Gordon Richard Coventry Australian Football Legend
Gordon Coventry was a famous Australian Rules football player.
He was born on the 25th of September, 1901. Throughout his career, Gordon Coventry played exclusively for the Collingwood Football Club in the VFL (Victorian Football League). He is considered a legend in Australian football because of his numerous achievements, including being the first to hit 100 goals in a single season and scoring more than 1000 goals overall. He hit a total of 1299 goals in his career, which remained a league record for more than 60 seasons.
He started to play football at an early age for the Diamond Creek Football Club, which was part of the (HDFL) Heidelberg District Football League. Later, he played for Collingwood in 1920 where his brother, Syd Coventry, also joined two years later. Gordon Coventry used to play as a full-forward and he led Collingwood’s goal kicking over the years till his retirement. This includes an unbroken run of 16 seasons as their leading goalkicker.
Gordon Coventry was also the leading goalkicker for the Victorian Football League (VFL) on six different occasions, which is considered a record. He hit 124 goals for the season of 1929 and in the process became the first ever player to hit more than a 100 goals in a single season. He repeated his performance in the next season as well as a couple of seasons down the years.
Syd Coventry was made captain and led the team to the premierships from 1927 to 1930. Gordon Coventry was a key player in each of these premierships. He was also considered to be the leading forward from the 1920s to the 1930s. These aside, Gordon Coventry won the Copeland trophy, the award for the Best and the Fairest at Collingwood Football Club during a season in 1933.
Gordon Coventry retired in 1937, possessing records for the most goals kicked and the most games played in a career. He had scored a total of 1299 goals and was also the first ever player to have played 300 games. He played a total of 306 games during his career. No one was able to break Gordon Coventry’s goal kicking record until 1999 when Tony Locket kicked over 1350 goals.
Gordon Coventry was born in Diamond Creek, Victoria to Henry Coventry and Jane Henrietta. He was his parents’ eighth child. A student of the Diamond Creek Primary School, he was given the nickname “Nuts” by his family because he had a large head as a child.
During his early years as a footballer, he used to work at his father’s orchard despite playing for the local league the Diamond Creek Football Club. This is where he established and enhanced his skills as a centre-half forward. In 1920, he was offered by the club officials at Collingwood to train there with the Magpies.
The first senior game that Gordon Coventry played for Collingwood was against St. Kilda in 1920. During his first two seasons at Collingwood, Gordon Coventry did not appear to be a very impressive player, but was good enough to maintain his position as a centre-half forward. In 1922, Syd Coventry, his brother also joined the club. In the seasons of 1920 and 1921, Gordon Coventry had scored 32 goals. His major contribution during this early period was in the Grand Final of 1920, where he alone scored over half of the team’s goals.
The team was not able to win the game, but Gordon Coventry displayed his immense talent. By 1922, Gordon Coventry’s position from centre-half forward was changed to get him closer to the goal. This paid off when he kicked 42 goals in 1923. By this time Collingwood was dominating the league. In the 1923 season, Gordon Coventry won the award for “Club’s Leading Goal-Kicker” thanks to his 42 goals.
By then, Gordon Coventry had established himself as a leading goalkicker and continued his prolific form for the club, finishing as their leading goalkicker for the next five years. Gordon Coventry kicked 83 goals in 1926 which finally won him the title of Leading Goal Kicker in the League. He was also presented the Coleman Medal for his performance.
Syd’s rise to captaincy corresponded with a change in the club’s fortunes. They began enjoying unprecedented success with the Gordon Coventry brothers at the heart of it. The four premierships from 1927 to 1930 were dominated by Collingwood and Gordon Coventry was the best goalkicker in the league at the time.
In the 1928 Grand Final alone, he scored nine goals, another league record. It was in 1929 that Gordon Coventry wrote his name in AFL’s history books by scoring over 100 goals, an unprecedented feat by an AFL player. He finished the season with 124 goals, comfortably the leading goalkicker in Australian football for that season. In addition, he carried on his prolific form by amassing another 118 goals in the next season.
During the 1930 season, he also had his personal-best game scoring no less than 17 goals against Fitzroy.
His form remained intact for the next four seasons as well as he led the goalkicking charts for his team. It was in 1933 that Gordon Coventry won the only Copeland Trophy of his distinguished career.
He scored four goals in his fifth premiership and took Collingwood to victory in 1935. However, he was suspended for the next year’s Grand Final because he had struck out at a player during a game. In general, Gordon Coventry was considered to be a mild-mannered footballer.
In the game against the Richmond Tigers, Gordon Coventry was suffering from boils on his neck, which caused considerable pain and discomfort. To make matters worse, Joe Murdoch, an opposition player, struck Gordon Coventry on his neck over and over. Eventually, Gordon Coventry lost his cool and hit Murdoch, landing an eight-game suspension. This was an exceptional occurrence as Gordon Coventry hadn’t been suspended in the 280 games he had played before this one.
The suspension didn’t affect his form and he was the leading goalkicker in the league for the next season. 1937 was the last time Gordon Coventry played for Collingwood, finishing the season as the club’s leading scorer for the 16th year in a row, an astounding achievement to say the least. Betraying age and fitness, Gordon Coventry announced his retirement at the end of the season.
Described as the man with a ‘vice-like’ grip and praised for his tremendous strength, Gordon Coventry retired as a bona fide great of the game. In addition to representing Collingwood with distinction for 18 years, Gordon Coventry also played 25 games for Victoria. He maintained his prolific scoring form for the state as well, notching over 100 goals.
Post Retirement Life & Achievements
Following his retirement, Gordon Coventry moved away from Collingwood. Initially, he worked as a coach for the Collegians, who were part of the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA). In addition, to coaching, he also worked as a columnist and a sports writer. He wrote columns about the game he loved for the Melbourne Sporting Globe.
Gordon Coventry was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and was named a Legend in 1998. In the same year, Gordon Coventry was named in the Collingwood Football Club Team of the Century, fittingly in his favoured position of full-forward.
In view of his performance as a goal-kicker, the trophy presented to the leading goal-kicker for Collingwood is named “The Gordon Coventry Trophy” after him. Besides, Gordon Coventry had a virtual monopoly on this trophy for sixteen years of his career, from 1922 to 1937, winning it every season. There are many players who have won the trophy for several consecutive years, but no one has been able to win it for sixteen years straight like Gordon Coventry.
Despite his outstanding success for club and state, Gordon Coventry never won the Brownlow Medal. In fact, he was named among the 25 Greatest Players never to have won the Brownlow Medal. In 2009, however, Gordon Coventry did manage to win the coveted Coleman Medal six times, including five consecutive years from 1926 to 1930 in addition to his 1933 Copeland Trophy win.
The southern end of the Docklands Stadium is called the ‘Gordon Coventry End’ in his honour. In addition, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has an entrance named after the Gordon Coventry brothers in the southern stand.
Gordon Coventry used to work in a yeast factory as a boiler worker and he was later promoted to the position of a foreman there. He married Christabel Violet Lawry, who belonged to the Unitarian forms, in Melbourne on the 28th of February, 1925. Gordon Coventry and Christabel had four children, two sons and two daughters. After his retirement in 1937 Gordon Coventry also worked as a football-columnist for the Melbourne Sporting Globe.
The “Legend” Gordon Richard Coventry died of heart disease in 1968 at his property in Diamond Creek.
Despite missing out on the Brownlow Medal, Gordon Coventry has managed to win the hearts of his fans as well as numerous accolades during his years in the AFL. Therefore, his status as a legend and as one of the top rules football players is definitely well deserved.