more typically Victorian than West Australian, and his emphasis on vigour and physicality certainly helped his club to emerge from a sustained period of under-achievement to mount a long overdue legitimate assault on the flag. In 1931, the Maroons reached the Grand Final, only to lose by 18 points to East Fremantle, and the following year, after 87 WANFL games, Brighton Diggins joined his former coach Johnny Leonard as a member of the rapidly expanding 'foreign legion' at South Melbourne.
The 1932 season was not a good one for Diggins: forced to stand out of football until round seven while he awaited ratification of his clearance, he managed only a handful of games before a fractured leg undermined what had, until then, been solid progress. The following year, however, he was strongly instrumental in South Melbourne's march to a first flag in fifteen years. On Grand Final day, he was at centre half forward, rather than his more usual position of ruckman, and was close to best afield as South led from start to finish in securing a comfortable 42-point win over Richmond.
At the end of the 1936 season, after 65 games for South, Diggins sought a clearance to Carlton, where he was wanted as captain-coach, but he was forced to stand out of football for twelve months before getting his way. As far the Blues were concerned, it was to be well worth the wait, as the tough, honest and resolute Diggins proved to be exactly the kind of leader they needed. Having failed to contest the finals the previous year, Carlton won all bar 4 matches in 1938 to top the ladder before trouncing Geelong in the second semi final, and scoring a tenacious and gripping victory over arch rivals Collingwood in the 'big one'. As was ever his wont, Brighton Diggins led from the front, putting in a stirring, four-quarter effort in the ruck which was a key factor in the win. In helping the club to break a twenty-three year premiership drought, Diggins became a Carlton hero overnight.
After another couple of seasons with the Blues, which brought his final overall tally of league games to 184, Diggins retired in order to join the armed forces. However, after just three months he was discharged on medical grounds when it was felt that his ankle, which he had injured in a match in 1934, would be unable to withstand the rigours of infantry training.
Author - John Devaney
1. "WA Footballer", 4/6/27, quoted in Diehards: 1896-1945 by Ken Spillman, page 109.