Australian Football Celebrating the history of the great Australian game


Key Facts

Full name
Leonard Bowe

Known as
Len Bowe


27 October 1885

22 May 1954 (aged 68)

Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 21y 189d
Last game: 34y 224d

Height and weight
Height: 175 cm
Weight: 76 kg

Senior clubs

Jumper numbers
Essendon: 3, 4

Recruited from
Maldon (1907)

Len Bowe

ClubLeagueCareer spanGamesGoalsAvgWin %AKIAHBAMKBV
EssendonV/AFL1907-1915, 1918-192018540.0254%0
Total1907-1915, 1918-192018540.0254%0

AFL: 1,264th player to appear, 798th most games played, 6,483rd most goals kickedEssendon: 157th player to appear, 41st most games played, 577th most goals kicked

Roy spoke glowingly of Len (‘Tiger’) Bowe, his team-mate, as being one of the greatest position players and defenders he had ever seen in action. “Len played beside me on the half-back line,” said Roy, “and in all the years he played there with me, never once did I meet Len’s opponent when I turned on to his wing. This was due to Len being a master in the art of shepherding - an art which these days seems to be a lost one.”¹

Arguably one of the finest defenders in the pre-World War I VFL, Len 'Tiger' Bowe was a consistent tower of strength for Essendon despite hardly ever training. He arrived at the Same Old in 1907, and was a key factor in the Dons' re-emergence as a league power after several seasons of under-achievement. When Essendon made the 1908 Grand Final, Bowe, playing in a back pocket, was his side's best player in a nine-point loss to Carlton. He later starred on a half back flank as the Dons recorded consecutive Grand Final wins over Collingwood in 1911 and South Melbourne the following year. The 1912 season saw him selected to represent the VFL in two interstate matches against South Australia.

Had it not been for Essendon's temporary disbandment for two years during the war, Len Bowe might well have been the club's first player to record 200 VFL games. It would have been a fitting reward for a player who always played his football with consummate fairness,and who could always be relied on to produce his best form when it mattered most, such as in finals. As it was, when Bowe was forced to retire owing to an illness known as athlete's heart in 1920 he had amassed a total of 185 senior games, and kicked four goals. One imagines his having been a strong candidate for inclusion in Essendon's official 'Team of the Twentieth Century'.

Author - John Devaney


1. Roy Laing interview in “Table Talk”, 13/7/33, page 28.


Full Points Footy Publications, Crème de la Crème


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