Australian Football Celebrating the history of the great Australian game


Key Facts

Full name
John Birt

Known as
Johnny Birt

29 January 1937 (age 87)

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 20y 81d
Last game: 30y 209d

Height and weight
Height: 174 cm
Weight: 69 kg

Senior clubs
Essendon; West Torrens

Jumper numbers
Essendon: 11

Johnny Birt

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
West TorrensSANFL1968-197057911.60

Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only

AFL: 6,743rd player to appear, 723rd most games played, 192nd most goals kickedEssendon: 681st player to appear, 36th most games played, 16th most goals kicked

Not only was he supremely skilful and reliable as a player but he also possessed the tactical authority of a coach. All teams had difficulty short-circuiting his breakaways which were charged with danger because they preceded well- controlled passes to team mates. Birt is a constructive rover whose game is based on dash and accurate delivery.¹

Originally from Ballarat, jockey-sized (174 cm, 69 kg) rover Johnny Birt began his VFL career with Essendon in 1957, and was one of the Bombers's best in a losing Grand Final against Melbourne in his debut year. Quick, hyperactive and intelligent, he rapidly became acknowledged as one of the finest small men in the game. 

He made the first of his 11 interstate appearances for the VFL in 1960, and won the first of three Essendon best and fairest awards the following year. He was also dangerous around goal, and topped the Bomber goal kicking list in 1958 with 31 goals.

While with Essendon, Birt played in a total of four Grand Finals, and was high among his side's best players in all of them. The first two, both against Melbourne, were lost, but in 1962 and 1965 Birt enjoyed premiership success against Carlton and St Kilda respectively.

From 1968 to 1970 Johnny Birt coached West Torrens but the side achieved only modest success. As a player, however, Birt's prodigious talent remained in evidence as he won successive club champion awards in 1968-9 and became an automatic interstate selection for South Australia.

Following his retirement as a player at the end of the 1970 season he returned home to Essendon as coach but after one disastrous year in charge he was replaced by Des Tuddenham. Between 1972 and 1976 Birt was assistant coach at Footscray, following which he served as skills coach at Hawthorn (1977 to 1980) and Carlton (1981). Thereafter, he maintained his involvement in football through a variety of administrative roles.

Author - John Devaney


1. South Australian Football Record Yearbook 1969, page 83.


Full Points Footy's SA Football Companion, Crème de la Crème


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