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The complete history of the Mighty Magpies

Kevin Worthington

Kevin Worthington

1977-1979, 1981-1982
27

95 CFC Games Played

19 CFC Goals

Date of Birth
25 May 1953
Recruited From
Claremont
Collingwood Debut
Round 1, 1977
Height:
189cm
Weight:
88kg

Biography

Kevin Worthington was precisely what Collingwood needed after a disastrous 1976 season – a tough uncompromising defender and a loyal teammate who knew no other way than playing hard on and off the field.

Fittingly, he joined the Magpies in the same year as the man who would become his great mate, Stan Magro, who also came from Western Australia.

Collingwood was in the midst of significant change when the pair decided in 1977 to chase VFL careers on the other side of the country. The previous year had brought about an unwanted first wooden spoon, but newly appointed coach Tom Hafey was confident the club had the nucleus of a very good side, and with recruits such as Worthington, Magro and a kid called Ricky Barham, the future was looking brighter.

Worthington, a thick-set defender who was rarely beaten one-on-one, came from the fertile football region of Geraldton, before graduating to Claremont in the WAFL over six seasons, from 1971 to 1976.

Hafey wrote a letter to Worthington explaining how he would fit into the club, and he knew he had to make the move across the Nullarbor – with or without a clearance.

Worthington recalled: “Tommy said he would like me to come over”, and the club’s solid relationship with Claremont – who had recruited former Magpie Barry Price a year earlier – meant a deal could be arranged.

An article in The Age in March, 1977, the week after Worthington had impressed in a practice match against St Kilda and Kevin ‘Cowboy’ Neale, suggested the 189cm, 88kg backman had “adapted to Collingwood’s training under coach Tom Hafey quickly”. It was even forecast that he and Magro, who were already tight mates, were “set to make big names for themselves here.”

Almost seamlessly, Worthington slotted into the Collingwood back half, playing in the back pocket or full-back, and making such an impression that he played every game of the 1977 season, a remarkable year when the Magpies started the year as wooden spooners and finished the home-and-away season as minor premiers.

His form was such that he was a member of the Western Australian team that took on – and beat – Victoria in the first State of Origin clash in 1977. It would remain one of Worthington’s three biggest career highlights, alongside playing his first game for Claremont and playing in Grand Finals for Collingwood.

The Magpies played out a remarkable draw with North Melbourne in the 1977 premiership playoff, after Ross ‘Twiggy’ Dunne slotted through a late goal to level the scores. Worthington and others were confused about what the draw actually meant before it finally dawned on them that they would have to go through it all again the following Saturday.

He recalled heavy rain early the next week “churned up” Victoria Park and he could barely raise his legs after a particularly tough training session on the Thursday before the replay.

“We found out (North) were playing table tennis and billiards and just having get-togethers to talk about the game, while we were busting our backsides,” he reflected later. “I think some of the senior blokes tried to tell Tommy he wasn’t going to get us any fitter and we needed to freshen up. But he was going to do it his way.”

The Magpies lost the replay by 27 points, the same margin they had led by at three-quarter-time the previous week.

Worthington’s ferocious attack on the ball endeared himself to Collingwood supporters who admired his passion. And his love of a good time away from football also made him one of the club’s most popular players.

He was rated by many teammates as among the toughest players they played well. Ray Byrne called him “fearless … it wouldn’t matter where the ball was, he would go and get it.”

Worthington joked years later that he liked to keep Mondays nights free – particularly after Carlton games – just in case he had to front the tribunal. He would say: “You knew you’d get done (reported) for whacking someone or being hit yourself. It got to the stage where a bunch of blokes would appear before the tribunal after every match.

“We’d toss a coin to see who went and got the carton of tinnies to sip while waiting to be called.”

Worthington loved having good time off the field, with Barham saying: “I was a new boy at the club along with Stan Magro and Kevin Worthington. We all got on well, but they did teach me some terrible things.”

Tony Shaw recalled how at his first after-match functions he happened to be in a drinking school with the pair. “(We) all downed our drinks, but instead of handing me their glasses and saying ‘Your hook’, Stan bit the top of his glass and ‘Wortho’ smashed his on his head. I was absolutely stunned. Handing me the remains of their glasses, they said: ‘Now it’s your shout’.”

Their good humour saw them fool Hafey during one running session around the Boulevard in Kew. They clearly broke their personal best time, sweat pouring off them as they ran back into Victoria Park. It wasn’t until a week later that Worthington revealed they had sat underneath the Johnston St bridge and wet their clothes before sneaking back to the ground.

He wasn’t a regular goalkicker, but managed to score a major in his 50th game, in the Round 4 clash with St Kilda. That game, which marked Peter Daicos’ first game, brought about a 178-point victory and it remains the biggest in the club’s history. His best return was four goals when he was sent forward in a game against Fitzroy in 1978.

Collingwood came agonising close again to a premiership in 1979, but fell five points short against Carlton in the Grand Final. That could well have been the end of Worthington’s career in black and white.

Knee trouble brought about a return to Perth in 1980. He said: “I came back (to WA) in 1980 because I had a knee operation and there were doubts whether I’d play again.”

But he stepped out for Claremont and that gave him the confidence to return to Victoria Park in 1981 in the chase for that elusive premiership. He managed 18 games in 1981, yet missed Collingwood’s last two finals, including the Grand Final loss to Carlton.

And while he hadn’t played in that game, he was still a part of the folklore surrounding a story in the time after the Grand Final, involving Blues premiership star Wayne Johnston. Johnston would reveal how he was in the cubicle of a toilet in a Caulfield nightclub when he heard Worthington and Magro planning their retribution for what he had done in the game.

Johnston said on radio decades later: “I didn’t come out of the toilet for about 30 minutes because I thought they were still out the front, that they saw me walk in. But it turned out it was just pure coincidence that I was in there at the time. They were talking about assassinating me before the 48 hours were up. (Finally) I stuck my head out around the corner and bolted home.”

Worthington’s body was failing him by the time of the 1982 season, his last for Collingwood. He managed only eight games in that fractured year, and he and Magro chose to return to WA after the New Magpies reform group came to power and promised significant change.

The two mates played two seasons with East Perth, taking his WAFL tally to 129 games, to match his 95 games (and 19 goals) in his five seasons at Collingwood.

Magro signed on to coach WA country side Wagin after that, and he talked Worthington to join him. Fittingly, the two mates who desperately craved a premiership managed that in a team that wore black and white, and went by the Magpies moniker. That was a suitable end to Worthington’s playing career.

He was an assistant coach to Magro at East Perth in 1992-93, and coached that same club from 1996-99, leading them to a Grand Final in his first season, losing to his old side, East Perth, by two points.

One of his players from that Grand Final – Rupert Betheras – would later become a Collingwood cult figure across his five seasons of playing with the Magpies.

Read more

Statistics

CFC Career Stats

Season played Games Goals Finals Win %
1977-1979, 1981-1982 95 19 12 67%

CFC Season by Season Stats

Season GP GL B K H T D Guernsey No.
1977 25 0 1 175 58 233 27

1977 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Western Bulldogs W 7 2 9 27 View match >
Round 2 North Melbourne L 2 2 4 27 View match >
Round 3 Essendon W 10 6 16 27 View match >
Round 4 Richmond W 8 1 9 27 View match >
Round 5 Geelong W 8 6 14 27 View match >
Round 6 Carlton W 9 2 11 27 View match >
Round 7 Fitzroy W 11 3 14 27 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda W 1 8 1 9 27 View match >
Round 9 Hawthorn W 11 2 13 27 View match >
Round 10 Sydney L 6 1 7 27 View match >
Round 11 Melbourne W 3 2 5 27 View match >
Round 12 Western Bulldogs W 8 3 11 27 View match >
Round 13 North Melbourne W 8 1 9 27 View match >
Round 14 Richmond W 11 4 15 27 View match >
Round 15 Essendon W 11 2 13 27 View match >
Round 16 Geelong L 6 4 10 27 View match >
Round 17 Carlton W 4 2 6 27 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 6 6 27 View match >
Round 19 St Kilda W 8 1 9 27 View match >
Round 20 Hawthorn L 4 1 5 27 View match >
Round 21 Sydney W 7 7 27 View match >
Round 22 Melbourne W 3 3 6 27 View match >
Semi Final Hawthorn W 7 5 12 27 View match >
Grand Final North Melbourne D 0 0 5 3 8 27 View match >
Grand Final North Melbourne L 0 0 4 1 5 27 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1978 21 7 6 183 64 247 27

1978 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Geelong W 12 1 13 27 View match >
Round 2 Essendon W 7 1 8 27 View match >
Round 3 Sydney L 4 1 5 27 View match >
Round 4 Hawthorn L 10 10 27 View match >
Round 5 North Melbourne L 1 2 11 4 15 27 View match >
Round 6 Fitzroy W 4 8 2 10 27 View match >
Round 7 Carlton L 13 2 15 27 View match >
Round 8 Western Bulldogs W 8 5 13 27 View match >
Round 9 Richmond W 3 4 7 27 View match >
Round 10 St Kilda W 8 5 13 27 View match >
Round 11 Melbourne W 8 7 15 27 View match >
Round 12 Geelong L 4 2 6 27 View match >
Round 13 Essendon W 1 10 3 13 27 View match >
Round 18 Carlton L 4 3 7 27 View match >
Round 19 Western Bulldogs W 1 1 15 5 20 27 View match >
Round 20 Richmond W 11 2 13 27 View match >
Round 21 St Kilda W 1 14 4 18 27 View match >
Round 22 Melbourne W 7 4 11 27 View match >
Qualifying Final Hawthorn L 8 1 9 27 View match >
Semi Final Carlton W 1 9 4 13 27 View match >
Preliminary Final North Melbourne L 1 9 4 13 27 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1979 23 7 0 218 83 301 27

1979 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Fitzroy L 2 1 3 27 View match >
Round 2 Hawthorn W 7 2 9 27 View match >
Round 3 North Melbourne L 9 3 12 27 View match >
Round 4 St Kilda W 1 14 10 24 27 View match >
Round 6 Essendon L 15 3 18 27 View match >
Round 7 Geelong W 6 6 27 View match >
Round 8 Sydney W 8 7 15 27 View match >
Round 9 Richmond W 13 5 18 27 View match >
Round 10 Carlton L 10 6 16 27 View match >
Round 13 Hawthorn W 2 11 9 20 27 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 7 2 9 27 View match >
Round 15 North Melbourne L 12 1 13 27 View match >
Round 16 Western Bulldogs W 16 3 19 27 View match >
Round 17 Essendon W 10 3 13 27 View match >
Round 18 Geelong L 18 4 22 27 View match >
Round 19 Sydney W 1 10 2 12 27 View match >
Round 20 Richmond W 1 13 1 14 27 View match >
Round 21 Carlton W 8 7 15 27 View match >
Round 22 Melbourne W 1 5 2 7 27 View match >
Qualifying Final North Melbourne L 1 6 3 9 27 View match >
Semi Final Fitzroy W 6 4 10 27 View match >
Preliminary Final North Melbourne W 5 4 9 27 View match >
Grand Final Carlton L 0 0 7 1 8 27 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1981 18 1 2 118 60 178 27

1981 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Fitzroy W 7 2 9 27 View match >
Round 2 Western Bulldogs W 6 2 8 27 View match >
Round 3 St Kilda W 6 3 9 27 View match >
Round 4 Geelong W 10 6 16 27 View match >
Round 5 Melbourne W 6 9 15 27 View match >
Round 6 Carlton W 9 1 10 27 View match >
Round 7 Sydney W 2 3 5 27 View match >
Round 10 Richmond W 6 6 12 27 View match >
Round 11 Hawthorn L 6 3 9 27 View match >
Round 12 Western Bulldogs W 1 12 6 18 27 View match >
Round 13 St Kilda W 7 2 9 27 View match >
Round 15 Melbourne W 7 1 8 27 View match >
Round 16 Carlton W 8 5 13 27 View match >
Round 17 Sydney L 7 2 9 27 View match >
Round 19 North Melbourne W 1 5 1 6 27 View match >
Round 21 Hawthorn W 8 5 13 27 View match >
Qualifying Final Geelong L 5 3 8 27 View match >
Semi Final Fitzroy W 1 1 1 27 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1982 8 4 4 53 33 86 27

1982 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 6 Fitzroy L 8 4 12 27 View match >
Round 8 Sydney L 1 1 5 4 9 27 View match >
Round 11 St Kilda W 9 3 12 27 View match >
Round 12 Western Bulldogs W 1 10 5 15 27 View match >
Round 13 Carlton L 1 8 7 15 27 View match >
Round 14 Richmond L 8 7 15 27 View match >
Round 15 North Melbourne L 1 3 5 1 6 27 View match >
Round 16 Fitzroy L 2 2 27 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
Totals 95 19 13 747 298 1045
Avg/Game   0.20 0.14 7.86 3.14 11.00
Legend
  • GPGames Played
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • TTackles
  • DDisposals

Key Facts

CFC Debut Number

771

Total AFL Games
95
Total AFL Goals
19
CFC Debut
Round 1, 1977
CFC Last Game
Round 16, 1982
Recruited From
Claremont
Full Name
Kevin Worthington
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