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Billy Libbis

Billy Libbis

1925-1933
14
Other Guernsey Nos.
13, 15, 16, 17, 19

138 CFC Games Played

150 CFC Goals

Date of Birth
2 July 1903
Date of Death
15 August 1986
Recruited From
Fairfield
Collingwood Debut
Round 1, 1925
Height:
175cm
Weight:
80kg

Biography

Asked to name Collingwood’s number one rover in its salad days of the late 1920s, many supporters would nominate Harry Collier. Collier is acknowledged as one of the club’s greatest-ever rovers. He won two Copeland Trophies and (jointly) the 1930 Brownlow Medal. But so strong was the team in those days that Harry could not win selection as first rover in any of the four-in-a-row Premiership teams.

Instead, the honour fell year by year to the quietly spoken Billy Libbis. That achievement in itself speaks volumes for Libbis’ ability. It is even more remarkable when you consider that Libbis was not really interested in football until just a few years before the first of those four Premierships.

Libbis was born in Port Melbourne, but moved to Bacchus Marsh with his parents (his father was a fruit boiler) while still a lad. While at state school there he played the occasional game of football, but appeared to have inherited none of his father’s love for the game. He liked the quiet, laid-back life of Bacchus Marsh, and his greatest sporting interest was in fooling about in some of the swimming holes near his home.

In the early twenties he returned to Melbourne, this time settling in Fairfield. Missing Bacchus Marsh, he decided to fill in some of his time by having a run with the local Fairfield footy team. He played there in 1923 and 1924 as a rover/ forward, and found himself belatedly adopting his father’s passion for the game. Collingwood’s redoubtable defender Ernie Wilson met Libbis while the latter was playing at Fairfield and, impressed with what he saw, suggested he try his luck at Victoria Park. Libbis thought the leap would be too great for him, but felt he had nothing to lose by giving it a go.

When Jock McHale first saw Libbis, he knew there was some work to be done. His pace, tenacity and spirit were not in question, but McHale knew he needed more to survive at League level. He set Libbis on a stringent training program to improve his stamina, and spent hours with him trying to develop his evasive skills such as blind turns and baulks. To his credit, the Fairfield player threw everything he had into training, and his development was astonishing — so much so that he was chosen for the second game of the 1925 season against Melbourne.

Libbis, or “Pickles” as he was known, had a solid first season, playing mainly as a forward and a change rover. Reliable judges were impressed with his ball-handling skills, and his marking and kicking were good, especially his short passing. His improvement continued throughout 1926, when he did not miss a match and won selection as first rover in the grand final side that went down to Melbourne (a game in which he won a box of chocolates for kicking the last goal of the match). He also gained selection in the Victorian team that went to New South Wales.

By 1927, no doubts remained over Libbis’ footballing ability. He had a splendid season. Critics rated him among “the front rank of rovers” and spoke glowingly of his dazzling displays, comparing him favourably with some of the greats of the past including South Melbourne’s Mark Tandy and Geelong’s Alec Eason. He was fast, game and clever, and his skills improved steadily. His delivery of the ball to the forwards was superb, especially with the stab kick of which he was an acknowledged master.

The hard work he had put into developing his evasive techniques was also clearly evident. Some years later, Gordon Coventry was moved to comment that Libbis’ whole game was one of “dash and dazzle”. “At full speed he could turn in the air when grabbed and get away without losing his stride,” said Coventry. “Many practised that stunt but Bill stood out alone.”

Coventry was one of Libbis’ many admirers, branding him “the most dashing rover I ever saw in the League”. Prior to the 1929 season, “Jumbo” Sharland in The Sporting Globe said Libbis was probably the best rover in Victoria. Given the number of top rovers around at the time (including the one in the forward pocket of his own team), those are significant statements.

At 173cm (5ft Sin) and 70.5kg (list 21b) he was not particularly robust, but his play was strong and determined. He was also a handy goal- sneak while resting from his roving duties, regularly snaring 20 or more goals a season. Indeed one football critic said he had rarely seen a player with Libbis’ ability to collect the ball and get in a shot for goal so quickly.

Through five successive grand finals (1926-30), Libbis held down the first roving position with Harry Collier in the forward pocket. With Syd Coventry and another follower (initially Percy Rowe and later Len Murphy), Libbis formed a formidable first ruck combination that controlled and won many games. During this five-year period Libbis missed only two matches. But he registered only a handful in 1931. First he was rubbed out for eight weeks for striking Hawthorn’s Ted Pool, then contracted appendicitis only a few games after his return and missed the rest of the year.

Billy Libbis was a player who preferred to let his football do the talking. Off the field he was renowned as one of the quiet men in a team full of characters. He was well liked, and possessed an endearing dry sense of humour. He had a very dark complexion that would usually see him return from the summer break “looking like a native”, according to one former teammate. He was also the target of much ribbing from colleagues for the short knickers he wore, though Gordon Coventry once wrote that the shorts were probably justified because Libbis “had legs worth showing”!

There was, however, at least one occasion when Libbis’ silent nature deserted him — and it may have helped to cut short his career at Collingwood. When the club moved to cut players’ wages in 1933 by ten shillings, Libbis’ voice was raised in dissent. He played only the second game of the season and was cleared to Melbourne just days after refusing to accept the pay cut. He played the rest of 1933 and two further seasons at Melbourne, still being good enough to gain interstate selection in the 1933 carnival team. After Melbourne it was off to Northcote, where he also gave useful service.

There is little doubt, though, that it was the Collingwood fans who got to see the best of Billy Libbis – and the best of Libbis was well worth seeing. As champion Harry Collier once said: “Somehow I finished up with the name but Billy Libbis … well, he was the player.”

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Statistics

CFC Career Stats

Season played Games Goals Finals Win %
1925-1933 138 150 14 81%

CFC Season by Season Stats

Season GP GL B K H T D Guernsey No.
1925 14 10 0 16

1925 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 2 Melbourne W 2 0 16 View match >
Round 3 Hawthorn W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 4 Geelong L 1 0 16 View match >
Round 5 Fitzroy W 0 16 View match >
Round 6 Sydney W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda L 0 16 View match >
Round 8 Carlton W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 9 Richmond W 0 16 View match >
Round 10 Western Bulldogs W 2 0 16 View match >
Round 11 North Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 12 Essendon W 0 16 View match >
Round 13 Melbourne W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 16 Fitzroy L 1 0 16 View match >
Round 17 Sydney W 0 16 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1926 20 28 0 14

1926 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Fitzroy W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 2 Essendon L 1 0 14 View match >
Round 3 Hawthorn W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 4 Melbourne W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 5 Geelong W 0 14 View match >
Round 6 Sydney W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 8 Western Bulldogs W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 9 Carlton L 0 14 View match >
Round 10 North Melbourne W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 11 Richmond W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 12 Fitzroy W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 13 Essendon W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 14 Hawthorn W 0 14 View match >
Round 15 Melbourne W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 16 Geelong L 1 0 14 View match >
Round 17 Sydney W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 18 Carlton W 2 0 14 View match >
Semi Final Melbourne L 2 0 14 View match >
Grand Final Melbourne L 1 0 14 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1927 20 15 0 0 14

1927 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Geelong W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 2 Hawthorn W 0 14 View match >
Round 3 Richmond L 0 14 View match >
Round 4 Sydney W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 5 Fitzroy W 2 0 0 14 View match >
Round 6 Essendon W 0 14 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda W 0 14 View match >
Round 8 Western Bulldogs W 0 14 View match >
Round 9 Carlton L 0 14 View match >
Round 10 North Melbourne W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 11 Melbourne W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 12 Geelong W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 13 Hawthorn W 0 14 View match >
Round 14 Richmond W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 15 Sydney W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 16 Fitzroy L 1 0 14 View match >
Round 17 Essendon W 0 14 View match >
Round 18 North Melbourne W 0 14 View match >
Semi Final Geelong W 1 0 14 View match >
Grand Final Richmond W 0 14 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1928 21 28 0 13

1928 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Geelong W 0 13 View match >
Round 2 Fitzroy W 3 0 13 View match >
Round 3 Richmond L 1 0 13 View match >
Round 4 Hawthorn W 0 13 View match >
Round 5 St Kilda W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 6 North Melbourne W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 7 Carlton W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 8 Sydney W 2 0 13 View match >
Round 9 Melbourne W 4 0 13 View match >
Round 10 Western Bulldogs W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 12 Geelong L 0 13 View match >
Round 13 Fitzroy W 4 0 13 View match >
Round 14 Richmond W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 15 Hawthorn W 3 0 13 View match >
Round 16 St Kilda W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 17 North Melbourne W 0 13 View match >
Round 18 Carlton L 0 13 View match >
Semi Final Melbourne D 1 0 13 View match >
Semi Final Melbourne W 3 0 13 View match >
Grand Final Richmond W 0 13 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1929 19 24 0 0 17

1929 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Richmond W 0 17 View match >
Round 2 Hawthorn W 4 0 17 View match >
Round 3 Sydney W 3 0 0 17 View match >
Round 4 Geelong W 1 0 17 View match >
Round 5 Fitzroy W 3 0 17 View match >
Round 6 North Melbourne W 1 0 17 View match >
Round 7 Melbourne W 1 0 17 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda W 0 17 View match >
Round 9 Western Bulldogs W 1 0 17 View match >
Round 10 Carlton W 1 0 17 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 0 17 View match >
Round 12 Richmond W 0 17 View match >
Round 13 Hawthorn W 0 0 0 17 View match >
Round 15 Geelong W 0 17 View match >
Round 16 Fitzroy W 0 17 View match >
Round 17 North Melbourne W 3 0 17 View match >
Round 18 Melbourne W 2 0 17 View match >
Semi Final Richmond L 3 0 17 View match >
Grand Final Richmond W 1 0 17 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1930 20 23 0 0 19

1930 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Richmond W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 2 Hawthorn W 0 19 View match >
Round 3 Sydney W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 4 Geelong L 0 19 View match >
Round 5 Fitzroy L 0 19 View match >
Round 6 North Melbourne W 2 0 19 View match >
Round 7 Melbourne W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda W 0 19 View match >
Round 9 Western Bulldogs W 0 19 View match >
Round 10 Carlton L 3 0 19 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 12 Fitzroy W 3 0 0 19 View match >
Round 14 Melbourne W 0 19 View match >
Round 15 St Kilda W 3 0 19 View match >
Round 16 Western Bulldogs W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 17 Carlton W 0 19 View match >
Round 18 Essendon W 3 0 19 View match >
Semi Final Richmond W 4 0 19 View match >
Preliminary Final Geelong L 0 19 View match >
Grand Final Geelong W 0 19 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1931 5 3 0 19

1931 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Geelong W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 2 Hawthorn W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 11 Fitzroy W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 12 Geelong L 0 19 View match >
Round 13 Hawthorn W 0 19 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1932 18 17 0 0 13

1932 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 3 Essendon W 0 0 0 13 View match >
Round 4 Fitzroy W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 5 Carlton L 3 0 13 View match >
Round 6 Western Bulldogs W 0 13 View match >
Round 7 Melbourne W 1 0 13 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda W 2 0 13 View match >
Round 9 North Melbourne W 0 0 0 13 View match >
Round 10 Richmond W 0 13 View match >
Round 11 Sydney W 0 13 View match >
Round 12 Hawthorn W 0 13 View match >
Round 13 Geelong L 1 0 13 View match >
Round 14 Essendon W 0 13 View match >
Round 15 Fitzroy W 2 0 13 View match >
Round 16 Carlton L 0 13 View match >
Round 17 Western Bulldogs W 2 0 13 View match >
Round 18 Melbourne W 2 0 13 View match >
Semi Final Sydney W 2 0 13 View match >
Preliminary Final Carlton L 1 0 13 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1933 1 2 0 22

1933 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 2 Fitzroy L 2 0 22 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
Totals 138 150 0
Avg/Game   1.09 0.00
Legend
  • GPGames Played
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • TTackles
  • DDisposals

Key Facts

CFC Debut Number

295

Total AFL Games
177
Total AFL Goals
175
CFC Debut
Round 1, 1925
CFC Last Game
Round 2, 1933
Recruited From
Fairfield
Full Name
Billy Libbis
Nickname
Pickles

Awards

  • Life Members
    2003
  • CFC Hall of Fame
    2013
  • x6
    Premiership
    1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1935, 1936
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