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The complete history of the Mighty Magpies

Percy Rowe

Percy Rowe

1920-1924, 1927-1928
22

96 CFC Games Played

37 CFC Goals

Date of Birth
4 January 1896
Date of Death
27 August 1976
Recruited From
Rutherglen
Collingwood Debut
Round 6, 1920
Height:
183cm
Weight:
87kg

Biography

Victoria Park in the 1920s was a place not exactly devoid of tough footballers. The Colliers, Syd Coventry, George Clayden, Len Murphy and Ernie Wilson were all opponents to be feared. They played the game hard, and had a “take no prisoners” approach that would make many of today’s observers shudder. This was an era where only the strong survived; Collingwood, thanks to its legion of “hard” men, flourished.

Numero uno among those hard men was Percy Rowe. Today his name is familiar only to a few long-standing supporters and to students of football history. But his former teammates never forgot. His 96-game career took him ever-so-briefly to the top of the Collingwood tree, and eventually culminated in one of the most remarkable solo efforts in the history of VFL finals football.

Percival Henry Rowe was born late last century into a family of eleven in Rutherglen. In those days Rutherglen was a gold mining town. After leaving school Percy was trained as a blacksmith to help make equipment for the miners. By that stage he was already making his mark on country sporting fields.

He excelled at three sports, boxing, cricket and football. Of the three, it was cricket and boxing in which he initially achieved most recognition. He won numerous heavyweight bouts in country areas, and was later offered main bouts at some of Melbourne’s biggest boxing stadiums. One promoter was later heard to comment that Rowe’s failure to pursue a boxing career was a “tragedy” for the sport. At cricket, too, he came under early notice for his left-arm pace bowling. Indeed it was cricket that first drew him to Melbourne, when Australian test player and local Collingwood hero Jack Ryder invited him to try out with the Magpies at the summer game.

Fortunately for football, Rowe had neither forgotten nor forsaken his winter pursuits. He had won considerable acclaim for his fine performances in country football, first with Christmastown (near Rutherglen), then later with Lake Rovers. He found himself enjoying his football even more once he came to the city, and his interest in the summer sport began to wane.

In 1920, at the relatively old recruiting age of 24, Rowe made it to the senior list at Collingwood. Only three years later, he was elected captain.

The reasons for his rapid ascension to the throne of captaincy lay in the outstanding, fearless and selfless contributions he made from the first time he pulled on a Collingwood jumper. He was a big, strong man standing just over 183cm (6ft) and weighing around 87kg (13st 101b), with massive forearms and shoulders.

By the 1923 pre-season, The Sporting Globe was moved to comment on Rowe’s “remarkable” development as a footballer. “He is a fine specimen of Australian physique and is now one of the top-notchers of the following divisions,” the paper reported. “Percy is great on the hit-out, and is an ardent believer in coming in from the back and taking a spring. Woe to any shepherder who tries to stem this six-footer by running back to stop him, for he will have the benefit of nearly 14 stone on top of him. Candidly, I do not think there are many more accomplished followers in this State than Rowe.”

On top of this, “Oily” Rowe was handy around the ground, becoming known for his strong marking and “neat” handball. But it was mainly the amount of hard bullocking work he put in which set Rowe apart and earned him the respect of his fellow players. His play in the ruck was always strong and he was a willing worker who took more than his share of knocks. At times he acted as virtually a one-man buffer zone to other Collingwood players. He was also renowned as a protector of young players, and he would not hesitate to “run through” anyone he felt had dealt unfairly with a comrade. Sometimes he and his good mate Ernie Wilson, a tiny but aggressive defender, would hold dressing room discussions about which one of them should do the “evening up” with an opposition player who had transgressed.

Len Murphy, himself renowned as a big, rugged competitor, once said that Rowe was the toughest of all Collingwood players. Harry Collier concurred. “Rowe was one of the toughest blokes I saw — and he looked it, too” says Harry. “I would hate to have been an opponent if he did not like you.”

Incredibly, Rowe was a “pussycat” off the field. As with George Clayden he was a real Jekyll and Hyde character, away from football being gentle, amiable and quiet — almost deathly quiet at times. A carpenter by trade, he did not drink, smoke, gamble or swear and was almost painfully shy in social situations.

He was a great clubman, who always thought of the team first. Rowe was also courageous, playing for many years with an arm guard after a football injury necessitated him having 12cm (5in) of bone removed from his wrist. And he was canny, once bandaging up his undamaged right shoulder to deflect opposition attention from the seriously injured left one that he left unprotected.

All these qualities combined to make him the players’ choice as captain for the 1923 season. But his captaincy lasted only three games. Rowe officially gave up the position because it was affecting his form. In truth, however, his wife had a big say in the decision; she did not like the extra commitments it meant for him at the club!

After a superb season in 1923, Rowe stunned the Pies by leaving to coach in Albury. When his country season finished, he returned for the last two games in dramatic style to try to help Collingwood into the 1924 finals (it didn’t work). For the next two seasons he coached in Wangaratta, where he became a genuine local hero after leading them through 1925 undefeated. In 1927 he came back to Victoria Park for a final two years. He went out in grand style, with a Herculean performance in the 1928 grand final that became known as “Rowe’s Premiership”.

Collingwood was struggling coming into the final game, and Gordon Coventry was finding the going harder than most, weakened by a severe bout of flu. Rowe asked to be placed alongside his good friend “Nuts” in the forward pocket, and promised that nobody would lay a finger on him all day.

As the game progressed, Coventry realised he was taking a lot of his marks virtually uncontested. What was happening behind him was that Rowe was blocking, bumping and harassing any Richmond defender who looked like getting near the Collingwood spearhead. Rowe virtually ignored the ball and concentrated only on clearing a path for Coventry.

As the game continued, the Tiger defenders became more and more frustrated, and devoted most of their attention to Rowe, but his indomitable courage and determination did not give; the giant man just grinned and took it all. At day’s end Rowe was black and blue but Collingwood had won the flag — and Gordon Coventry had kicked a record nine goals.

Coventry said later that Rowe’s performance was a revelation. “No one thought it possible for one man to shoulder such a burden, but Rowe thought lightly of it,” he wrote in The Sporting Globe. ‘The final scores were 13.18 to 9.9, but they could have been reversed only for Percy Rowe.” Richmond knew it too. Years later, when Rowe’s son Des was in the early stages of his great career at Tigerland, he asked for a clearance. A Tiger official bluntly refused, telling Des that his old man had cost Richmond a Premiership, and they were not going to give his son a chance to do the same!

With the post grand final praise still ringing in his ears, Rowe, now 32, left to coach Northcote. He was a good coach; strong, disciplined and well respected. Writers said he was “a born leader of men”, and his performances in charge reflected this. His coaching stints included Northcote from 1929-33, Fitzroy in 1935, Carlton in 1937 and Coburg in 1945-46, and brought him two Premierships along the way. But nothing ever surpassed that 1928 game – a truly memorable way in which to end a remarkable League career.

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Statistics

CFC Career Stats

Season played Games Goals Finals Win %
1920-1924, 1927-1928 96 37 9 68%

CFC Season by Season Stats

Season GP GL B K H T D Guernsey No.
1920 14 9 0 27

1920 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 6 St Kilda W 0 27 View match >
Round 8 Carlton W 0 27 View match >
Round 9 Sydney W 1 0 27 View match >
Round 10 Essendon W 1 0 27 View match >
Round 11 Geelong W 1 0 27 View match >
Round 12 Melbourne W 3 0 27 View match >
Round 13 Richmond L 0 27 View match >
Round 14 Fitzroy L 0 27 View match >
Round 15 St Kilda W 3 0 27 View match >
Round 17 Carlton L 0 27 View match >
Round 18 Sydney W 0 27 View match >
Semi Final Fitzroy W 0 27 View match >
Preliminary Final Carlton W 0 27 View match >
Grand Final Richmond L 0 27 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1921 16 8 0 19

1921 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Fitzroy W 0 19 View match >
Round 2 Melbourne W 0 19 View match >
Round 3 Geelong W 0 19 View match >
Round 4 Essendon W 1 0 19 View match >
Round 5 Richmond L 0 19 View match >
Round 6 Sydney W 2 0 19 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda W 0 19 View match >
Round 9 Carlton L 0 19 View match >
Round 10 Fitzroy L 3 0 19 View match >
Round 11 Melbourne L 0 19 View match >
Round 12 Geelong L 1 0 19 View match >
Round 13 Essendon W 0 19 View match >
Round 14 Richmond L 0 19 View match >
Round 16 St Kilda W 0 19 View match >
Round 18 Carlton L 0 19 View match >
Semi Final Carlton L 1 0 19 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1922 17 6 0 30, 27

1922 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 2 Sydney L 2 0 30 View match >
Round 3 Carlton W 0 30 View match >
Round 5 St Kilda W 0 30 View match >
Round 6 Geelong W 0 30 View match >
Round 7 Fitzroy W 0 30 View match >
Round 8 Melbourne L 0 30 View match >
Round 9 Essendon W 0 30 View match >
Round 10 Richmond W 2 0 30 View match >
Round 11 Sydney W 0 30 View match >
Round 12 Carlton L 0 30 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 0 30 View match >
Round 15 Geelong W 1 0 30 View match >
Round 16 Fitzroy W 0 30 View match >
Round 17 Melbourne W 1 0 30 View match >
Round 18 Essendon W 0 30 View match >
Semi Final Fitzroy L 0 27 View match >
Grand Final Fitzroy L 0 30 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1923 16 3 0 23

1923 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Sydney W 1 0 23 View match >
Round 2 Essendon L 0 23 View match >
Round 3 St Kilda L 0 23 View match >
Round 4 Geelong W 0 23 View match >
Round 5 Richmond W 0 23 View match >
Round 7 Carlton W 0 23 View match >
Round 8 Fitzroy L 0 23 View match >
Round 9 Melbourne W 1 0 23 View match >
Round 10 Sydney L 0 23 View match >
Round 11 Essendon L 0 23 View match >
Round 12 St Kilda W 0 23 View match >
Round 13 Geelong L 0 23 View match >
Round 14 Richmond L 1 0 23 View match >
Round 16 Carlton D 0 23 View match >
Round 17 Fitzroy W 0 23 View match >
Round 18 Melbourne W 0 23 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1924 2 0 22

1924 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 17 Richmond L 0 22 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 0 22 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1927 17 6 0 0 22

1927 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 3 Richmond L 1 0 22 View match >
Round 4 Sydney W 0 22 View match >
Round 5 Fitzroy W 1 0 0 22 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda W 1 0 22 View match >
Round 8 Western Bulldogs W 0 22 View match >
Round 9 Carlton L 1 0 22 View match >
Round 10 North Melbourne W 0 22 View match >
Round 11 Melbourne W 0 22 View match >
Round 12 Geelong W 0 22 View match >
Round 13 Hawthorn W 1 0 22 View match >
Round 14 Richmond W 0 22 View match >
Round 15 Sydney W 0 22 View match >
Round 16 Fitzroy L 0 22 View match >
Round 17 Essendon W 0 22 View match >
Round 18 North Melbourne W 0 22 View match >
Semi Final Geelong W 1 0 22 View match >
Grand Final Richmond W 0 22 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1928 14 5 0 21

1928 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Geelong W 0 21 View match >
Round 4 Hawthorn W 0 21 View match >
Round 5 St Kilda W 0 21 View match >
Round 6 North Melbourne W 0 21 View match >
Round 7 Carlton W 0 21 View match >
Round 8 Sydney W 0 21 View match >
Round 9 Melbourne W 0 21 View match >
Round 10 Western Bulldogs W 2 0 21 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 0 21 View match >
Round 12 Geelong L 0 21 View match >
Round 14 Richmond W 0 21 View match >
Round 15 Hawthorn W 1 0 21 View match >
Round 16 St Kilda W 2 0 21 View match >
Grand Final Richmond W 0 21 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
Totals 96 37 0
Avg/Game   0.39 0.00
Legend
  • GPGames Played
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • TTackles
  • DDisposals

Key Facts

CFC Debut Number

245

Total AFL Games
96
Total AFL Goals
37
CFC Debut
Round 6, 1920
CFC Last Game
Grand Final, 1928
Recruited From
Rutherglen
Full Name
Percy H Rowe

Awards

  • x2
    Most Consistent Player
    1922, 1923
  • x2
    Premiership
    1927, 1928
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