21 September 1950 (age 71)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 18y 217d
Last game: 26y 354d
Height and weight
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 86 kg
South Melbourne (1975)
Mark Pitura (Son)
|Club||League||Career span||Games||Goals||Avg||Win %||AKI||AHB||AMK||BV|
AFL: 8,139th player to appear, 1,457th most games played, 1,112th most goals kickedSouth Melbourne: 960th player to appear, 143rd most games played, 103rd most goals kickedRichmond: 770th player to appear, 356th most games played, 264th most goals kicked
John Pitura is probably best remembered for a protracted clearance wrangle which, in 1975, saw him crossing from South Melbourne to Richmond in exchange for Brian Roberts, Graham Teasdale and Francis Jackson. However, he deserves to be remembered at least as much for his skills as a footballer which, particularly prior to the transfer, were - perhaps surprisingly in view of his background - considerable.
That background saw the Wagga-born Pitura devote most of his formative years to rugby league. "My superstar heroes were all rugby league players from Sydney when I was a kid," he recalled years later. "I used to be always able to kick the ball a mile and a couple of my mates turned around and said to me, you're mad. They said, you're playing the wrong game, why don't you come and play Australian Rules, which I regarded as a sissy's game.
"I started to play Australian football and my mates gradually got me to play another game, then another game and soon I found that I liked it. My parents didn't like rugby league very much.
"My father was Polish and he was a mad soccer fan. They preferred me to play Australian Rules."¹
Spotted by South Melbourne coach Norm Smith while playing for Wagga in an inter-league match, Pitura was enticed to the Lake Oval as a 16-year-old and, after overcoming home sickness and various other problems, quickly began to make his mark. One of those rare individuals who possess the natural skills necessary to succeed at virtually any ball game, Pitura was a polished left footer who became equally at home in the centre or across half forward. He earned a Big V jumper in 1973 and played 99 games for South over six seasons. His relations with the club hierarchy were never entirely comfortable, however, and after the 1973 season he threatened to quit, saying he was tired of the committee reneging on its promises.
After prolonged and often highly tense negotiations (he was even offered to Glenelg in a swap for Graham Cornes at one stage) Pitura returned to the team in July 1974, apparently on the condition that he be traded to Richmond at the end of the season. However, once again the South committee proved reluctant to fulfill its promise, and Pitura threatened to challenge the clearance rules in court. In the end, the clearance went through, albeit with much ill-feeling on all sides, with perhaps the most damaged party being Pitura himself, who never again displayed his best form.
After two and a half seasons and 40 games with the Tigers John Pitura returned to his home state of New South Wales as captain-coach of NSWAFL club North Shore which he immediately steered to a first premiership for 26 years. He later played for Kedron (finishing second in the voting for the 1981 Grogan Medal) and Coorparoo in the QAFL.
In 2002 John Pitura was named as coach of the official North Shore 'Team of the Century'.
Author - John Devaney