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The complete history of the Mighty Magpies

Peter McKenna

Peter McKenna

1965-1975
6
Other Guernsey Nos.
15

180 CFC Games Played

838 CFC Goals

Date of Birth
27 August 1946
Recruited From
West Heidelberg YCW
Collingwood Debut
Round 1, 1965
Height:
191cm
Weight:
87kg

Biography

In the early 1970s, Peter McKenna was the biggest name in football – and probably the most popular the game had ever seen. This was true pop-star hysteria hitting the Victorian Football League. Young girls would run onto the ground to kiss him before the start of matches. The club was so heavily inundated with requests for photos that they had to print off thousands of them with a pre-prepared signature. He released an autobiography – as only a few others had done before him – produced a couple of pop records that were played on radio, and had a short-lived role co-starring on a Saturday morning TV variety show. It was ‘McKenna Mania’.

All of which makes it even more remarkable to recall that, just a few years earlier, many of those same fans who idolised him had been calling for McKenna’s dumping.

When recounting Peter McKenna’s career story, many people point to his 12-goal game in the opening round of the 1966 season against Hawthorn as the turning point. But it wasn’t: the goals dried up from the very next week and he was out of the side a few weeks later, dropped to the reserves for the rest of the season after refusing to accept a Collingwood directive not to play in mid-week Teachers College games. Instead it was a much lower-profile performance against South Melbourne two years on that saved a career that was very much at the crossroads.

In this way, among others, McKenna was very much like the only man who has kicked more goals in a Collingwood jumper than he has – Gordon Coventry. ‘Nuts’ arrived at Victoria Park late in 1920 but didn’t ‘click’ in VFL football until midway through 1925. McKenna’s career wasn’t quite as slow a burn but it was close: he’d played three-and-a-half full seasons of football before really finding his feet.

He had arrived from West Heidelberg YCW in 1965, following a junior career dominated mostly by soccer. His first two seasons were unremarkable, save for two wonderful performances against Hawthorn – five goals in just his third game in 1965, and the even dozen in 1966’s opening round. The return in 1967 was reasonable (47 goals from 16 games) but he struggled again in ’68, missing games through suspension and then being dropped after kicking only four goals in three games. The critics thought him too slow and too fond of playing from behind. He’d even been tried at centre half-back in the seconds. When he was recalled for the Round 9 clash with South Melbourne, Lou Richards summed up the prevailing mood when he branded McKenna as ‘hopeless’. But Lou was left with egg on his face when Peter kicked six that day, six again two weeks later against North Melbourne, then six more against Richmond and seven against Fitzroy. He finished the season with a bag of 11 in the return bout against South. Peter McKenna, goalscoring machine, had arrived.

The records that flowed from that point on were phenomenal. He kicked 98 goals in 1969, a staggering 143 in 1970 (still the best ever by a Collingwood player), 134 in 1971, 130 in 1972 and 86 in 1973. He finished his Magpie career with 838 goals from 180 games – an average of 4.65 goals per game, significantly better than Coventry’s 4.24. He won the Copeland in 1970, topped Collingwood’s goalkicking list eight times and the VFL table twice. He set a new League mark of 13 double-figure hauls (his highest was 16 against South Melbourne in 1969) and also kicked at least one goal in 120 consecutive appearances between 1968 and 1974 – a remarkable record that still stands as a testament to his extraordinary consistency.

Although the results were jaw-dropping the strategy behind them was simple. McKenna’s game was built on three core components. The first was a wonderful understanding of the game that allowed him to turn a healthy, though not blinding, turn of speed into consistently damaging leads. The second was an almost telepathic understanding with his midfielders: he knew when and where to run, and they knew where to put the ball. And the third was a laser-like right boot: his drop punt kicking was a thing of beauty and he rarely missed from inside 50 metres, no matter how tight the angle. He was more than handy with snapshots, too, but his bread and butter was the lightning lead, safe mark and deadly drop punt. Even today, when goalkicking remains a problematic part of the game, McKenna’s is the name regularly invoked by supporters as the gold standard of the art.

McKenna, one of the most modest champions the game has known, has always been quick to pay tribute to work of his teammates upfield. “I had an understanding with the Richardson brothers and Barry Price that was absolutely uncanny, and quite unplanned,” he said after he retired. “When they got the ball I just knew instinctively where to lead, and they seemed to know where to kick it. And they made it easy; their kicking was so good that there was no way you could miss it unless it bounced off your chest.”

 

As the goals flowed, so did the adulation. Every kid sporting a Collingwood jumper to the matches, or in suburban streets, seemed to have a white glossy plastic square bearing a black number “6” on the back. He was more than just popular: instead he was accorded a kind of hero worship and adulation that has been rarely, if ever, seen in our game before or since. He was footy’s first true pop star. If Twitter had been around in the early 1970s, he might have broken the Internet.

The young girls running onto the ground for a pre-match peck on the cheek became a regular event. One particularly wet day at Victoria Park, a girl jumped the fence and offered him her umbrella. The records sold well (though McKenna still claims self-deprecatingly that most of them sat in his mum’s garage or the bargain bins at Coles), even if the pop style was less his thing than Irish folk ballads like Galway Bay, which was his go-to song at club functions. About the only thing that didn’t work was his foray into TV, where the Saturday morning time slot proved an insurmountable problem. Still, he was replaced by a stuffed pink ostrich and ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ seemed to do OK without him.

The thing that’s often overlooked when analysing McKenna’s popularity is how hard he worked to look after those fans who idolised him. In those days a school teacher by profession, he took great pleasure in fostering his massive following among youngsters. He frequently appeared at functions and clinics conducted by junior clubs, and went out of his way to personally answer fans’ letters, sign autographs, talk to them at schools and in parks, even have a kick with them in the street. Once he even got into trouble for attending a child’s birthday party on the eve of a big game!

What makes McKenna’s generosity of spirit even more remarkable is that it existed in the face of unimaginable family tragedy. Late in 1967 he lost his 23-year-old sister, Marie, to an epileptic seizure. Incredibly, he went out and played for Collingwood that afternoon (the heartfelt handshake he received that day from fierce rival Wes Lofts has stayed with him ever since). His father, Kevin, died of diabetes-related causes soon after the 1970 Grand Final. Then his brother, Gerard, also a diabetic, drowned during a diabetic seizure. He was only 29.

Through it all, Peter kept kicking goals – and presenting the smiling, good natured public face that had helped make him the most marketable footballer of his generation. He was shattered when dropped for a 16-year-old Rene Kink in the 1973 preliminary final (a moment he still ranks alongside the 1970 Grand Final as the greatest disappointments of his career), but his Collingwood career didn’t end until he suffered a serious kidney injury playing in the reserves in 1975. He spent 1976 in Tasmania, playing footy with a protective guard, and looked likely to return in 1977 until a pay dispute forced him to reluctantly accept a better offer from Carlton. He kicked 36 goals in 11 games there before retiring at the end of 1977 – largely because he couldn’t stand the thought of having to play against Collingwood again. He then headed to the VFA with Port Melbourne and Geelong West. After that he became a much-loved commentator on Channel 7, his partnership with Don Scott on the Sunday Army Reserve Cup matches attracting a cult following.

In 1999 he was inducted into the AFL’s Hall of Fame, and his speech that night reminded everyone of the warmth, humility and gentle good humour that has made him one of the most loved people within the football industry. And in 2010, he finally got his reward when he was asked to present Nick Maxwell with the Premiership cup. McKenna later described it as his most treasured moment in football. As a man who gave so much pleasure to so many Magpie fans, nobody had done more to deserve the chance to stand on the dais with Premiership cup in hand. Peter McKenna’s football journey was complete.

– Michael Roberts

 

Statistics

CFC Career Stats

Season played Games Goals Finals Win %
1965-1975 180 838 11 65%

CFC Season by Season Stats

Season GP GL B K H T D Guernsey No.
1965 12 21 12 110 15 125 6, 15

1965 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 St Kilda L 2 10 1 11 6 View match >
Round 2 Richmond W 3 15 2 17 6 View match >
Round 3 Hawthorn W 5 2 23 2 25 6 View match >
Round 4 Geelong L 1 5 2 7 6 View match >
Round 5 Carlton L 1 1 12 1 13 6 View match >
Round 9 Essendon W 2 3 9 1 10 6 View match >
Round 10 North Melbourne W 1 7 3 10 6 View match >
Round 11 Fitzroy W 2 2 7 2 9 6 View match >
Round 12 St Kilda W 1 2 9 9 6 View match >
Round 13 Richmond W 1 1 6 View match >
Semi Final St Kilda L 2 3 1 4 15 View match >
Preliminary Final Essendon L 3 9 9 15 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1966 6 20 10 57 19 76 6

1966 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Hawthorn W 12 2 15 2 17 6 View match >
Round 2 Fitzroy W 1 5 4 9 6 View match >
Round 3 Essendon L 1 3 12 1 13 6 View match >
Round 4 Richmond W 3 2 14 7 21 6 View match >
Round 5 North Melbourne W 3 3 11 5 16 6 View match >
Round 6 Melbourne W 0 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1967 16 47 33 186 21 207 6

1967 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Geelong L 2 2 15 1 16 6 View match >
Round 2 North Melbourne W 7 1 16 3 19 6 View match >
Round 3 Essendon W 4 2 16 2 18 6 View match >
Round 4 Western Bulldogs W 2 3 8 2 10 6 View match >
Round 5 Sydney W 1 1 12 5 17 6 View match >
Round 6 Carlton L 3 2 12 1 13 6 View match >
Round 7 St Kilda W 3 7 15 3 18 6 View match >
Round 8 Richmond W 3 2 12 1 13 6 View match >
Round 9 Fitzroy W 2 1 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 12 Geelong L 1 2 9 9 6 View match >
Round 13 North Melbourne W 3 11 11 6 View match >
Round 14 Essendon L 3 1 12 12 6 View match >
Round 15 Western Bulldogs L 4 1 14 14 6 View match >
Round 16 Sydney W 8 2 13 1 14 6 View match >
Round 17 Carlton W 4 3 10 10 6 View match >
Semi Final Geelong L 4 1 5 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1968 15 64 34 145 14 159 6

1968 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Richmond L 1 2 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 6 Essendon W 1 1 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 7 Carlton L 2 3 14 2 16 6 View match >
Round 9 Sydney L 6 3 11 11 6 View match >
Round 10 Western Bulldogs W 1 2 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 11 North Melbourne W 6 3 13 13 6 View match >
Round 12 Richmond W 6 2 10 1 11 6 View match >
Round 13 Fitzroy W 7 8 2 10 6 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 3 1 7 7 6 View match >
Round 15 Geelong L 1 2 5 5 6 View match >
Round 16 Hawthorn L 6 7 15 3 18 6 View match >
Round 17 Essendon L 6 6 6 6 View match >
Round 18 Carlton L 3 4 11 2 13 6 View match >
Round 19 Melbourne W 4 2 9 1 10 6 View match >
Round 20 Sydney W 11 2 15 15 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1969 19 98 55 241 24 265 6

1969 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Hawthorn L 4 4 14 1 15 6 View match >
Round 2 Richmond L 3 1 10 1 11 6 View match >
Round 3 Melbourne W 6 3 16 16 6 View match >
Round 4 Carlton W 3 4 11 5 16 6 View match >
Round 5 St Kilda L 5 2 17 17 6 View match >
Round 6 Western Bulldogs W 7 2 13 13 6 View match >
Round 8 Sydney W 6 2 9 1 10 6 View match >
Round 10 Geelong W 4 1 7 7 6 View match >
Round 12 Hawthorn W 1 10 17 17 6 View match >
Round 13 Richmond L 6 1 8 5 13 6 View match >
Round 14 Melbourne W 7 4 13 1 14 6 View match >
Round 15 Carlton L 1 2 8 2 10 6 View match >
Round 16 St Kilda W 5 2 13 2 15 6 View match >
Round 17 Western Bulldogs W 5 12 12 6 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 5 4 14 1 15 6 View match >
Round 19 Sydney W 16 4 22 1 23 6 View match >
Round 20 North Melbourne W 4 6 16 1 17 6 View match >
Semi Final Carlton L 4 2 9 9 6 View match >
Preliminary Final Richmond L 6 1 12 3 15 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1970 22 143 80 294 32 326 6

1970 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Western Bulldogs W 11 4 15 1 16 6 View match >
Round 2 Richmond W 7 5 15 2 17 6 View match >
Round 3 Hawthorn W 6 5 15 1 16 6 View match >
Round 4 Geelong W 7 4 13 3 16 6 View match >
Round 5 Melbourne W 1 2 6 6 6 View match >
Round 8 Carlton W 8 3 16 2 18 6 View match >
Round 9 Essendon L 5 2 11 1 12 6 View match >
Round 10 St Kilda W 5 5 15 2 17 6 View match >
Round 11 Sydney L 7 2 11 1 12 6 View match >
Round 12 Western Bulldogs W 6 6 16 2 18 6 View match >
Round 13 Richmond L 4 1 10 3 13 6 View match >
Round 14 Hawthorn L 5 14 3 17 6 View match >
Round 15 Geelong W 4 2 11 1 12 6 View match >
Round 16 Melbourne W 3 4 11 2 13 6 View match >
Round 17 North Melbourne W 3 6 12 2 14 6 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 9 1 11 11 6 View match >
Round 19 Carlton W 9 6 17 2 19 6 View match >
Round 20 Essendon W 12 5 22 1 23 6 View match >
Round 21 St Kilda W 7 5 13 1 14 6 View match >
Round 22 Sydney W 9 3 16 1 17 6 View match >
Semi Final Carlton W 9 5 14 14 6 View match >
Grand Final Carlton L 6 4 10 1 11 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1971 22 134 62 282 32 314 6

1971 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Western Bulldogs W 4 5 5 6 View match >
Round 2 Richmond W 9 2 13 1 14 6 View match >
Round 3 Essendon D 3 2 8 8 6 View match >
Round 4 Fitzroy W 10 7 16 3 19 6 View match >
Round 5 North Melbourne W 4 4 12 1 13 6 View match >
Round 6 Melbourne W 10 2 16 4 20 6 View match >
Round 7 Geelong W 6 5 13 1 14 6 View match >
Round 8 St Kilda L 7 6 14 2 16 6 View match >
Round 9 Sydney W 6 12 3 15 6 View match >
Round 10 Hawthorn L 5 2 14 1 15 6 View match >
Round 11 Carlton W 8 19 2 21 6 View match >
Round 12 Western Bulldogs L 1 10 1 11 6 View match >
Round 13 Richmond W 10 18 18 6 View match >
Round 14 Essendon W 12 5 19 2 21 6 View match >
Round 15 Fitzroy W 6 3 12 12 6 View match >
Round 17 Melbourne W 2 8 8 6 View match >
Round 18 Geelong L 8 4 15 15 6 View match >
Round 19 St Kilda L 1 3 4 3 7 6 View match >
Round 20 Sydney W 8 8 18 1 19 6 View match >
Round 21 Hawthorn L 6 4 14 2 16 6 View match >
Round 22 Carlton L 4 4 12 1 13 6 View match >
Semi Final Richmond L 4 1 10 4 14 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1972 20 130 53 225 23 248 6

1972 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Richmond L 6 4 11 1 12 6 View match >
Round 2 Carlton D 4 5 11 11 6 View match >
Round 3 Melbourne W 8 4 12 3 15 6 View match >
Round 4 St Kilda L 1 3 8 8 6 View match >
Round 5 North Melbourne W 11 13 2 15 6 View match >
Round 6 Hawthorn L 7 3 12 1 13 6 View match >
Round 7 Fitzroy W 1 3 1 4 6 View match >
Round 8 Western Bulldogs L 1 4 10 1 11 6 View match >
Round 9 Geelong W 12 2 15 3 18 6 View match >
Round 10 Sydney W 5 5 13 1 14 6 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 13 2 17 1 18 6 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 7 3 13 1 14 6 View match >
Round 15 Melbourne W 3 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 16 North Melbourne W 7 1 11 11 6 View match >
Round 17 Hawthorn W 1 2 3 1 4 6 View match >
Round 18 Fitzroy W 6 2 10 10 6 View match >
Round 19 Western Bulldogs W 9 4 17 2 19 6 View match >
Round 20 Geelong L 9 2 12 1 13 6 View match >
Round 21 Sydney W 11 3 14 1 15 6 View match >
Round 22 Essendon L 8 4 13 2 15 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1973 20 86 42 179 17 196 6

1973 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Sydney W 8 6 14 14 6 View match >
Round 2 Western Bulldogs W 4 3 9 9 6 View match >
Round 3 Geelong W 3 7 7 6 View match >
Round 6 Melbourne W 3 3 10 2 12 6 View match >
Round 7 Carlton L 1 8 1 9 6 View match >
Round 8 Fitzroy W 5 3 10 10 6 View match >
Round 9 Richmond W 7 3 13 3 16 6 View match >
Round 10 Hawthorn W 4 3 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 11 Essendon W 8 3 16 16 6 View match >
Round 12 Sydney W 6 3 13 13 6 View match >
Round 13 Western Bulldogs W 4 2 9 2 11 6 View match >
Round 14 St Kilda W 6 1 9 2 11 6 View match >
Round 15 Geelong W 4 2 9 9 6 View match >
Round 16 North Melbourne L 4 2 9 9 6 View match >
Round 17 Melbourne W 5 4 10 10 6 View match >
Round 18 Carlton W 4 5 5 6 View match >
Round 20 Richmond L 2 4 1 5 6 View match >
Round 21 Hawthorn W 4 3 9 2 11 6 View match >
Round 22 Essendon W 2 1 4 4 6 View match >
Semi Final Carlton L 2 4 3 7 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1974 18 69 34 138 14 152 6

1974 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Essendon W 2 5 8 8 6 View match >
Round 2 Hawthorn W 3 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 3 Western Bulldogs W 6 3 12 12 6 View match >
Round 4 Fitzroy L 0 6 View match >
Round 8 Geelong L 3 2 7 2 9 6 View match >
Round 9 Richmond W 6 3 13 13 6 View match >
Round 10 North Melbourne W 3 9 9 6 View match >
Round 11 Sydney W 3 2 9 1 10 6 View match >
Round 12 Essendon W 7 2 9 1 10 6 View match >
Round 13 Hawthorn W 6 4 10 10 6 View match >
Round 14 Fitzroy W 6 1 7 3 10 6 View match >
Round 15 Western Bulldogs W 2 3 7 7 6 View match >
Round 16 Carlton L 1 1 1 2 6 View match >
Round 18 St Kilda L 1 1 1 2 6 View match >
Round 21 North Melbourne L 3 1 8 8 6 View match >
Round 22 Sydney L 7 6 14 14 6 View match >
Elimination Final Western Bulldogs W 7 1 11 2 13 6 View match >
Semi Final Hawthorn L 3 1 5 2 7 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
1975 10 26 14 59 11 70 6

1975 Season stats

Hide Season
RD VS Result GL B K H T D Guernsey No. Match Report
Round 1 Sydney W 3 1 4 2 6 6 View match >
Round 2 Carlton L 1 2 5 1 6 6 View match >
Round 4 Geelong W 4 3 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 5 Western Bulldogs L 2 3 7 1 8 6 View match >
Round 6 Richmond L 5 2 8 8 6 View match >
Round 7 North Melbourne W 2 5 1 6 6 View match >
Round 8 Essendon W 4 1 6 2 8 6 View match >
Round 9 St Kilda W 4 6 1 7 6 View match >
Round 10 Hawthorn L 3 11 2 13 6 View match >
Round 11 Melbourne L 0 6 View match >
Legend
  • #Guernsey
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • DDisposals
  • MMarks
  • TTackles
*Player goal statistics included VFA (Victorian Football Association) results.
Totals 180 838 429 1916 222 2138
Avg/Game   4.66 2.38 10.64 1.23 11.88
Legend
  • GPGames Played
  • GLGoals
  • BBehinds
  • KKicks
  • HHandballs
  • TTackles
  • DDisposals

Key Facts

CFC Debut Number

666

Total AFL Games
191
Total AFL Goals
874
CFC Debut
Round 1, 1965
CFC Last Game
Round 11, 1975
Recruited From
West Heidelberg YCW
Full Name
Peter McKenna

Awards

  • AFL Hall of Fame
    1999
  • x2
    VFL/AFL Leading Goalkicker
    1972, 1973
  • All Australian
    1972
  • Life Members
    1974
  • Most Consistent Player
    1970
  • x2
    Best Finals Player (Bob Rose Award)
    1969, 1970
  • x8
    Leading Goalkicker (Gordon Coventry Trophy)
    1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974
  • CFC Hall of Fame
    2004
  • E.W. Copeland Trophy (Best and Fairest)
    1970
  • Runner up Best and Fairest (R.T. Rush Trophy)
    1972
  • x2
    Third Best and Fairest (J.J. Joyce Trophy)
    1968, 1971
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