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The complete history of the Mighty Magpies

Neil Mann

Neil Mann

1945-1956
16
Other Guernsey Nos.
1, 14, 2, 3

179 CFC Games Played

155 CFC Goals

Date of Birth
26 August 1924
Date of Death
21 February 2013
Recruited From
St Kilda 3rds
Collingwood Debut
Round 1, 1945
Height:
188cm
Weight:
83kg

Biography

It seems hard to believe of a of a player who ended up captaining Collingwood, winning the Copeland and twice placing in the Brownlow Medal, but Neil Mann never really thought he would make it as a League footballer.

He was born at Diamond Creek – what Collingwood fans like to think of as ‘Coventry Country’ – the youngest of nine children. His family later moved and he ended up at Collingwood Technical School, where he wasn’t even good enough to make the school team. After he left school he didn’t even play footy for a while. He loved the game – he used to hang a rolled-up paper on the clothes line to practice his high marking – and was a rabid Pies supporter, but simply didn’t think he was good enough to justify playing.

Eventually one of his workmates convinced Mann to join him for a run with St Kilda thirds. He surprised himself by doing well, and immediately decided that if he was going to have a crack at VFL football, it might as well be with the team he loved (the thirds weren’t affiliated with VFL clubs in those days so the Saints had no claim over him). His next-door neighbour, a timekeeper with Collingwood seconds, helped with an introduction, and Mann’s impressive training showings at Victoria Park saw him given a chance with the reserves.

He struggled to adjust and battled repeated injuries in his first two years but eventually made his debut in the opening round of 1945, along with a handful of others who would go on to be big names, including Bill Twomey Jnr and Len Fitzgerald. He was mostly a forward in those days, and didn’t really make his mark until the end of his second season when, after starting the 1946 preliminary final on the bench, he came on at half-time and kicked five goals in the second half.

That was the turning point in Mann’s career. In 1947 he bagged 48 goals from full-forward to win the club’s goalkicking award, and Magpie fans thought they had found a useful key forward. Instead, the selectors surprised everyone the next year by swinging him to centre half-back – and what a move that proved to be. He settled into that role perfectly, finishing runner-up in the Copeland Trophy to Phonse Kyne and also being named in theSporting Globe’s Team of the Year.

The secret to his success lay in his hands. They were huge, and his capacity to hold 24 eggs in ONE hand (once photographed by a newspaper photographer) became legendary. He had a handspan of about 28cm, which made him a dangerous opponent in marking contests even if he had only used one hand. When he used both, he was nearly unbeatable. With his height (188cm) and weight (around 82.5kg) he was one of the strongest and most consistent marks League football has seen.

Bob Rose once described Mann as “the safest mark you would ever see”. Thorold Merrett, too, marvelled at his marking power. “Every ball he went for, he marked,” Merrett said. “Often there would be two or three blokes trying to belt the ball away from him, but it just wouldn’t budge — his hands almost covered the ball.”

If Mann’s hands were his greatest asset then his legs were his greatest liability. For a start they did not always produce kicking of the same quality as his marking. More seriously, his legs also gave him injury problems almost from the time he first pulled on a pair of football boots. He seriously damaged his right knee four times and his left knee three, and suffered recurring thigh trouble throughout much of his career after an accidental but severe kick ruptured his thigh muscle. For a while he even played with the thigh injury protected by two strips from an old aluminium billycan sewn inside an elastic bandage — a protective device which would “clang” every time an opponent hit it!

Considering his leg problems it is remarkable that Mann even survived as a footballer, let alone flourished to the extent he did. That he did so owes much to his marking, judgement and coolness under pressure, which allowed him to counter his lack of pace and mobility. But he also had a heart that at times seemed even bigger than his hands. He needed it, too; not just to cope with his injuries (he played a magnificent game against Melbourne in 1946 after badly gashing his foot with an axe while chopping wood on the morning of the game) but also to carry the Collingwood big man division — at times almost single-handedly.

The shift into the ruck happened by accident, not design. After his breakthrough season at centre half-back in 1948, Mann settled into League football and delivered a string of consistently outstanding performances.

But in 1951, Collingwood’s dearth of big men, exacerbated by the recent retirements of Gordon Hocking and Phonse Kyne, forced selectors to throw Mann into the ruck. It was here that his big heart really came to the fore. Time and again he would carry the rucks almost on his own, running himself into the ground in pursuit of a Magpie victory. He continued to be a danger when resting in either defence or attack, and developed something of a knack for kicking some crucial goals late in the game.

His heroics were never more needed — nor more in evidence — than in 1953 and 1954. In the former year he was one of the keys to Collingwood’s Premiership, finishing second in the Copeland and gaining what he always regarded as one of his greatest honours — a £5 note from Albert Collier, given to him after the grand final for his efforts during the year.

In 1954 many of the club’s Premiership heroes were struck down by injury in what turned out to be a disastrous year. As his teammates fell around him, Manny just kept plugging along, carrying an increasingly heavy load with no complaint — and then winning the Copeland Trophy and finishing second in the Brownlow Medal count to Roy Wright of Richmond.

Mann’s contribution was not confined solely to the playing fields. He was one of Collingwood’s great clubmen, and one of those who made the training rooms or end-of-season trips come alive. He was a gentle man both on and off the field, with a warm smile, a ready laugh and a hearty handshake. At social occasions he was renowned for his baritone renditions of “Open Road”.

He also loved practical jokes. Once, on a train trip to Perth, he played a tape of “the world farting championships” over the train’s loud-speaker system. On another occasion he turned up to training at finals’ time with a thumb that looked red raw and bloodied, claiming he had hurt it at work. It turned out to be a fake thumb he had bought from a trick shop that afternoon!

Mann’s on-field heroics won him the admiration of his teammates, and his off-field antics their affection. So it was no surprise that they elected him captain when Lou Richards stepped down late in 1955. But he spent only one full season as captain before retiring at the end of 1956.

That retirement was merely the signal for the start of the second phase of Neil Mann’s Collingwood career. He immediately became coach of the reserves, a job he held from 1957 to 1971 and in which he gave great support firstly to Phonse Kyne and then to Bob Rose. He refused many offers from other League clubs, and his loyalty and patience were rewarded with a three-year stint as senior coach — from 1972- 74. After a two-year break, he returned as a committeeman and served until 1982. He was inducted into the Collingwood Hall of Fame in 2004.

Few men can lay claim to such a long and distinguished record of loyal service as Neil Mann. He was one of the most courageous and talented big men of his day, one of the best team players in the VFL, one of Collingwood’s truly great clubmen and one of its most popular personalities.

Not bad for a bloke who didn’t think he was good enough for League football.

– Michael Roberts

 

Statistics

CFC Career Stats

Season played Games Goals Finals Win %
1945-1956 179 155 16 64%

CFC Season by Season Stats

Season GP GL B K H T D Guernsey No.
1945 12 11 0 16

1945 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 North Melbourne W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 2 Sydney L 3 0 16 View match >
Round 3 Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 4 Hawthorn W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 5 Essendon L 0 16 View match >
Round 6 Carlton W 3 0 16 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda W 0 16 View match >
Round 8 Fitzroy L 1 0 16 View match >
Round 9 Richmond W 0 16 View match >
Round 18 St Kilda W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 19 Fitzroy W 1 0 16 View match >
Semi Final Sydney L 0 16 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1946 8 14 0 14

1946 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Hawthorn W 0 14 View match >
Round 2 Fitzroy W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 3 North Melbourne W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 4 St Kilda W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 5 Richmond L 1 0 14 View match >
Round 18 Geelong W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 19 Carlton L 2 0 14 View match >
Preliminary Final Melbourne L 5 0 14 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1947 16 48 0 14

1947 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Fitzroy W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 2 Hawthorn W 7 0 14 View match >
Round 3 Geelong W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 4 Sydney W 5 0 14 View match >
Round 7 Richmond L 6 0 14 View match >
Round 8 Essendon W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 9 Carlton W 5 0 14 View match >
Round 10 St Kilda W 2 0 14 View match >
Round 11 North Melbourne W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 12 Fitzroy L 1 0 14 View match >
Round 13 Hawthorn W 1 0 14 View match >
Round 14 Geelong W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 15 Sydney D 3 0 14 View match >
Round 16 Melbourne L 1 0 14 View match >
Round 17 Western Bulldogs W 3 0 14 View match >
Round 18 Richmond L 2 0 14 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1948 21 7 0 16

1948 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 North Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 2 Sydney W 3 0 16 View match >
Round 3 Essendon L 0 16 View match >
Round 4 Geelong W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 5 Carlton W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 6 Richmond L 2 0 16 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda W 0 16 View match >
Round 8 Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 9 Hawthorn W 0 16 View match >
Round 10 Fitzroy W 0 16 View match >
Round 11 Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Round 12 North Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 13 Sydney W 0 16 View match >
Round 14 Essendon L 0 16 View match >
Round 15 Geelong L 0 16 View match >
Round 16 Carlton L 0 16 View match >
Round 17 Richmond W 0 16 View match >
Round 18 St Kilda W 0 16 View match >
Round 19 Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Semi Final Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Preliminary Final Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1949 16 8 0 16

1949 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 North Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 2 Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 3 Fitzroy L 0 16 View match >
Round 4 Hawthorn W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 5 Carlton L 1 0 16 View match >
Round 6 Essendon W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 7 Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda W 2 0 16 View match >
Round 9 Geelong W 3 0 16 View match >
Round 11 Sydney W 0 16 View match >
Round 12 North Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Round 13 Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Round 14 Fitzroy W 0 16 View match >
Round 15 Hawthorn W 0 16 View match >
Round 18 Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Round 19 St Kilda L 0 16 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1950 16 1 0 16

1950 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 2 Fitzroy W 0 16 View match >
Round 3 Carlton L 1 0 16 View match >
Round 4 Hawthorn W 0 16 View match >
Round 5 Geelong W 0 16 View match >
Round 6 Richmond L 0 16 View match >
Round 7 Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Round 8 Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Round 9 North Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Round 10 St Kilda W 0 16 View match >
Round 11 Essendon L 0 16 View match >
Round 12 Sydney W 0 16 View match >
Round 13 Fitzroy L 0 16 View match >
Round 14 Carlton W 0 16 View match >
Round 16 Geelong L 0 16 View match >
Round 17 Richmond L 0 16 View match >
Round 18 Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1951 11 0 16

1951 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 North Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 2 Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Round 3 Geelong W 0 16 View match >
Round 4 Essendon L 0 16 View match >
Round 5 Richmond L 0 16 View match >
Round 6 Sydney W 0 16 View match >
Round 8 Carlton W 0 16 View match >
Round 10 Western Bulldogs L 0 16 View match >
Round 11 Fitzroy L 0 16 View match >
Round 12 North Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Preliminary Final Essendon L 0 16 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1952 16 11 0 16

1952 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Hawthorn W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 2 Fitzroy W 3 0 16 View match >
Round 3 Essendon W 0 16 View match >
Round 4 St Kilda W 1 0 16 View match >
Round 5 Carlton W 2 0 16 View match >
Round 6 Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Round 7 Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Round 8 Richmond W 0 16 View match >
Round 9 North Melbourne L 0 16 View match >
Round 16 St Kilda W 2 0 16 View match >
Round 17 Carlton L 1 0 16 View match >
Round 18 Western Bulldogs W 0 16 View match >
Round 19 Melbourne W 0 16 View match >
Semi Final Geelong L 0 16 View match >
Preliminary Final Fitzroy W 1 0 16 View match >
Grand Final Geelong L 0 16 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1953 17 8 1 0 2

1953 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Sydney W 0 2 View match >
Round 2 North Melbourne L 1 0 2 View match >
Round 3 Geelong L 1 0 2 View match >
Round 4 Carlton W 0 2 View match >
Round 5 Hawthorn W 0 2 View match >
Round 7 Western Bulldogs W 1 0 2 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda W 0 2 View match >
Round 9 Melbourne W 0 2 View match >
Round 10 Essendon L 0 2 View match >
Round 11 Fitzroy L 0 2 View match >
Round 14 Geelong W 1 0 2 View match >
Round 15 Carlton W 0 2 View match >
Round 16 Hawthorn W 0 2 View match >
Round 17 Richmond W 1 0 2 View match >
Round 18 Western Bulldogs W 0 2 View match >
Semi Final Geelong W 3 0 2 View match >
Grand Final Geelong W 0 1 0 2 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1954 15 14 0 2

1954 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Melbourne W 2 0 2 View match >
Round 2 Fitzroy W 0 2 View match >
Round 4 Essendon W 2 0 2 View match >
Round 5 Sydney W 2 0 2 View match >
Round 6 Geelong L 2 0 2 View match >
Round 7 Richmond L 0 2 View match >
Round 8 Carlton W 2 0 2 View match >
Round 9 North Melbourne L 0 2 View match >
Round 10 Hawthorn W 4 0 2 View match >
Round 11 Western Bulldogs W 0 2 View match >
Round 12 Melbourne W 0 2 View match >
Round 15 Essendon L 0 2 View match >
Round 16 Sydney L 0 2 View match >
Round 17 Geelong L 0 2 View match >
Round 18 Richmond L 0 2 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1955 15 15 1 0 2

1955 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Western Bulldogs L 0 2 View match >
Round 4 Hawthorn L 0 2 View match >
Round 5 Carlton W 4 0 2 View match >
Round 6 Essendon W 0 2 View match >
Round 8 Geelong W 2 0 2 View match >
Round 9 Sydney W 2 0 2 View match >
Round 10 Richmond W 1 0 2 View match >
Round 11 Melbourne W 0 2 View match >
Round 15 Hawthorn W 2 0 2 View match >
Round 16 Carlton W 0 2 View match >
Round 17 Essendon L 1 0 2 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 0 2 View match >
Semi Final Melbourne L 1 0 2 View match >
Preliminary Final Geelong W 2 0 2 View match >
Grand Final Melbourne L 0 1 0 2 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1956 16 18 0 0 1

1956 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Hawthorn W 0 1 View match >
Round 2 Sydney W 0 1 View match >
Round 3 Richmond L 1 0 1 View match >
Round 4 Western Bulldogs W 0 1 View match >
Round 5 Carlton L 1 0 1 View match >
Round 6 Geelong W 3 0 1 View match >
Round 7 Melbourne L 0 1 View match >
Round 8 North Melbourne W 3 0 1 View match >
Round 9 Fitzroy W 1 0 1 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 2 0 1 View match >
Round 12 Hawthorn W 2 0 1 View match >
Round 13 Sydney W 1 0 1 View match >
Round 15 Western Bulldogs W 0 1 View match >
Semi Final Melbourne L 2 0 1 View match >
Preliminary Final Western Bulldogs W 2 0 1 View match >
Grand Final Melbourne L 0 0 0 1 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
Totals 179 155 2
Avg/Game   0.87 0.01
Legend
  • GPGames Played
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • TTackles
  • DDisposals

Key Facts

CFC Debut Number

486

Total AFL Games
179
Total AFL Goals
155
CFC Debut
Round 1, 1945
CFC Last Game
Grand Final, 1956
Recruited From
St Kilda 3rds
Full Name
Neil Mann

Awards

  • Life Members
    1954
  • x2
    Best Finals Player (Bob Rose Award)
    1953, 1955
  • Leading Goalkicker (Gordon Coventry Trophy)
    1947
  • CFC Hall of Fame
    2004
  • E.W. Copeland Trophy (Best and Fairest)
    1954
  • x2
    Runner up Best and Fairest (R.T. Rush Trophy)
    1948, 1953
  • Third Best and Fairest (J.J. Joyce Trophy)
    1955
  • x2
    Team Captain
    1955, 1956
  • Premiership
    1953
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