Australian Football

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Key Facts

Full name
Gordon Lane

Known as
Gordon Lane

Nickname
Whopper

Born
30 May 1921

Died
21 July 1973 (aged 52)

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 19y 44d
Last game: 31y 92d

Height and weight
Height: 187 cm
Weight: 91 kg

Senior clubs
Essendon; South Melbourne

Jumper numbers
Essendon: 22
South Melbourne: 1

Recruited from
Essendon (1950)

Gordon Lane

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
EssendonV/AFL1940-19491312561.9573%2.001.004
South MelbourneV/AFL1950-195247942.0047%8
V/AFL1940-19521783501.9766%2.001.0012
Total1940-19521783501.9766%2.001.0012

Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only

AFL: 4,844th player to appear, 878th most games played, 138th most goals kickedEssendon: 551st player to appear, 109th most games played, 19th most goals kickedSouth Melbourne: 699th player to appear, 355th most games played, 77th most goals kicked

Gordon 'Whopper' Lane was one of those footballers about whom opinion was divided. In the view of some, he was among the finest key position forwards in the VFL for at least some of his 178-game, 350-goal senior career with two different clubs which ran from 1940 until 1952. Among the evidence in support of this opinion was his knack of producing his best form when it mattered most, such as in Essendon's winning Grand Finals of 1942, when he booted six goals, and 1946 (reviewed here) when he went one better. Besides being a superb overhead mark, Lane was also a dynamic and damaging player at ground level, capable during his peak years of snapping goals with either foot from distances of up to 50 metres.

The converse viewpoint regarding Lane was that he lacked sufficient consistency to be regarded as an out and out champion, and it is certainly true that he was prone to 'disappear' from matches on occasion. Perhaps that is one reason that he was never selected to play interstate football. Questions were also asked from time to time about his physical toughness, although one of the toughest league footballers of all time had an answer to that one. Interviewed late in a 1946 season that would bring Essendon one of the club's most memorable premierships, with Lane playing a prominent role, Richmond legend Jack Dyer pulled no punches when he declared, "'Whopper' Lane is the one (opposition) player I would want at Richmond, first because he's the best centre half forward in the game, and next, because he has all the qualities I demand of a league top-liner. Two seasons ago, Lane did not count. You brushed him out of the way and left him there. But in the last two seasons he has developed 70 per cent. He has built up physically. Try to push him aside today - he'll come back full of fire and bite, and he'll be willing to go on with the business. He's a brilliant mark and a 'Dead-eye Dick' with either foot".

Adding weight to Dyer's assessment, if the pun can be allowed, Lane was a gangly, 79 kg, 187 cm youth when he made his Essendon debut in 1940, but by the time of the 1946 Grand Final he had put on more than a stone, and while this did not make him a 'man mountain', it demonstrably did make him harder to fend off or impede.

Lane ran second in the Dons' best and fairest voting in 1946, but soon afterwards things began to go awry. Broken ribs sustained in the 1947 Preliminary Final defeat of Fitzroy forced him out of the Bombers' team for the Grand Final clash with Carlton, a match which Essendon lost by a point, despite amassing 30 scoring shots to 21. Had Lane been fit to play, who knows what impact he would have had, but judging by his form prior to being injured in the Fitzroy match he might realistically have been expected to sway the balance in Essendon's favour. As it was, Lane recovered from his rib injury, only to hurt his knee badly in the following season's round three clash with South Melbourne. Bomber fans would never again be treated to the best of 'Whopper' Lane, and in 1950, after 131 games in a black and red jumper, he crossed to South Melbourne as captain-coach.

Lane's three seasons with South saw him rediscover elements of his best form as he topped the club's goal kicking list twice, while as a coach he preformed creditably, overseeing steady improvement in a side that went from one position off the bottom of the ladder in his first season, to narrowly missing the finals in his last.

Author - John Devaney

Sources

Full Points Footy Publications

Footnotes

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