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The complete history of the Mighty Magpies

Denis O'Callaghan

Denis O'Callaghan

1968-1973, 1975
29

129 CFC Games Played

3 CFC Goals

Date of Birth
7 February 1949
Recruited From
Tiega
Collingwood Debut
Round 3, 1968
Height:
178cm
Weight:
80kg

Biography

IT’S rare when the winner of Collingwood’s best first-year player doesn’t front up to the club for the start of the following season.

It’s even more unusual when that player cites farming – not football – as the reason for his absence.

But that’s precisely what happened with Collingwood’s reliable defender Denis O’Callaghan, who took out the recruit of the year honours in his 1968 debut season after playing 18 consecutive games.

Yet by the time the 1969 preseason began, O’Callaghan had returned home to the tiny outpost of Tiega, which the Herald called “a dot on the map which can’t even boast a local store.”

Situated near Ouyen in the Mallee, O’Callaghan’s family ran a 6000-acre sheep and wheat farm at Tiega, and he was needed to help out on the property.

His original pathway into the VFL had come when Tiega’s secretary recommended the teenager to Graeme Fellowes, whom he knew, saying “he wasn’t a bad sort of footballer.” Hardly a ringing endorsement, but O’Callaghan went down to Victoria Park for a few reserves games before returning to play a part in the local club’s 1967 premiership in the Mallee Football League.

That led to his breakthrough VFL season in 1968, which started on a forgettable day in Round 3, 1968 when the Magpies kicked 2.19 in an embarrassing loss to St Kilda and were briefly on the bottom. The rest of the season was a triumph for the youngster as he quickly established himself as a solid, reliable defender.

The Pies thought they’d found someone who would be part of their defence for the next decade. That just made his absence at the start of 1969 more noticeable. Well-known Herald photographer Bob Buchanan even travelled more than 450km north west to the O’Callaghan farm, where he took a picture of Denis sitting on the railings with a flock of sheep in the background.

The 20-year-old’s ties to Collingwood were clearly on show in the picture. He was nursing a dog called ‘Tuddy’, whom had been named after Des Tuddenham, O’Callaghan’s captain the previous year. In the accompanying article, it was said: “Farmwork is more important than football to promising Collingwood defender Denis O’Callaghan, who won the club’s best first-year player (in 1968). O’Callaghan works on his parents’ 6000-acre property near Ouyen where they run 1200 sheep and have 1200 acres of wheat. (He) will not be available to play (for the Magpies) until halfway through the season.”

But what the young footballer hadn’t revealed was that he was desperate to return as soon as he could arrange it, and the Magpies kept working on ways to get him back to Melbourne. By the middle of 1969, he had made a welcome return to Victoria Park. He played a few games in the latter part of ’69, but it wasn’t until 1970 that he really found his form again. Indeed he scarcely missed a beat during the Pies’ stellar 1970 campaign, playing all 24 games and amassing a career-high 357 disposals.

This was the year when O’Callaghan cemented his reputation as a solid, no-frills back pocket player. He was a remarkably safe mark, a solid kick and capable of playing tight on some of the game’s most dangerous forwards. In a team with plenty of stars, O’Callaghan was one of the ‘quiet achievers’ who just went about his business with a minimum of fuss and no small amount of skill. Te Sun newspaper said he was “a reliable long kick … one of the most reliable (players) in the business. Not spectacular but opponents know they’ve played against him. Fairly good mark, although he’s not as tall as most defenders. A good clearing kick.” He wasn’t flashy, but was invariably described as being “reliable”, “unspectacular” and “dependable.”

Those three descriptions made him one of the more valued players to the team.

Late in that 1970 season the Sun’s Kevin Hogan pinpointed O’Callaghan as a key Magpie player. Like his team, he started the grand final on fire. We all know how that ended, but O’Callaghan had a unique memory of that day, being the closest teammate to ‘Jerker’ Jenkin when Alex Jesaulenko used him as a stepladder. When David McKay kicked the ball out near the Members’ wing, O’Callaghan thought Jenkin was certain to get the ball. As recounted years later, the defender apparently said: “It’s yours, Jerker – you’re on your own.”

He wasn’t.

O’Callaghan was a model of consistency, playing 23 games in 1971, 24 in 1972, and 21 in 1973. But he missed the whole of the 1974 season with a knee injury, and while he returned for 13 games in 1975 he never quite recaptured his old form, finishing up in that year’s elimination final loss to Richmond. It was his 129th game for the Magpies.

He went on to be Coburg’s playing coach in 1976, only just missing out on the finals, then joined Brunswick and later played with Montmorency – the Magpies of the Diamond Valley Football League.

Denis O’Callaghan has been a regular fixture at Collingwood past players’ gatherings over the years. The quiet, humble kid who came to the big smoke more than 50 years ago – and stayed – is still popular amongst his former teammates and fondly remembered by the fans.

– Glenn McFarlane

Statistics

CFC Career Stats

Season played Games Goals Finals Win %
1968-1973, 1975 129 3 10 65%

CFC Season by Season Stats

Season GP GL B K H T D Guernsey No.
1968 18 178 18 196 29

1968 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 3 St Kilda L 0 29 View match >
Round 4 Geelong L 8 8 29 View match >
Round 5 Hawthorn W 12 12 29 View match >
Round 6 Essendon W 8 1 9 29 View match >
Round 7 Carlton L 12 4 16 29 View match >
Round 8 Melbourne L 6 1 7 29 View match >
Round 9 Sydney L 8 8 29 View match >
Round 10 Western Bulldogs W 8 1 9 29 View match >
Round 11 North Melbourne W 16 1 17 29 View match >
Round 12 Richmond W 8 8 29 View match >
Round 13 Fitzroy W 7 1 8 29 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 7 1 8 29 View match >
Round 15 Geelong L 10 2 12 29 View match >
Round 16 Hawthorn L 11 1 12 29 View match >
Round 17 Essendon L 15 15 29 View match >
Round 18 Carlton L 12 1 13 29 View match >
Round 19 Melbourne W 7 7 29 View match >
Round 20 Sydney W 23 4 27 29 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1969 6 38 9 47 29

1969 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 14 Melbourne W 6 5 11 29 View match >
Round 15 Carlton L 3 1 4 29 View match >
Round 19 Sydney W 10 1 11 29 View match >
Round 20 North Melbourne W 4 4 29 View match >
Semi Final Carlton L 0 29 View match >
Preliminary Final Richmond L 15 2 17 29 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1970 24 0 0 314 43 357 29

1970 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Western Bulldogs W 17 1 18 29 View match >
Round 2 Richmond W 12 3 15 29 View match >
Round 3 Hawthorn W 12 1 13 29 View match >
Round 4 Geelong W 11 1 12 29 View match >
Round 5 Melbourne W 17 1 18 29 View match >
Round 6 North Melbourne W 19 2 21 29 View match >
Round 7 Fitzroy W 13 2 15 29 View match >
Round 8 Carlton W 11 1 12 29 View match >
Round 9 Essendon L 8 1 9 29 View match >
Round 10 St Kilda W 13 1 14 29 View match >
Round 11 Sydney L 14 3 17 29 View match >
Round 12 Western Bulldogs W 22 1 23 29 View match >
Round 13 Richmond L 14 2 16 29 View match >
Round 14 Hawthorn L 10 1 11 29 View match >
Round 15 Geelong W 12 3 15 29 View match >
Round 16 Melbourne W 10 3 13 29 View match >
Round 17 North Melbourne W 5 2 7 29 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 15 2 17 29 View match >
Round 19 Carlton W 15 2 17 29 View match >
Round 20 Essendon W 16 2 18 29 View match >
Round 21 St Kilda W 14 1 15 29 View match >
Round 22 Sydney W 7 3 10 29 View match >
Semi Final Carlton W 11 3 14 29 View match >
Grand Final Carlton L 0 0 16 1 17 29 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1971 23 1 277 32 309 29

1971 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Western Bulldogs W 16 2 18 29 View match >
Round 2 Richmond W 10 1 11 29 View match >
Round 3 Essendon D 9 9 29 View match >
Round 4 Fitzroy W 10 3 13 29 View match >
Round 5 North Melbourne W 12 2 14 29 View match >
Round 6 Melbourne W 6 3 9 29 View match >
Round 7 Geelong W 10 2 12 29 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda L 10 1 11 29 View match >
Round 9 Sydney W 11 1 12 29 View match >
Round 10 Hawthorn L 17 17 29 View match >
Round 11 Carlton W 11 11 29 View match >
Round 12 Western Bulldogs L 14 1 15 29 View match >
Round 13 Richmond W 7 1 8 29 View match >
Round 14 Essendon W 13 2 15 29 View match >
Round 15 Fitzroy W 1 15 1 16 29 View match >
Round 16 North Melbourne W 16 2 18 29 View match >
Round 17 Melbourne W 17 3 20 29 View match >
Round 18 Geelong L 4 4 29 View match >
Round 19 St Kilda L 13 13 29 View match >
Round 20 Sydney W 15 2 17 29 View match >
Round 21 Hawthorn L 20 2 22 29 View match >
Round 22 Carlton L 10 1 11 29 View match >
Semi Final Richmond L 11 2 13 29 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1972 24 1 228 21 249 29

1972 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Richmond L 4 4 29 View match >
Round 2 Carlton D 8 8 29 View match >
Round 3 Melbourne W 17 2 19 29 View match >
Round 4 St Kilda L 9 9 29 View match >
Round 5 North Melbourne W 2 2 29 View match >
Round 6 Hawthorn L 17 1 18 29 View match >
Round 7 Fitzroy W 22 22 29 View match >
Round 8 Western Bulldogs L 13 3 16 29 View match >
Round 9 Geelong W 10 2 12 29 View match >
Round 10 Sydney W 13 1 14 29 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 11 1 12 29 View match >
Round 12 Richmond W 11 4 15 29 View match >
Round 13 Carlton L 10 1 11 29 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 0 29 View match >
Round 15 Melbourne W 1 1 29 View match >
Round 16 North Melbourne W 2 2 29 View match >
Round 17 Hawthorn W 0 29 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 16 2 18 29 View match >
Round 19 Western Bulldogs W 1 13 2 15 29 View match >
Round 20 Geelong L 14 14 29 View match >
Round 21 Sydney W 16 2 18 29 View match >
Round 22 Essendon L 3 3 29 View match >
Qualifying Final Richmond L 3 3 29 View match >
Semi Final St Kilda L 13 13 29 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1973 21 1 245 15 260 29

1973 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Sydney W 0 29 View match >
Round 4 St Kilda W 21 1 22 29 View match >
Round 5 North Melbourne W 10 1 11 29 View match >
Round 6 Melbourne W 14 2 16 29 View match >
Round 7 Carlton L 22 22 29 View match >
Round 8 Fitzroy W 18 1 19 29 View match >
Round 9 Richmond W 12 1 13 29 View match >
Round 10 Hawthorn W 12 12 29 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 8 1 9 29 View match >
Round 12 Sydney W 9 2 11 29 View match >
Round 13 Western Bulldogs W 14 14 29 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 19 1 20 29 View match >
Round 15 Geelong W 10 10 29 View match >
Round 16 North Melbourne L 13 2 15 29 View match >
Round 17 Melbourne W 10 1 11 29 View match >
Round 18 Carlton W 12 1 13 29 View match >
Round 19 Fitzroy W 1 5 5 29 View match >
Round 21 Hawthorn W 12 12 29 View match >
Round 22 Essendon W 5 5 29 View match >
Semi Final Carlton L 13 1 14 29 View match >
Preliminary Final Richmond L 6 6 29 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1975 13 133 11 144 29

1975 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 7 North Melbourne W 10 2 12 29 View match >
Round 8 Essendon W 7 7 29 View match >
Round 12 Sydney W 9 1 10 29 View match >
Round 13 Carlton L 8 8 29 View match >
Round 14 Geelong L 11 11 29 View match >
Round 15 Fitzroy W 17 1 18 29 View match >
Round 16 Western Bulldogs W 13 4 17 29 View match >
Round 17 Richmond L 8 8 29 View match >
Round 19 Essendon W 14 14 29 View match >
Round 20 St Kilda W 9 9 29 View match >
Round 21 Hawthorn W 6 1 7 29 View match >
Round 22 Melbourne W 9 9 29 View match >
Elimination Final Richmond L 12 2 14 29 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
Totals 129 3 0 1413 149 1562
Avg/Game   0.02 0.00 10.95 1.16 12.11
Legend
  • GPGames Played
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • TTackles
  • DDisposals

Key Facts

CFC Debut Number

691

Total AFL Games
129
Total AFL Goals
3
CFC Debut
Round 3, 1968
CFC Last Game
Elimination Final, 1975
Recruited From
Tiega
Full Name
Denis O'Callaghan

Awards

  • Best First Year Player (Harry Collier Trophy)
    1968
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