Albert Collier – Former Australian Rules Brownlow Medal Winner
Unlike the team success frustration many scoring leaders have been forced to tolerate throughout the history of the VFL/NFL, Brownlow Medal winners often tasted considerable success from that perspective. This is only fitting, since the Brownlow Medal recognizes players who have served the team, rather than individual statistics.
This is not to say that selfishness and the desire to post high numbers of goals was the primary motivator of prodigious goalkickers, even though for some that may have been the case, but only that the teams that have raised the flag have had the benefit of more balanced scoring and stronger play across the entire ground.
Brownlow Medal Winners
Many of the early Brownlow Medal winners, as well as many latter day ones as well, posted scoring statistics for entire careers that fell short of the totals of one better than average season of the kicking specialists.
That is true of the player who won the medal in 1929, Albert “Leeter” Collier. He spent time, 13 seasons, with the Collingwood Football Club and two more with Fitzroy, where despite playing in 217 games, scored only 66 goals. In fact, in 1929, the year he won the Brownlow, he was scoreless, a drought which persisted for the 1930 season as well. It was as part of “The Machine,” the Collingwood side that won the premiership four consecutive seasons from 1927-1930.
Collier played alongside Syd Coventry, another low-scoring-but-Brownlow-Medal-recipient who also eschewed personal statistics whilst contributing to the record of the Pies that has never been equaled or surpassed.
Collier was the quintessential hometown boy, born 9 July 1909 in Collingwood. He was but a lad, a couple of months short of his 16th birthday, when he made his debut in 1925. He was fielded only four times that season. The Pies participated 20 times, however, and already had a formidable side that made it to the Grand Final, only to see Geelong win its first VFL premiership, something the Cats had not done since taking the VFA title in 1886. The Magpies made a good show of it, mounting a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, only to fall short at the end by 10 points.
Collier Increases Playing Time
Leeter Collier increased his playing time by a factor of five in the following season, producing 14 goals, the season high for his career. Collingwood made it to the Grand Final once again. This time, however, it was the Melbourne Football Club that supplied the frustration of a good season squandered.
Albert’s brother Harry did kick three goals for Collingwood, Syd Coventry provided the defence, and Syd’s brother Gordon kicked two goals in a decidedly lopsided affair where Melbourne outscored Collingwood in all four quarters and posted a 61 point margin at the end.
Those two Grand Final losses, bitter as they may have felt at the time, provided the impetus Collingwood needed to start their remarkable run in 1927. Collingwood had not won a premiership since 1919 and along with the Grand Finals losses in Albert Collier’s first two seasons; the Pies had also suffered Grand Final defeats in 1920 and 1922. The cumulative effect of this failure to achieve the pinnacle led to the sacking of Charlie Tyson as captain and the installation of Syd Coventry as his replacement. Coventry would end the drought and be the Brownlow Medal winner that year.
Magpies Have A Great Year
The Magpies had a remarkable season, losing only three matches and outscoring their opponents by over 700 points. Collingwood’s opponent in the Grand Final was Richmond FC.
In a contest where scoring was at a premium and horrendous weather conditions saw fewer than 35,000 fans showing up to populate the stands of the Melbourne Cricket Club facility, Collingwood prevailed by a 12 point margin at the end, a record of sorts for the dubious distinction of being the lowest scoring game in the VFL in nearly 30 years, the lowest of any Grand Final in the history of the VFL/AFL, and from the year 1900 onwards, the lowest scoring Australian Rules Football game ever, as of 2015.
For fans who appreciate the growth of sports of all kind in every manner, the MCG gate was less than 1,800 pounds, which at today’s exchange rates would not come close to purchasing one ringside seat for the recently concluded Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao boxing match. Albert Collier kicked only two goals that season, but he served yeoman duty from the halfback position in the Grand Final when the Pies lost the services of Coventry, Beveridge and Rumney in the opening moments of the third quarter.
The 1928 season saw the Pies repeat as VFL champions, needing 21 games and 17 victories to secure the title with a 33 point margin at the final bell over Richmond.
The 1929 season was unique for Albert Collier, for two reasons. He scored not once and he was awarded the Brownlow Medal, which is a sentence that has not been written often, if ever. Collingwood won their third consecutive premiership, again taking advantage of Richmond, but by a larger margin of 29 points.
Collier Wins Brownlow
Collier received only six votes to take the Brownlow, but it should be remembered that the voting system at the time allowed for only one voter per game. He had more than a little help from his brother Harry and his mates as well. Collingwood won all 18 matches during the home-and-away season, something that has never been done again. A major upset took place in the second semi-final when the Tigers literally decimated the Pies by a margin over double that scored by Collingwood.
It may have been overconfidence that led to Richmond’s failing in the Grand Final, or it could have been scoring fatigue, but retrospect would seem to indicate that they should not have aroused the Magpies, who got their deserved measure of revenge in the Grand Final, when everything was on the line.
When the Magpies won their fourth consecutive premiership in 1930, they established the standard by which all past and future great footy clubs will be measured. It was another season when Albert Collier’s contributions would be in every area but scoring. The Grand Final victory over Geelong saw Collingwood trailing by 21 at the half, so it was an indeed remarkable comeback and the establishment of dominance that saw the Pies ahead by 30 points and holding the Geelong side to one point in the third quarter.
Albert Collier would remain at Collignwood for another seven seasons, including two more Grand Final victories in 1935-36. His final three seasons saw the Pies assuming the role of runners-up with Geelong, Carlton and Melbourne raising the flag. For most teams, finsishing second would have been a major accomplishment, but for a side accustomed to being on top, it was something of a slide.
Albert Collier next appeared in 1941 as a member of the Fitzroy side. He played 11 matches in 1941, assuming more of a scoring role, where he posted his career second best, with 12 goals.
He played only one more game for Fitzroy in 1942, calling it quits when he was very nearly 33 years of age.
Australian Hall Of Fame
He was immediately inducted to the Australian Football Hall of Fame when that organisation was established in 1996. His Collingwood side named him to their Team of the Century at the centre half back position and he appeared 12 times as a member of the Victorian Interstate team.
He was 78 years of age when he passed away in Frankston, Victoria on 22 February, 1988.