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1 CFC Games Played
1 CFC Goals
When George Blundell came to Collingwood for his first game late in the 1901 season, he was regarded as perhaps the finest footballer in the Castlemaine region. Sadly, his career would be fleeting. Far more tragically, so would his life.
George was a resident of Castlemaine, the son of a well-known local blacksmith. One of his older brothers was the captain of the local Foundry football team, and the sporting genes obviously made their way through to George as well.
By the time he was in his late teens he was considered one of the leading athletes in the district: a magnificent footballer (described by one local paper as “one of the most brilliant footballers Castlemaine has produced”), talented cricketer and a prominent racing cyclist.
His mother died when he was just 15, and the following year he began his footballing career with Castlemaine United. He debuted with another local team, Central, two years after that, and by 1900 had been made vice-captain. That year he won a silver mounted pipe as the best player in a charity testimonial match (and the captain of the winning tug-o-war team!), and was also one of the best players for a combined Castlemaine team that took on a combined Bendigo team.
But it was the 1901 season that would prove to be a defining one for George Blundell. He was supreme that year, and would end up being named Central’s ‘best all round man’. More importantly, as it turned out, he was chosen in a District team that played against Collingwood in Castlemaine early in August – and he starred.
The Mt Alexander Mail said Blundell was “easily the best” of the locals. “He did a power of work in the ruck, and had he had as good a man as the Collingwood ruck had to rove for him his usefulness would have been made much more conspicuous. While playing forward he also showed himself generally able to cope with his opponents.”
The Magpies obviously liked what they saw. Just three weeks later they decided to give the then 21-year-old a trial in the last game of the 1901 home-and-away season, naming him in a forward pocket against St Kilda.
Blundell was tall and strongly built, playing mainly as a ruckman or follower. He was a wonderful mark and a long, driving kick, and was considered a real goal threat when resting forward. He had played high quality football at home for the best part of two seasons, and the Pies wanted to see if he could translate his local form to the bigger stage. And he went with the best wishes of his local community:
“The well-known Central Club footballer, George Blundell, has been picked to play for Collingwood against St. Kilda today,” wrote the Mt Alexander Mail. “Footballers and others will wish him success in his first metropolitan match, and they will rest assured that the football reputation of the district will be worthily upheld by such a fine player as Blundell has proved himself to be.”
The game itself, between one team heading to a grand final and another locked in to finish bottom, was horribly lopsided. But George did not let his local supporters down on debut, kicking a goal and a behind and attracting generally favourable reviews after the Magpies’ record 143-15 victory (which was at the time both Collingwood’s highest score and biggest winning margin).
“Collingwood tried Blundell, of Castlemaine, on Saturday,” wrote The Sportsman. “He has weight and ability, and is likely to be of great service to the Magpie team.”
It was no great shock that he couldn’t force his way into a full-strength Magpie team for the finals, but it was a surprise that that is where his League career ended. In some ways it was a messy end. He wanted to go to South Melbourne in 1902, playing a practice match there, but his clearance ran into some initial hurdles. Early in April he was again named in a Castlemaine District representative team to play a game against Collingwood. Then his clearance to South Melbourne came through, at the end of April, and he was named in South’s squad for the first match of the season. But he didn’t make the final team, and seems to have headed back home – perhaps in a fit of pique. A week later he was back playing for Centrals again.
But Centrals folded in 1903 due to a dearth of players and, though he played some games for the Station club, George moved back to Melbourne to set up a dentistry practice in Fitzroy. After his father died two years later, George took over the family blacksmith and wheelwright business. But early in 1907 he contracted a severe illness, which in the ensuing months turned into pneumonia, and George succumbed to it in June. He was just 27.
Local newspaper reports all noted that George Blundell had been one of the most popular young men of the town, and there was widespread grief at his premature demise. At Collingwood he had been only a passing presence, but the brevity of his VFL career was of nothing compared to the brevity of his life.
– Michael Roberts
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