Edward Goodrich Greeves
Edward 'Carji' Greeves
1 November 1903
15 April 1963 (aged 59)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 19y 234d
Last game: 29y 221d
Height and weight
Height: 175 cm
Weight: 76 kg
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Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only
Glorying in the memorably distinctive nickname 'Carji', Edward Goodrich Greeves was immortalised when, in 1924, he won the first ever Brownlow Medal awarded to the season's best and fairest player in the Victorian Football League.
The name 'Carji' was reputedly bestowed on Greeves by a friend of the family, Michael Scott, a golfer from New South Wales. When Scott visited the Greeves family shortly after the youngster's birth, he thought he could detect a resemblance between the infant, who was allegedly quite dark-skinned, and a famous local entertainer who went by the name of 'Carjilo, the Rajah of Bong'. The nickname 'Carji' stuck, perhaps in part because it provided a convenient way to distinguish between the boy and his father, himself a former Geelong footballer of note, who also went by the name of Edward.
A natural sportsman, Edward Greeves excelled at cricket, tennis and rowing, but most especially at football. Geelong wanted him to line up for them while he was still at school, but the school authorities refused to allow it. He had to wait until 1923 to make his debut, quickly developing into one of the most eye-catching centremen in the game.
The prime reason that Greeves was so eye-catching was his kicking style, which was said to be one of the most classically perfect ever seen. Schoolboys all over Geelong would practise for hours trying to emulate it. Moreover, in an era when genuinely two-sided footballers were the exception rather than the rule, Greeves could kick with either foot with almost equal facility and expertise.
In 1924, the twenty-year-old Greeves' career blossomed when he was selected to represent the VFL at the Hobart carnival and, of course, won the inaugural Brownlow. With his elegant style of play ensuring that he always caught the umpire's eye, Greeves also later ran second in the Medal on three occasions in an era when only the best player afield received votes.
In 1928, well over half a century before Darren Bennett and Ben Graham, Greeves spent nearly seven months in the USA, four of them as kicking coach for the University of Southern California's gridiron team, the Trojans (and not the University of South Carolina, as many sources wrongly suggest). Although he was not the first Australian footballer to have an impact on the American game - that honour resides with Pat O'Dea - he was the first such footballer to be deliberately 'head-hunted' by the Americans, and the first to travel to the USA for purposes specifically and exclusively to do with gridiron. While in California, Greeves was reportedly a great success, earning a gold medal for his services, and was indeed offered the opportunity to remain, but the 1929 VFL season saw him resuming his career with the Cats, for whom he went on to play a total of 124 games in eleven seasons, with premierships in 1925 and 1931 the highlights.
Other noteworthy features of Greeves' football career include the facts that he never wore proper football boots, preferring ordinary boots of very soft leather, and he played the entirety of his VFL career as an amateur.
Once his VFL career was over, Greeves maintained his involvement in football by coaching first Warracknabeal, and later Ararat. His importance in the history of the Geelong Football Club was highlighted in 2001 when he was included, as centreman, in the club's official 'Team of the Century'. The Cats' annual best and fairest award is currently named in his honour.
Author - John Devaney