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Bill Mohr – Retired Australian Rules Football Player

bill mohrThe period of time betwixt 1929 and 1941 is certainly interesting from a historical perspective. The Great Depression got off to a roaring start with the infamous Black Tuesday that saw millions of people lose everything for which they had spent their lives working.

Financial impacts were felt all over the world. Those impacts lingered until 1941, when another globally significant event, World War II, gave impetus to democracies to ramp up production to support the war effort against fascism.

For our purposes, not to diminish the significance of those two events or for that matter, engage in nit-picking over the exact dates, the years 1929 through 1941 align exactly with the career of our subject for this article, Bill Mohr.

Bill Mohr spent his entire career with the Saints. He is well down the list in terms of games played, both in the VFL/AFL and with St. Kilda, but he trails only Tony Lockett in goals kicked whilst playing for the Saints.

Mohr needed only 195 games to wind up at his current 16th position on the list of most career goals. His total of 735 puts him squarely in the middle of a nine member pack of players in the 700 club. Of all nine, only Peter Hudson, currently one spot lower than Mohr with 727 goals, played in fewer games than Mohr. Although Mohr’s career is officially given as 1929-1941, he played in only one game and kicked only one goal in 1941. He also was the leading St. Kilda goal kicker from 1929, when he made his debut, until 1940.

It might be some indication of the struggles that seem to have perennially plagued the Saints. Leading the team with 38 in 1929 was one of the Saints better seasons whilst he was a player. They had 12 wins against 7 losses with Mohr on the ground.

Their only better season during Mohr’s tenure was 1939, when they were 13-0-6, with Mohr kicking 47. Yet, when he kicked 101 in 1936, the first player from St. Kilda to ever kick over 100 and lead the VFL, the team was 8-0-9. The Saints could manage only 94 wins against 101 losses over the course of Mohr’s career, lending further credence to the argument that top goal kickers frequently endure frustration in terms of team performance.

Biography

William T. “Bill” Mohr (29 June 1909 – 29 March 1971) was born in Wagga Wagga, halfway betwixt Melbourne and Sydney. Before making his VFL debut, he played footy for the Wagga Tigers of the RivFL, a team that was formed in 1928.

Earlier, we had described how Mohr’s career roughly paralleled the Great Depression and World War II, and Wagga Wagga also figured somewhat prominently in those two major events. The town was the focus of a secessionist movement as a result of the economic tribulations of the Depression that saw people agitating for a political break of the Riverina region from New South Wales. With World War II as an impetus, the Australian government established garrisons at Wagga Wagga with a military base at Kapooka and RAAF bases at Forest Hill and Uranquinty.

Mohr was but one of many distinguished sportsmen and women that originated in the town. Other rules players who enjoyed distinguished careers were Haydn Bunton, Wayne Carey, Brett Kirk and Paul Kelly.

Other sports are prominently represented as well, so much so in fact, that the term “Wagga Effect” is often used to explain the high percentage of elite athletes that got their start there. The list of sports and individuals is long, and includes tennis with Margaret Court and Evonne Gollagong and even two famous jockeys, Scobie Breasley and Roy “Cotton Fingers” Higgins. Perhaps it has something to do with all the salt in the water.

St. Kilda Years

Bill Mohr was approaching his 20th birthday when he played his first game for the Saints in 1929. In leading the club in goal kicking that year, he played in 19 matches, scoring two in his debut against Hawthorn and one against South Melbourne before he held scoreless for the next nine games.

He emerged from that drought with five the second time the Saints played Hawthorn in round 12. He had two games with six goals and one with seven in the closing stretch, but he was limited to two in a semi-final round matchup with Carlton.

He increased his goal output to 83 in the 1930 season, including 10 against Collingwood in a losing effort.

Mohr was a consistent contributor from his forward position and he reached his goal kicking zenith in 1936, his eighth with the club. He feasted on North Melbourne with 11 in the sixth round and Essendon, Carlton, Richmond and South Melbourne in rounds three, seven, twelve and thirteen shared the honour of having him score eight against them.

Mohr would accumulate 17 Brownlow votes that season, far and away his best, which tied him with Jack Regan in sixth place, nine votes behind that year’s winner, Denis Ryan.

He began to taper somewhat from that point, but he did enjoy a good season in 1939, as did the team, which won a semi-final over Richmond, even though Mohr was scoreless. They bowed out in the preliminary final, however, losing to Collingwood. Mohr kicked four in that match that was held 23 September 1939, three weeks subsequent to the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Mohr may have suspected that his playing days were coming to an end, but he returned in 1940 for one last game and one last goal against South Melbourne, where he moved from forward to defence. He decided at that time that his body was no longer cooperating and that it was time to make way for younger players. He was just about two months away from his 32nd birthday.

In addition to leading St. Kilda in goal kicking in every season save his last, Mohr was also one of the Victorian representatives for 18 games.

His club declared him best and fairest in 1932 and 1936, the second occasion leading to his being named captain in 1937. He was named a member of the St. Kilda Team of the Century as half-forward flank and he was one of the inaugural inductees of the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

Bill Mohr was just 61 years of age when he died 29 March 1971. He was remembered by fellow players for his ability to combine heady tactics with high levels of effort, along with being a dependable mark and the possessor of a remarkably straight kick.

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