The 5 war stories of league footballers we thought you might enjoy


ANZAC Day probably means something different to every one of us, so we won’t get on high horse and tell you what you should and shouldn’t do today.

We haven’t fought any wars, we haven’t played footy at the highest level, and we don’t get paid enough to offer a hot-take on the intersection of the two.

So instead, here’s five war stories of league players that we think you might like. That’s it. Enjoy.



THE Melbourne utility didn’t do things in halves. He did them in doubles.

Rocking a double-barrel surname before all the cool kids were doing it, Warne-Smith won two Brownlow Medals, was captain and coach of the Demons, was selected to represent Tasmania and Victoria, and FOUGHT IN TWO GODDAMN WORLD WARS.

Enlisting for World War I in 1915 as a 17-year-old, Warne-Smith fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front – tragically losing two of his three brothers in battle.

35-odd years later, he decided the Italians and the Japanese deserved a furious morsel of Ivor, and served it up to them in the Middle-East, New Guinea and Borneo.

When Warne-Smith wasn’t injecting fear into the hearts of his enemies, he worked as an orchardist, a journalist, an oil executive, and chairman of selectors for Melbourne FC throughout the club’s most successful period in its long history.

Warne-Smith finally lost his life in 1960 to heart disease, but it’s rumoured that Death needed a nap and a Panadol afterwards.

The fountain erected in Charlie Moore’s honour.


CHARLIE Moore was a bit of everything. An accomplished swimmer, an excellent boxer, the first Fijian-born player in the VFL, and tragically, the first league player to be killed in action.

The cousin of the great Roy Cazaly, Moore – although short at 169 cm – played at full-forward and was the leading goalkicker in 1898 with 20 goals.

Moore enlisted to fight in the Anglo-Boer War, where he was wounded after having his horse shot out from under him, copping the bullet that had passed through his horse into his waist.

Managing to still kill his Boer opponent, Moore crawled to a ridge where he was found by his fellow soldiers and taken back to a nearby farmhouse.

He died of his injuries aged just 25. A fountain stands in his honour at the St Vincent Gardens in Albert Park.



HAVING endured the nightmare of playing for St Kilda in 1936, Peter Chitty was locked-up in Changi Prison in 1942.

It’s unlikely the two events were linked.

Captured by the Japanese during the Fall of Singapore, Chitty and 50,000 of his military mates endured cruel and life threatening conditions as POWs at Changi.

Despite a lack of sustenance and health care, the Australian prisoners – led by 1933 Brownlow Medallist Wilfred Smallhorn – formed the Changi Football League to stave off the boredom.

Chitty played for “Geelong” during the season , before captaining Victoria in a game against players from the other states at the end of the year. He received the Changi Brownlow for his performance.

Impressed by his obvious skill and bravery, the Japanese traded Chitty to the Burma Railway in the off-season.

Not known for their sports science or, ya know, regard for life at all, the slavers on the railway were responsible for 12,600 Allied POW deaths.

For his part, Chitty survived the railway, carrying a fellow soldier who was dying from malaria 200km along the way. He was awarded the British Empire Medal for his service.



BORN in Brunswick in 1890, Rupert Balfe is one the many reasons we commemorate Anzac Day on April 25.

At 25-years-old, Balfe ran onto the cliffs at Gallipoli and never made it back.

Playing 7 games for University between 1909 and 1911, Balfe’s focus was mainly on his school work, with his medicine degree at the University of Melbourne keeping him off the oval for the most part.

A good friend of future prime minister Robert Menzies, Balfe was a high school champion in 100, 200 and 440 yards, the long jump, and the high jump.

After Balfe’s death, Menzies penned a tribute to him in several newspaper in 1915 that read:

“His was the call that came from far away –
An Empire’s message flashing o’er the sea –
The call to arms! The blood of chivalry
Pulsed quicker in his veins; he could not stay!
Let others wait; for him the glorious day
Of tyrants humbled and a world set free
Had dawned in clouds and thunder; with a glee
Born not of insensate madness for the fray,
But rather of a spirit noble, brave,
And kindled by a heart that wept at wrong,
He went. The storms of battle round him rave
And screaming fury o’er him chants its song,
Sleep, gallant soul! Though gone thy living breath,
Thou liv’st for aye, for thou has conquered death!”



BOB Quinn ran at a machine gun.

A fucking machine gun. These days if you run back into a pack you’re considered gutsy.

The Port Adelaide captain-coach of 1939 enlisted in the Army in 1940 and was promptly sent to a little-known North African town called Tobruk.

As the Germans advanced in 1941, Quinn and his men were tasked with taking out a German machine gun post that was protected with barbed wire.

Trapped in a trench with limited ammunition, it was decided the soldiers would one-by-one run out into the open, lay down a length of pipe, run back, send the next bloke to connect another length of pipe, and eventually roll a grenade down the pipe to blow-up the barbed wire.

Quinn decided he would go last, meaning he had the furthest to run and would be closest to the gun fire.

About a dozen of Quinn’s men died. Quinn himself was wounded – but they managed to wipe out the German machine gun post.

By 1943, Quinn had been transferred to New Guinea for a change of scenery and to unleash his badassery on a different enemy.

Once again he was wounded. This time in the knee, arm and face.

Sent home in 1944, Quinn would have been forgiven if he decided to lay low for a while, drink some tea or breed cats or some other mundane shit.

Instead he went right back to Port Adelaide FC, playing Round 1 of the 1944 season just months after being wounded in New Guinea.

Quinn would eventually finish his career in 1947 with his fourth club best and fairest, 186 games and 386 goals.

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