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1 CFC Games Played
0 CFC Goals
By: Glenn McFarlane:
‘Jack’ Somer came perilously close to death in the First World War, having been wounded on at least two occasions.
But this one-game Collingwood player, who also managed a solitary game for St Kilda in the same season (1911), would suffer horrific injuries when struck by a car when crossing a road in Albert Park two weeks into the Second World War.
The irony of his death was that it made front page news as part of a series of road fatalities that weekend in mid-September 1939. But nowhere was it mentioned about his short-lived VFL career – brought about by unusual circumstances at both clubs – or his service of his country at war.
John Arthur Dunsford Somer was born in Sale on April 22, 1891, the year before the birth of the Collingwood Football Club.
He came to the attention of the Magpies after performing well with Sandringham, despite a nasty incident in the 1910 finals series. In a match against Clifton Hill Methodists played at Heidelberg, Somer had been one of the most outstanding players on the ground before he was the victim of unseemly attention from the opposition.
One newspaper described it as “a cowardly attack on a player who had been “fair” throughout the game. The reporter described Somer as “running on the wing with an opponent, and the ball had been sent towards the centre of the field when the Clifton Hill player struck twice with his fists and knocked Somer into a dazed condition, causing his retirement from the game.”
Somer had to be helped to his feet “by his friends” and could take no further part in the game.
The following year he was at Collingwood, and he gained a senior appearance only when a series of injuries including to star forward Dick Lee struck the Magpies ahead of their Round 3 clash with Geelong at Victoria Park in 1911.
Somer and Jack Sheehan, both 20-year-olds, were the debutants in the clash. Geelong staved off a fast-finishing but inaccurate Collingwood to win by three points, with Somer almost non-descript in his performance.
It was his one shot at wearing the black and white colours, though he would win a VFL reprieve later in the season.When St Kilda’s players went on strike in Round 15 over a dispute with the club’s committee, they sought replacements from a variety of sources and given his departure from Collingwood, Somer came under notice.
He trained with the Saints in the lead-up to a clash with Carlton, with the Argus saying it was “practically a new team” that took the field at Princes Park.
Somer was one of 10 new players for the club that day, including a kid called Roy Cazaly, whose name in the game would become legendary, and 18-year-old Claude Crowl, who would die in the Gallipoli landings on April 25, 1914. Another first-game that day, for Carlton, was Fen McDonald, who would also die on the same day as Crowl.
The Prahran Telegraph said it was little surprise that the Saints were smashed that day, the final margin being 114 points. It recorded: “The foregoing (new players) are all in want of training and it was impossible that the result could have been anything different to what it was.”
That would the end of Somer’s VFL experience.
Four years later, a month before the Anzacs evacuated Gallipoli, he signed up as part of the 17th Reinforcements of the 7th Battalion. He was then 24, still single, and an inspecting officer with the Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne.
He left Australia on the Euripides on 4 April 1916, and headed to fight in France.
By mid-August, he had been slightly wounded in action in fighting near the Somme, then spent time in the 65th Battalion and finally the 59th Battalion.
He was wounded much more seriously in July 1918, suffering gunshot wounds in the chin that resulted in a fractured jaw. Fortunately, he survived and returned to Australia at the end of the year just a month after the war had ceased.
He lost his discharge papers when he was employed mining in country Victoria in1937, requesting a replacement.
Sadly, he would be dead within two years.
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