Australian Football

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Key Facts

Full name
George Denis Pruen Cordner

Known as
Denis Cordner

Born
28 June 1924

Place of birth
Diamond Creek, VIC (3089)

Died
17 October 1990 (aged 66)

Place of death
Kew East, VIC (3102)

Occupation
Industrial chemist (ICI), Company director, Diplomat

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 18y 342d
Last game: 32y 79d

Height and weight
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 91 kg

Senior clubs
Melbourne

Jumper numbers
Melbourne: 17, 1

Recruited from
Melbourne (1946); University Blacks (1948)

State of origin
VIC

Family links
Ted Cordner Snr (Father)Don Cordner (Brother)John Cordner (Brother)Ted Cordner Jnr (Brother)Harry Cordner (Uncle)David Cordner (Nephew)Larry Cordner (Cousin)Harriet Cordner (Great niece)

Denis Cordner

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
MelbourneV/AFL1943, 1948-1956152820.5456%16.205.6093
University BlacksVAFA1946-1948
Total1943, 1946-1956152820.54

Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only

AFL: 5,196th player to appear, 1,237th most games played, 1,304th most goals kickedMelbourne: 618th player to appear, 58th most games played, 97th most goals kicked

At a time when football was rapidly becoming more business-like and overtly professional in its outlook, Denis Cordner played out his entire VFL career as an amateur. Despite the fact that his older brothers, Ted and Don, were both playing for Melbourne, Denis had no real aspirations toward league football, but when he came home to Melbourne on three weeks' leave from the navy in 1943 he was persuaded to try out with the Redlegs' reserves. After a couple of creditable displays, he won selection in the senior team to play Richmond. On what was the final weekend of his leave of absence he put in another highly serviceable display, despite being pole-axed moments after the opening bounce by a Jack Dyer anxious to ensure that the youngster went away with a full appreciation of the verities of league football.

Despite impressing Melbourne officials with his fortitude and commitment it was to be another five years before Cordner again represented the club. When he returned from war service in 1946 he embarked on a three-year university course during which time he played football in the Victorian Amateur Football Association for University Blacks. With Cordner starring in the ruck, the Blacks won successive A Section flags in 1946, 1947, and 1948. Then, a week after the last of these premierships, Denis Cordner's Melbourne career was unexpectedly resurrected in the most dramatic fashion. 

The Redlegs had won through to the Grand Final, but were faced with a dilemma after centre half back Alan McGowan was suspended for the big match. Perhaps recalling the prowess he had displayed five years earlier, or maybe at the instigation of his elder brother Don, who was now skippering Melbourne, the Redlegs hierarchy handed the centre half back position to young Denis, who far from letting anyone down proved to be one of the best players afield as Melbourne and Essendon fought out a gripping draw. He again played well the following week as the Redlegs clinched an emphatic win, so that after just three VFL games he had achieved something that eludes many players for their entire careers, a VFL premiership. (Brother Don, however, had managed the feat even more quickly seven seasons earlier.)

In 1949, Denis Cordner was back at Melbourne, this time as a permanent member of the side, and his form was so good that he earned selection in the VFL interstate team. Revered by his team mates for his passionate, never say die approach, Cordner belied his 193cm, 89kg stature by putting in many of his best performances in wet weather. Indeed, many observers who saw him play still rate him as the best wet weather ruckman of all time.

Melbourne struggled during the early 1950s, but when they emerged from the doldrums with a 28-point Grand Final win over Collingwood in 1955 Denis Cordner, who led the ruck, was a widespread choice as best afield. The following year he was again prominent as the Demons once more beat Collingwood on grand final day. Now aged thirty-two, however, he decided it was time to bring the curtain down on a 152-game VFL career which had spawned two Melbourne best and fairest awards, numerous accolades and plaudits, regular interstate representation, but not a single penny of hard cash. 

This combination of supreme talent, and a devotion to the game completely divorced from financial considerations, makes Denis Cordner one of the archetypal heroes of the Melbourne Football Club, status that was emphasised in 2000 with his inclusion in the Demons' official 'Team of the Century'.

Author - John Devaney

Sources

Full Points Footy Publications

Footnotes

* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.