Australian Football Celebrating the history of the great Australian game


Key Facts

Full name
Arthur Mueller Pearce

Known as
Joe Pearce

28 January 1885

Place of birth
Sandhurst, VIC (3977)

25 April 1915 (aged 30)

Place of death
Turkey (Gallipoli)

Clerk (AMP)

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 19y 107d
Last game: 28y 214d

Height and weight
Height: 184 cm
Weight: 80 kg

Senior clubs

Jumper numbers
Melbourne: 19

State of origin

Family links
Jack Mueller (Cousin)

Joe Pearce

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV

AFL: 941st player to appear, 1,238th most games played, 6,065th most goals kickedMelbourne: 127th player to appear, 58th most games played, 552nd most goals kicked

Arthur Mueller Pearce, or 'Joe' as he preferred to known, was an outstanding footballer over a ten-year 152-game career for the Melbourne Football Club. Indeed, it would not be overstating the case to say Pearce was the club's finest footballer in the two decades between the retirement of Fred McGinis in 1901 and the emergence of Bert Chadwick and Ivor Warne-Smith in the early 1920s.

Recruited from South Bendigo in 1904 he made his debut for Melbourne in the second round of that season and immediately impressed observers, being cited as one of his team's better players against reigning premiers Collingwood. Over the next few seasons Pearce established himself as the lynchpin of his team's defence, ultimately gaining selection for Victoria in the first interstate carnival held in 1908. From that time until his retirement in 1913, he had few compeers in the full back position, a fact confirmed years later by his trickiest adversary, Dick Lee of Collingwood, who nominated Pearce, alongside Vic Thorp of Richmond, as his toughest opponent.

Scrupulously fair and universally respected, Pearce played as a complete amateur, refusing even expenses related to his football endeavours, and this at a time when the best players were started to demand hefty renumeration. On the field, he played the game (to borrow a phrase from a famous club song) 'as it should be played'. Particularly noted for his great dashes out of the last line of defense, Pearce was a prodigious kick, a strong mark, and a superb reader of the play.¹  Although noted as a close checking defender, he was not averse to backing himself when the opportunity arose, attacking the football and setting up many offense pushes in the process.

On the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Pearce was among the first wave of enlistments, the seventh man in the Essendon area to do so. At a Melbourne FC send off in his honour, he stated "I have thought this thing over and I have considered it in every way. I am strong, healthy, and athletic and I think I ought to go, and if I don't come back, it won't much matter." As events transpired, Pearce did not come back. On the morning of 25 April, 1915, as the first wave of landing craft were approaching the shores of Gallipoli, Pearce was fatally shot before his boat even reached the beach.²

AIF Service Record

Service Number: 418
Rank: Corporal
Unit: 7th Australian Infantry Battalion
Service: Australian Army
Conflict / Operation: First World War, 1914-1918
Conflict eligibility date: First World War, 1914-1921
Date of death: 25 April 1915
Place of death: Gallipoli, Dardanelles, Turkey
Cause of death: Killed in action
Age at death: 30
Place of association: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
Cemetery or memorial details: No 2 Outpost Cemetery, Gallipoli Peninsula, Canakkale Province, Turkey
Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army³

Author - Adam Cardosi


1. Jim Main and David Allen, Fallen: The Ultimate Heroes, p.144
2. ibid., p145


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