Norm would be proud
Saturday, June 2, 2007
HIS former club recruited him 50 years ago this year and that same club is now perhaps one of the more prominent with its work with Indigenous football.
Only in recent years, however, has interest outside Windy Hill begun to turn its attention towards the life, times and career of Norm McDonald who, in 1947, became Essendon Football Club's first recorded Aboriginal footballer.
McDonald -- dubbed the 'Black Bullet' due to his exceptional pace -- patrolled the half-back line in 128 games for Essendon in a six-year career from 1947 to 1953, an era which saw the Bombers enjoy its first sustained period of on-field prominence in the then VFL.
McDonald's prowess on a half-back flank was a vital link in the chain to the Dons' march towards successive grand finals, an astonishing six during his career. He was no slouch either, having been named among the best players in at least two of those grand finals.
McDonald represented the 'Big V' on two occasions. Such was the esteem in which his career was held, he was named on a half-back flank in 2004's AFL Indigenous Team of the Century.
So how would Norm McDonald personally feel of his beloved Bombers' continuing work towards nurturing Indigenous talent, and at the role Essendon played in initiating the Dreamtime at the G game (every year against Richmond) and that concept game's subsequent sequel, the AFL's Indigenous Round? Sadly, time caught up with Norm -- as it eventually does to us all -- and he passed from this life in Melbourne on November 28, 2002, just 12 days shy of his 77th birthday.
But we can imagine that Norm would have felt the same amount of pride when, in 1995, the Bombers' favourite Aboriginal 'son', Michael Long, stood up and refused to accept nothing short of AFL backing to stamp out racism in football.
We can imagine, too, Norm's pride would be the same as that felt in 1993 when Gavin Wanganeen became the first Indigenous footballer -- and Essendon's first -- to win the Brownlow Medal following an eye-catching season in defence.
That pride would have increased even more when, later that week, on Saturday afternoon just after 5pm, Long became the club's first Aboriginal footballer to win the Norm Smith Medal after a mesmerising grand final performance, a medal several football historians contend McDonald himself would have won had there been one struck for the 1951 grand final.
Yes, we can safely assume that Norm McDonald, dual premiership player, club fairest-and-best, and early pioneer of Aboriginal football, would be immensely proud of the growing role his beloved Bombers have played in Indigenous football.