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Norman Ware – Brownlow Medal Winner

Norman Ware laboured for nine seasons as a member of the Footscray Football Club before capturing the Brownlow Medal in 1941.

norman wareHe was consistently on the ground during those nine seasons, never failing to appear in less than 14 games and generally playing in almost all the games. He took a hiatus for World War II, skipping 1943 entirely, returning to play in five games in 1944 and just one in 1945. When he played in 14 games in his final season, 1946, he had an even 200 matches to his credit, a total of 220 goals kicked, and 130 Brownlow Medal votes.

Norm Ware came from a football family. His older brother Wally played for Hawthorn for five seasons from 1930 – 1934, appearing 63 times and scoring 27 goals after getting a late start at the age of 24 and playing until he was 28. He was five years older than Norm.

Norman Ware’s debut came when he was 21 in 1932. Sought heavily by scouts, and according to the Gippsland Times from 2 November 1931, pursued so vigorously that he disappeared after appearing for Gippsland in match against Wimmera to avoid the attention. The secretary of the Footscray Football Club, a Mr. S. Thomas, visited Norm’s hometown of Sale three times in order to secure Norm’s services, making him the 147th player to appear for Footscray after the club moved across from the VFA. Mr.

Thomas must have been very persuasive, since Ware’s size, speed and toughness would have had the heavy hitters of the VFL interested in him. Then again, Footscray had been successful during its VFA days, winning nine premierships betwixt 1898 and 1924 before joining the VFL in 1925.

Norman Ware Debuts In 1932

He made his debut in round one of the 1932 season against Essendon, and although his side lost, he did kick his inaugural goal. The team was only average that year, both winning and losing nine games. Norm Ware contributed 17 goals, including a three-goal effort against that same Essendon side in round 12, where the outcome this time favoured Footscray. The team finished seventh on the ladder and Ware attracted seven Brownlow Medal votes in the year that Haydn Bunton won the second of his eventual three awards.

The team finished the 1933 season in the same position. Ware played in the first 14 rounds, scoring 10 goals. The team posted 11 victories against seven defeats. Ware picked up 13 Brownlow votes in only his second season, good for a tie for fourth with Allan Hopkins and only five short of Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn, despite playing in 3 fewer matches.

Footscray did not fare well in 1934. They dropped to ninth position on the 12-team ladder, winning six and losing 12. Ware kicked 11 goals and earned 12 Brownlow votes, seven behind that year’s winner, Dick Reynolds. The 1935 season was much worse. Footscray finished in 11th position, ahead of only North Melbourne. Various sources list different records for the season, but trusting the AFL’s statistics, Footscray won only two games and drew two whilst losing 14.

It was not until 1938 that the Footscray side would return to respectability. They advanced to the post season, but lost to Collingwood, as did most teams in the 30s, in the semifinal. Ware kicked 17 and received 13 Brownlow votes. Footscray finished third on the ladder, winning 13 times against five losses. Ware kicked 17 goals whilst appearing in all 19 of the team’s matches. Recognised by his teammates as team Best and Fairest for the third time, he also received that distinction in 1934 and 1937 prior and thrice subsequent in 1940-1942.

The success of 1938, however, was not duplicated in 1939. Footscray dropped back to 11th position, ahead of South Melbourne only in a four-win 14-loss campaign. Ware was on the ground 14 times, kicked eight goals and received 10 Brownlow votes. The next season of 1940 saw improvement to nine wins against nine losses, identical to Ware’s debut season, but this time he received 20 Brownlow votes and finished behind Des Fothergill, Herbie Matthews and Hugh Torney.

Ware Wins Brownlow Medal

Norman Ware’s Brownlow Medal season followed. Once again, Footscray produced mediocre results with a 10 – 0 – 8 record, good for sixth place on the ladder. They finished ahead of Collingwood, that dynasty reduced from former glory, although the Magpies won both matches against Footscray. Ware scored 21 goals, two fewer than his winning total of 23 Brownlow votes that put him one clear of former winner Herbie Matthews and six beyond third place finisher Fred Hughson.

The medal was announced in the Melbourne Argus on 4 September 1941, whilst all of Australia was absorbed with news from Europe and the daily threat of the Blitz a part of the daily routine for Londoners and Australians alike. Ware was to be the guest of honour at a social staged as recognition for the Footscray captain, who incidentally was the first and only team captain to win the Brownlow Medal whilst he was also filling the role of coach. That event was held 21 November 1941, and if the news from Europe was not distraction enough, it would be only about three weeks until 7 December 1941 was the occasion of Japan’s miscalculation.

Those much larger than football events would eventually affect Norman Ware. He did play 15 matches in 1942, kicking 51 goals, by far his best of any season, leading his team. For inexplicable reasons, he received not one single Brownlow vote. From hero to zero in short order.

Ware did not play in 1943, for reasons we suspect may have had something to do with the military, although it is fairly certain that at 193 cm and 91 kg, it would be relatively safe to say he was neither a tanker or a submariner.

Norman Ware had only two more seasons in his future when he returned in 1945. Dealing with the inevitable wear-and-tear 11 seasons of footy produce, he played only five times in 1944 and only once in 1945. The team did well in 1944, possibly a harbinger of a Footscray team minus Ware.

They finished fourth with a record of 12 – 1 – 5. Appearing only once in 1945, Ware kicked six goals in a losing effort to Carlton. He did, perhaps out of a desire to leave with a good taste in his mouth, appear 14 times as a 35 year-old in 1946. He kicked 33 goals, second best of his career. Footscray concluded the home-and-away season with 13 wins against six losses and finishing third. They could advance no further than a semifinal loss to Melbourne.

Norman Ware Inducted In To The Hall Of Fame

Norm Ware was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2001. Like his footy career, his life was long. He was 90 when he was inducted and he lived another two years before passing away at 92. Many feel that he is easily one of the top 100 players of all time. He would have been most proud, however, of the credit he was given in developing and establishing Footscray during his era.

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