Australian Football Celebrating the history of the great Australian game


Key Facts

Full name
Joseph Francis McShane

Known as
Joe McShane


29 November 1868

Place of birth
Geelong, VIC (3220)

26 July 1950 (aged 81)

Place of death
Kew, VIC (3101)

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 28y 160d
Last game: 35y 293d

Senior clubs
Geelong; Carlton

Recruited from
Geelong (1902)

State of origin

Family links
Harry McShane (Brother)Jim McShane (Brother)Phil McShane (Brother)Jack McShane (Brother)Tommy McShane (Brother)

Joe McShane

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV

AFL: 94th player to appear, 1,790th most games played, 2,096th most goals kickedGeelong: 12th player to appear, 222nd most games played, 222nd most goals kickedCarlton: 122nd player to appear, 339th most games played, 328th most goals kicked

For a very brief time, McShane was the equal most common name in the VFL, along with Dunne, Collins and Stewart. Three of each appeared in the inaugural VFL season, with just one Smith, Archie, gracing the footy field. The brief dominance of the McShane came courtesy of brothers Joe, Jim and Henry, all of whom were part of the very first Geelong team to play a match in the newly-formed VFL in 1897. Had the VFL broken away from the VFA a decade earlier, the McShanes may have held the record for far longer, as three older brothers — Tommy, Jack and Phil — were all prominent Association players at that time.

The most prolific of the six, in terms of games played, was Joe. Though he is listed as having played 123 VFL games — 75 for Geelong and 48 for Carlton, Joe McShane's record (along with several other players of his era) suffers from the fact that his career straddled the pre- and post-VFL breakaway eras. In ten VFA seasons from 1887 to 1906, McShane also played 135 VFA matches, during a time when Association football was the top echelon of competitions.

Joe McShane's full record reveals that he played a total of 258 games at the highest level, an impressive figure even now 120 years later, but a phenomenal one at the time.

McShane's first three seasons were solid if not spectacular, but he really hit his straps in 1890, a year in which he appeared to have been headed for South Melbourne. In the lead up to the season. McShane was reported to be joining South Melbourne. Indeed, even on the eve and morning of the first matches of the premiership season, The HeraldThe Argus² and The Australasian³ were trumpeting the arrival of McShane at Albert Park.

For reasons unclear, the move did not eventuate³ᵇ and McShane, rather than playing for South Melbourne against Richmond in the opening, was back 'home' at Corio Oval playing for the Pivotonians against Fitzroy. He was listed as one of Geelong's best in that match,⁴ as he was in almost every other match in 1890, often as best on ground. His stellar season was acknowledged by The Argus, which named him as the competition's third-best player of the year behind Jack Worrall and Harry Purdy in 1890.⁵

The following year McShane received further recognition when he was one of 23 selected to represent Victoria in inter-colonial matches played in Adelaide.⁶ Geelong finished fifth on the VFA table, winning 12 of 19 matches and arresting a steady decline the club had endured since winning the 1886 premiership. Another solid season from McShane was acknowledged by 'Markwell' in his end-of-season review for the Australasian.⁷

Named as vice-captain to Dick Houston,⁸ McShane's formed dipped in 1892 but he was back to his consistent best in 1893 and 1894. Elevated to the captaincy in 1895,⁹ McShane took on the leadership role with relish. He played in a variety of positions, wing, centre, follower, even occasionally in defence, and his form was as good as ever, although he perhaps took his aggression too far on occasion, an indiscretion against Essendon resulting in a two-game suspension (later reduced to a reprimand).¹⁰

Under his leadership, Geelong won more games than any other side in 1895, but Fitzroy pipped the Pivotonians for the premiership by virtue of playing in five draws.¹¹ McShane missed the first two months of the 1896 season through illness and injury, but he was back amongst his side's best players in only his second game back in July. His excellent late-season form earned him another mention in Markwell's annual end-of-year missive.¹²

McShane was 28 years of age when Geelong was one of eight clubs to break away from the VFA in 1897 to form the Victorian Football League, but he continued to give the Pivotonians great service, playing for five more seasons in the blue and white hoops. He was part of the Geelong teams that set a VFL record score three times (once in 1897 and twice in 1899). The Pivotonians headed the ladder at the end of 1897, but missed out on the premiership as the result of a narrow loss to eventual premiers Essendon in the round robin finals series. McShane was still at his peak, however, winning the club's best and fairest award.

Over five VFL seasons with the Pivotonians, McShane, rather than slowing down with age, appeared to only get better, a fact summed up by Follower and Jack Trait, one of the best umpires of the era, in the Melbourne Leader in 1899:

The play of Joe M'Shane this season Is simply wonderful; After all these years; when he might lie expected to be showing signs of wear, he develops a fresh lease of youthful sprightliness. and, to give the words of no less an eminent authority than Jack Trait, "he is playing better than ever".¹³

In 1902 Joe McShane joined brother Harry at Carlton, a move that would have no doubt disappointed Geelong fans, but he left 'the Pivot' with the club's good wishes and an inscribed gold locket and chain, presented to him at a testimonial dinner, during which Geelong president J McMullen thanked him for 15 years of playing service and said that "no man had ever played harder than Joe McShane".¹⁴

Joe McShane assumed the captain's role in his first season with the Dark Blues, and continued to produce the form that had won him so many admirers at Corio Oval. Under his leadership and the coaching of Jack Worrall, Carlton (which had had a poor record in its first five VFL seasons) made a steady climb up the ladder. For Joe McShane and brother Harry, that rise culminated in a Grand Final against Fitzroy in 1904. The brothers shone out up forward in their final VFL games, but the Blues ultimately fell four goals short of the Maroons.

Joe McShane's magnificent career, spanning 18 seasons, thus came to a close without him winning football's ultimate prize, a premiership. Nonetheless, McShane would have felt proud in the years that followed, knowing that Carlton's hat-trick of flags in 1906-07-08 was the culmination of the fine groundwork he and Jack Worrall had laid in his final three playing seasons. McShane considered saddling up again in 1906 as a 37-year-old, but eventually decided against doing so, although he did pull on the boots for one final playing season for Ashby, a local team in Geelong West.

McShane's record, comprising 258 senior matches (135 Geelong VFA, 75 Geelong VFL and 48 Carlton VFL) still stands up more than a century after his retirement as one of the finest in the history of the game.

Author - Andrew Gigacz


1. The Herald (Melbourne, Vic), Friday 2 May 1890, page 4. Link:
2. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic), Saturday 3 May 1890, page 12. Link:
3. The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), Saturday 26 April 1890, page 18. Link:
3b. While the newspapers of the day provide no real explanation, one possibility is that McShane made a 'promise' to South Melbourne just to keep the Southerners at bay. This practice is alluded to in the column of 'Goalpost' in the April 30, 1890 edition of Sportsman: "The demand for good players is so great that the players have to promise each and all who solicit their services in order to get rid of them. It, therefore, frequently happens that three or four clubs pick the same player in their teams, while the player himself has no intention of favoring either of them, and goes off somewhere else.
4. Sportsman (Melbourne, Vic), Wednesday 7 May 1890, page 2. Link:
5. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Monday 29 September 1890, page 10. Link:
6. Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), Saturday 13 June 1891, page 17. Link:
7. Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), Saturday 3 October 1891, page 18. Link:
8. The Age (Melbourne, Vic), Monday 9 May 1892, page 6. Link:
9. Geelong Advertiser (Vic), Monday 6 May 1895, page 3. Link:
10. The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), Saturday 10 August 1895, page 18. Link:
11. Origins of Australian Football: Victoria's Early History, Volume 4, page 500
12. The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), Saturday 3 October 1896, page 17. Link:
13. Leader (Melbourne, Vic), Saturday 27 May 1899, page 17. Link:
14. Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), Monday 16 June 1902, page 3. Link:
15. Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), Friday 18 May 1906, page 4. Link:


The Herald, The Argus, The Australasian, Sportsman, The Age, Geelong Advertiser, The Melbourne Leader


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