Ian Stewart Retired AFL Player
Stewart is one of the four men in history to have won the Brownlow medal thrice.
The former Australian football player, Ian Harlow Stewart was born on the 30thof July 1943. During the 1960s and 1970s, Stewart represented Richmond and the Saints in the VFL (Victorian Football League). Later, he moved on to become the administrator for the Saints and the coach of the Carlton and Melbourne clubs.
After the formation of the Australian Football Hall of Fame 1996, Stewart was one of the first few who were honoured with the title of hall of famers. In 1997, he was declared a legend. These aside, he is considered to be one of the finest players to belong to the state of Tasmania.
Childhood And Upbringing
Ian Stewart was born in Queenstown which is a small mining settlement in Western Tasmania. He was the son of Aldo Liberale Cervi, an Italian immigrant, and Queenstown local Anita Stewart. Ian Stewart was quite young when his parents split up and he moved in with his mother and changed his surname to his mother’s maiden surname.
He started playing senior league Australian Rules football when he was just eighteen years old and he proved to the club that he was an immensely gifted athlete. He could kick the ball accurately with either foot. On the field, he frequently got possession of the ball in situations where logic would say is impossible; and once he had the ball, it was very difficult to catch him.
The Early Years
In his teenage years, Ian Stewart spent his spare time watching the Tasmanian Football League (TFL) club of North Hobart play. Since he grew up in Hobart, he tried out at the Macalburn club.He was familiar with most of the players at North Hobart and yet he chose Hobart, the team’s rivals.Stewart started playing for Hobart in 1962 at the age of eighteen. After two senior games, he got selected to play for the state against Victoria.
He played against the great Alastair Lord, who won the Brownlow medal the same year. Towards the end of the season, Stewart showed an interest in playing for St. Kilda and he also made an attempt to get into the VFL (Victorian Football League). The Saints at the time were trying to build a team to win the premiership. Stewart availed the opportunity and managed to get recruited by St. Kilda.The Saints had already recruited a number of Tasmanian players and their start player was Darrel Baldock. Ian Stewart considered Baldock an idol and looked up to him.
Many Victorian Football League (VFL) clubs were looking to sign Ian because they were impressed by his performance on the field. Although the Saints strongly believed that Ian was too young and needed another year to develop, Stewart was able to use the other clubs’ interest in signing him for his advantage. St. Kilda finally signed Ian Stewart to play for them.
Career With St. Kilda
Ian Stewart had a very reserved and passive personality. When he went to the first pre-season training at St. Kilda, he took his own guernsey because he was shy to ask the club to provide one. Stewart was a promising mid-fielder to the team. He had a good balance and he was a reliable at winning the ball.
Since he played alongside Baldock, both players developed an understanding of one another. Alan Jeans, the coach for St. Kilda realized that Ian Stewart was a rookie who needed to play as much as possible and he positioned him into the centre, which is where he remained for his entire career.Stewart and Baldock formed a partnership that took the Saints to the finals, but they were not able to win the premiership since they lost to Melbourne in the semi-final.
The 1965 season was very successful for Stewart. St Kilda grabbed the top spot from Melbourne and won minor premierships for the remaining season. Two days after the final game, Ian Stewart won the highest award possible in Australian football: the Brownlow medal. Originally, Stewart was tied with Noel Teasdale of North Melbourne, but after comparing previous scores, the medal went to him. After he started playing for them, the Saints were in the Grand final for the first time in 52 years. It had been 93 years since St Kilda was formed, but they had never won a premiership. Therefore,the club was relying on Ian Stewart to lead them to victory.
St. Kilda players and their coach were inexperienced and they over-trained the entire week before the big game.On the other hand, The Bombers were experienced, which enabled them to win the game by the third quarter time. Like always, Ian Stewart displayed outstanding performance, which is why he was named the Best Player in the team.
In the next season, St. Kilda won eight games in a row and they were sure that the team would remain undefeated throughout the season.However, the team’s performance deteriorated; and by the time they reached the last game, the Saints were in danger of not making it to the finals if they did not win the next game.Baldock led the team to the finals, but Ian Stewart had a good season that enabled him to win his second Brownlow medal in a row.
The grand final of the 1966 season is one of the most memorable games of Australian football.The Saints had a rematch with Collingwood at the semi-finals. Initially, the Saints lost 10 points, but the following week, Ian Stewart and his team made a comeback and won a game against Essendon.
Ian Stewart became the captain of the team in 1969. However, the team could only manage the seventh position. At the end of the same season, he gave up his position and made a comeback in 1970 and drove the Saints to the preliminary final. Unfortunately, during that time, he was struggling with an injury and he was not able to play to his full potential because of it. He finally left the club.
Career With Richmond
After leaving St. Kilda, Ian Stewart contacted Richmond’s secretary Allan Schwab and showed interest in making a deal to move to Punt Road. At the time, Richmond had their star player Billy Barrot, whose career was parallel to that of Stewart.However, though Barrot was a good player, the club thought that he was undisciplined. In addition, he was also diagnosed of bipolar disorder.Keeping this in mind Richmond felt that he was not fit to play for them and released Barrot.
Ian Stewart had told St. Kilda that he was going to Perth to find a coaching job, but he joined Richmond. In return, when St. Kilda found out that Barrot would not be playing for the Tigers anymore, they signed him. Generally, there was a transfer fee associated, but this situation saved St. Kilda the transfer fee.At the time in 1971, two star players with parallel careers had never been traded for each other and the idea was not favoured bystunned supporters.
After joining Richmond in 1971, Stewart won another Brownlow Medal.The following year, Ian Stewart suffered an injury and was not fit to play in the Grand Final against Carlton. Although he did play in the second half and the team was trailing by 45 point, Stewart was not able to bridge the gap. In 1973, the Tigers had a rematch with Carlton, and Richmond secured victory. Sadly, Stewart injured his leg in the same game.
Originally he retired in the middle of 1974 but he made several appearances the very next year. He finally decided to quit when his leg injury got very serious. He was 31 at the time.Stewart played 127 games for the Saints from 1963 to 1970 and he got 25 goals. While playing for Richmond, he made 55 goals from 1971 to 1975 while playing 78 games for them.
Career As A Coach
Ian Stewart started coaching South Melbourne a couple of months after the last game he played. He was offered the job by Ron Joseph, the previous administrator at North Melbourne. When Stewart started coaching the team, the team was not performing well at all. However, Stewart managed to bring its ranking up to the eighth position by 1976. The following year, the Swans made it to the finals. This was the team’s second final in 32 years. However, the Swans were not able to defeat Richmond in the elimination final.
Ian Stewart started coaching Carlton in 1978. He was contacted by Carlton because they wanted to bring in a big name to replace the existing coach. A few weeks after the season started, Ian Stewart suffered a heart attack and quit his coaching position at Carlton.
Following his recovery in 1979, Ian Stewart returned to coach South Melbourne till 1981.The Swans were in a financial crisis when he first started, but he managed to bring the team to a strong sixth position by 1980. Still, this did not seem to help the team.
With an extensive career in playing and coaching, there is no doubt that Ian Stewart is worthy of his status as an AFL legend.