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Vale Brian Walsh – 1934-2010

Russell Holmesby  August 20, 2010 1:59 PM


St Kilda has lost another of its great players from the 1960s with the passing of Brian Walsh at the age of 75.

Walsh was a member of St Kilda’s greatest ever “back six”. The first two lines of the St Kilda team in the Friday morning paper were always a comfort to Saints’ fans.
“Backs, Walsh, Howell, Annand. Half-Backs: Guy, Roberts, Guyatt” was a mantra of defensive strength. Each of the six represented Victoria at some stage of their careers and two - Roberts and Howell - won Brownlow Medals.

Neil Roberts is on record as saying that Walsh was the best defender of the whole group and it is little wonder that Walsh was a strong contender for the club’s team of the century.

St Kilda pursued Walsh from a young age, but when he initially trained for the Saints he was unimpressed and was happy to stick with his club - Ormond in the Amateurs competition. As a centreman he built an impressive record in the Amateurs, and when Alan Killigrew took over the Saints coaching post he targeted Walsh as a priority, after having coached the youngster at his school team - CBC St Kilda.

Killigrew played Walsh as a permanent back-pocket and the reliable No.7 became a formidable opponent for resting rovers.

Walsh was a superb reader of the play and used his precise judgment as support to the attacking full-back Verdun Howell, or occasionally as half-back flanker next to Roberts. He admitted in later years that he was flattered by Roberts’ assessment of his football, but said modestly that he always felt like he was part of a team within a team.

Describing the set up he said: “We knew what each other had to do and we did it. Having been a centreman I picked up on a few things and there were things I did, like making sure your opponent was always between you and the fence. You get to know what certain players do and whether they turn on a threepenny bit or have to go wide.”

He was a consummate sweeper and hated conceding goals.

Which made it ironic that he is the only man who has officially been entered in the annals of the League as having scored a goal for the opposition. It happened in a 1958 game when he grabbed the ball under pressure from Carlton opponents and the kick slewed 30 metres through the Blues’ goals. To his horror , the field umpire whose vision had been obstructed, signaled all clear and the goal umpire signaled a goal. In reports of the game Carlton’s goalkickers included the listing “one goal by B.Walsh (St Kilda)”.

The added twist to the story is that Walsh never managed a goal for the Saints in his 131 games. One goal he kicked against North was cancelled when the umpire signaled time off and he did boot a couple of goals in night games, but never in a proper premiership match.