7 CFC Games Played
4 CFC Goals
By Glenn McFarlane:
Les Oram signed up to become an Anzac and a Collingwood footballer in the same year.
It was early 1916, and the 23-year-old mechanic enlisted in the AIF as part of the motor transport section, which meant he was required for a period of time in Australia before an eventual departure overseas.
That also meant he was able to balance his training with the military with a short stint at the Collingwood Football Club.
As the demand for the war effort intensified, and with the Anzacs overseas preparing to make their mark in France, some sporting competitions abandoned their seasons.
The VFA had little alternative but to call off their 1916 season as the dark shadows of war cast a gloom over the nation. And it looked like the VFL would suffer a similar fate for a time before four clubs – Collingwood, Carlton, Fitzroy and Richmond, elected to go it alone, and play with a four-team competition in 1916.
That meant that if Oram wanted to continue with his football that season, he would have to do so in the VFL, which required a transfer to one of those four clubs.
In the end, he chose the Magpies, with the Flemington Spectator recording in May of that year: “Leslie Oram, Essendon (A), has been granted a permit to play for Collingwood.”
By the end of that month, he was a fully-fledged Magpie, and did not take long to make an impression on coach Jock McHale, who granted him his first game against Fitzroy at Brunswick S Oval in Round 3.
It was a memorable debut match, and he was involved in a few key passages of play. One of those came when he gathered the ball forward and passed off successfully to star forward Dick Lee.
The game turned out to be a thriller. After Fitzroy had led at every change, the Magpies staged a stirring comeback, and almost finished over the top of their suburban rivals. In the end, it was a thrilling draw.
Oram was 23 at the time, and he knew his time playing with Collingwood would only last as long. So he wanted to make the most of his opportunities.
He missed out playing the next week, but was back against Richmond in Round 7, and for the most part was a regular contributor for the remainder of the season.
His best performance came against Fitzroy the next time Collingwood played them. In the Round 9 game against the Maroons, he nailed two goals as the Magpies held on to win by one point.
The Argus detailed: “(Oram) nailed a sixer” and then later “Oram scored again for Collingwood with a snapshot.”
To prove it was no fluke, he backed it up with two more goals against Richmond the following week, but it was not enough for Collingwood to get over the line.
He was a member of the semi-final side which lost to Fitzroy – four of his seven games were against the Maroons – but he did not trouble the scorers as the Magpies went down by a goal to the eventual premier.
That match would prove to be his final for the club.
Oram had his orders to leave for the front, and he bade his wife Hilda goodbye – the pair were living in Mahoney St, Richmond – as he left Australia bound for England in late 1916.
In the club’s annual report, they acknowledged: “Two players, Dan Minogue and Les Oram, went to the front during the season.”
He served his country well in France, and spent some time training in England. He became a Corporal, survived the war, and returned home not long after Collingwood won the 1919 “Peace Premiership.”
While he never played for Collingwood again, he continued to play football, and would eventually become a successful coach in the country regions.
Bush footy was tough back then, and one occasion Oram had to front court as a witness to a wild brawl in 1925 during a Stawell-Murtoa match. The local paper said: “Les Oram, a Stawell player, said he noticed four or five players fighting about 20 yards away. He did not see the beginning.”
Oram opened up a motor car business in Stawell, where he also played football during the early 1920s, and it operated well until a downturn in business in 1926 brought about its closure.
The loss of the business was due to the “bad business season for the sale of cars” and from the non-payment of debts from some of his clients.
That didn’t stop him from playing the game that he loved. But the end of the business no longer tied him to the Stawell district and he ended up chasing the opportunity to play and coach elsewhere.
The Frankston Standard said in 1927: “Mr Leslie Oram, vice-captain of the Stawell team last year, and a former Collingwood player, has accepted the position of coach of the Sorrento team.”
He was a member of the club’s first premiership side, in 1929, as Sorrento overcame Somerville. He kicked a goal in the opening term and was a constant in “engineering attacks” for his side.
It was a fitting reward for a player whose one shot at playing VFL was curtailed by the war. Still, he gave so much back to the game that he loved, and was a well-known footballer in the areas that he played, and was once described as “a brilliant captain.”
Oram died in Elmore on July 22, 1966 – 50 years to the day from his third last game of VFL football, against Carlton.
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