One of the first of football’s great forwards.
When he began a total of 30 goals was enough to win the League goalkicking, but he raised standards. The son of Collingwood trainer Wal Lee who had been involved in the founding of the club, Lee was a brisk and accurate forward from the time he made his debut. He was on standby to play at the age of 15, but the player he was to replace appeared at the last minute and he had to wait another year. He first attracted attention with his play for Rose of Northcote.
He was a wonderful ground player and a deadly kick for goal who had the ability to soar for marks. An amusement parlor at Eastern Market had a game in which participants had to kick at a target from impossible angles, but Lee did it so often that he was barred!
Lee headed the VFL goalkicking from 1907 to 1910, 1914, shared the lead in 1915 and won again in 1916, 1917, 1919 and 1921. His tally of 66 in 1915 was the highest in the first 25 years of League football.
Lee’s greatest asset was his courage in overcoming injuries and he had a running battle with a shin problem that started when one of his teammates accidentally kicked his right shin and tore it open in 1908. The dye from his socks entered the wound and for five years it re-opened almost every week. Finally it was cured by a doctor applying caustic soda to the flesh, but still gave Lee trouble in later life.
He also had problems with his knee, missing lengthy periods and even thinking, in 1912, that he would never play again.
When guernsey numbers were introduced in 1912 he said that he would probably get 13 because of all the bad luck he had experienced. Sure enough he did and made the guernsey famous, particularly in one celebrated picture of a high mark against Carlton. When he landed he broke the strap on his boot and had to kick for goal barefooted.
Lee’s tally of 11 goals in 1914 created a VFL record and he had the amazing record of appearing in four interstate carnivals, and played 17 times for Victoria across a span of 13 years from 1908 to 1922.
Lee had the knack of running with a full-back to the ball then suddenly darting sideways. He was also not averse to staging for frees.
In 1919 one reporter said he was being nursed by umpires and nobody was game to touch him.
He skippered Collingwood in 1920 and 1921 and played in the flag sides of 1910, 1917 and 1919 and in the runner-up team of 1911 when he was acting captain.