Haydn Bunton Sr. Retired VFL Player
Regarded as the greatest ever player by a few historians and passionate observers
During the 1930s and 1940s, Australian Rules footballer Haydn William Bunton played for Fitzroy in the Victorian Football League(VFL), the Subiaco in the West Australian Football League (WAFL), and for Port Adelaide in South Australian National Football League (SANFL).
Born on 5 July 1911, Bunton lived for a fairly short life as he died on 5 September 1955 at 44 years of age. One of the main reasons for Bunton Sr.’s popularity is because he was the only footballer in VFL history to win the Brownlow as well as the Sandover Medal. However, this legend’s name is best remembered because he has achieved both of the medals three times.
This makes him one of the only four footballers to have won the Brownlow three times, and one of the only five to win the Sandover three times.
Finally, Haydn Bunton Sr. is the one and only player to have averaged one Brownlow vote per game over his entire career.
Much like the infamous cricketer, Don Bradman and the racehorse Phar Lap, Bunton Sr. was a champion who helped make life a bit more enjoyable and bearable for the Australian public during the dark times of the Great Depression that had taken over.
Life as a VFL Player
Haydn Bunton Sr. is the son of the Victorians, Ernest Edward Bunton and Matilda Caroline, nee Luhrs. Bunton was born and grownin Albury, New South Wales, where his father worked as a brick-maker.
At the very beginning of his career, Bunton played for the Albury Football Club in the Ovens and Murray Football Association and even managed to attract the attention of all twelve VFL clubs because of his extraordinary football skills.
This highly competitive race was won by Fitzroy,which was successful in securing his services.
However, it was later discovered that Haydn Bunton Sr. had joined Fitzroy as they had paid him 222 pounds, which was strictly illegal under the VFL rules. Because of this unfortunate event, Haydn Bunton Sr. was not able to play during the 1930 VFL season and missed out on a great chance. His first legal match payments were £2 per week, which was a pretty modest amount in those times.
During the 1930-31 seasons, Haydn Bunton Sr. played district cricket for Fitzroy and managed to score 104 against Prahran. Later, even though various clubs in the Victorian Football Association (VFA) approached him to play for them during the 1930 season, he refused and stuck to playing for Fitzroy.
It was also reported that one club went as much as to offer him a brand new car in return for his services.
Haydn Bunton Sr.’s skill and talent is obvious when it is noted that he managed to win the Brownlow Medals in his first two seasons (1931 and 1932) in the VFL despite playing asa rover/follower.
Even though he was a passionate player, Haydn Bunton Sr. worked in a department store during day and practiced baulking by finding his way through crowds of shoppers.
Interestingly, Dick Reynolds, who is one of his well-known opponents, was also reported to be spying on him during this activity as he wanted to learn how to defeat his perfect technique.
Along with his Brownlow Medals, Haydn Bunton Sr. also averaged over thirty kicks per match and won five of the Club Best and Fairest Awards during his career at Fitzroy. In 1932, Haydn Bunton Sr. was appointed as the captain of Fitzroy and was also the recipient of the Champion of the Colony Award that same year.
Even though he was a runner up for the Brownlow Medal in 1934, he didn’t get it that year. However, he did successfully win it in 1935 for the third time.
During his playing career, he also spent some of time in the 1936 VFL season where he was the senior coach at Fitzroy. Unfortunately, he couldn’t manage more than two wins as his hands were full. In 1936 and 1937, Bunton was Fitzroy’s leading goal kicker.
Sadly, the VFL player quit Fitzroy after a long relationship in 1937 and, to its luck,decided to join Subiaco.
Subiaco and Port Adelaide
After leaving Fitzroy, Bunton moved to Western Australia in 1938 and took the position of captain coach of Subiaco. During this time, he won the Sandover Medal three times, in 1938, 1939 and 1941. However, history repeated itself, and Bunton once again failed to win a grand final during his senior career.
All in all, Bunton Sr. had won six leagues of the Best and Fairest Awards in just eleven seasons between the two States that he had played in. In 1942, Bunton returned to Fitzroy only for a few games and played one season with SANFL’s club Port Adelaide after he was discharged from the army service at the end of World WAR II.
Life as an Army Officer and Umpire
In 1943, Bunton had enlisted in the Australian Army and rose to the rank of the Corporal during his service. Also, Bunton spent the 1946 season as a field umpire for SANFL and was then appointed coach at North Adelaide. In the 1947 and 1948seasons, Haydn Bunton Sr. remained with the North,but was unable to take to the club to the finals as their senior coach.
Legacy and Tributes
Haydn Bunton Sr. was considered to be a player of integrity by his fans during his playing career and was known never to engage in unduly rough play. His fame further increased when he had his very own radio show on 3DB and also a Melbourne newspaper column when he played with Fitzroy.
Later, he had radio programs in Perth as well as Adelaide and was even regarded as a sex symbol in 1930s. In fact, his looks were so much appreciated that they were compared to those of film star Rudolf Valentino.
Once, Haydn Bunton Sr. played with Don Bradman in a New South Wales country cricket and was regarded as a possible Test cricketer in the early 1930.
Haydn Bunton Sr. was named at left forward pocket in the AFL Team of the Century in 1996 and was made an inaugural legend in the Australia Football Hall of Fame.
In 2003, Ken Mansell, a historian and teacher, wrote The Ballad of Haydn Bunton, which was a song that highlighted the football player’s main achievements.
In 2005, Bunton was honoured with a bronze statue that stands outside the MCG. This statue of Bunton is the seventh in a series of 10 in the Parade of Champions around the MCG precinct. Haydn Bunton Sr.’s statue is joined by that of Don Bradman, Ron Barassi, Betty Cuthbert, Keith Miller, Shirley Stricklandand Dick Reynolds.
Haydn Bunton Sr. was severely injured on Thursday 1 September 1955 when his car had crashed into three gum trees eleven miles north of Gawler, South Australia. During this accident, Bunton was alone in the car and was treated at the scene for severe injuries.
These injuries included that of the head, a punctured lung, fractured ribs, a fractured collarbone and shock.
After two days, on Saturday morning, Haydn Bunton Sr. managed to gather some of his strength to encourage his son Hayden Jr. during a crucial match for North Adelaide that was set to be played on the same day. On the night of Monday 5th September, Haydn Bunton Sr. was declared dead at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. After his death, Bunton Sr. was buried at the North Road Cemetery in Nailsworth, South Australia
Cleaver Bunton, Haydn Sr.’s brother, was a long serving mayor of Albury and represented the New South Wales in the Senate. Cleaver Bunton was also the president of the Ovens and Murray Football Association from 1930 to 1969 and he received the OBE in 1954.
Haydn Bunton Sr.married Lylia Frances Austin at the Scots’ Church on 22 February. Sadly, Bunton’s wife sued him for divorce on the grounds of her husband’s misconduct with a lady called Doreen May Scott, who was a member of the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) during that time. Lylia died suddenly at home when she was 42 on 25th December 1954.
Bunton and his wife had two sons: Haydn Bunton Jr., and David Bunton. Hayden Bunton Jr. went on to make a name for himself in the world of football while David became a lead singer in a band.
Even though Bunton Jr. was hospitalised for two years due to a fractured pelvis and Perthesdisease in his hip from age three to five, he continued his father’s legacy quite remarkably. Haydn’s son made his debut at the age of 17 for North Adelaide and was named an All-Australian player only two years later.