Our Magpie ANZACs
Shortly before three of Collingwood’s best footballers of the day, Jim Jackson, ‘Doc’ Seddon and Paddy Rowan, set off for the battlefields of Europe in 1915, the Football Record left no doubt about the impact they thought our footballing soldiers would have.
“They are just the kind of men to make ideal fighters for the Empire,” the Record wrote. “They have played the game of ‘ball magnificently, and when they get going against the murdering Kaiser’s mob they will make their presence felt.”
Jackson and Seddon returned home after the war, and both once again pulled on the Collingwood jumper. But Rowan never made it back: he died in France late the next year, leaving behind a grieving widow and a young son he never got to see.
Jackson, Seddon and Rowan were just three of the Collingwood footballers who served in the First World War. In all, some 60 Magpies fought the good fight, including those who were in the middle of their careers at the time, those who had already left the club, and those who would not play with the Pies until later.
Of those 60, eight died, and others lost brothers. Players who lied about their age to sign up young, others who were so determined to serve their country they enlisted when they were on the wrong side of 40.
But there are also the stories of life at home – on and off the football field.
One player who lost his little daughter in a house fire, another who lost one brother in a mining collapse and another in a pool accident. Several players who lost their lives in freak accidental deaths back in Australia. Potentially outstanding football careers cut short.
There are also inspirational stories of courage, and of lives rebuilt after the unimaginable horrors of the First World War. Players who enjoyed long careers, or who served the game off the field. Others who succeeded in life outside of football. There are stories of heroics on the battlefields, with a number of the Magpie ANZACs awarded or recommended for distinguished service medals. And a select few who fronted up again for the Second World War.
As the Football Record noted in that 1915 article: “Aye, it is a great honour for any footballer … to be one of the team that is playing the game against our enemies just now.”
Collingwood players who served in the First World War (1914 – 1918)