Over the past two seasons we have seen variations in the counting and presentation of the Brownlow Medal which we would have never considered likely as we have grown up witnessing glitzy events.
Back in 1925 when Colin Watson became the first Saint to win a Brownlow, it was a much more low-key affair.
When footy fans people read their morning newspapers on October 1, 1925 there were no banner headlines lauding the winner of the Charles Brownlow Medal.
The story on Page 4 of The Argus led off with: “Votes cast by the umpires for the best and fairest player during the season were counted at a meeting of the permit and umpire committee last evening, and resulted in Colin Watson (St Kilda ) gaining the honour.”
The story went on to report that the chairman of the committee, Mr R. Hunt, said that Watson’s record was a wonderful one. “Of the 17 matches played during the year, Watson on account of injury had played in 13 matches only, yet he had secured nine votes which meant that he had been adjudged best and fairest in nine of them”.
The chairman didn’t quite get it right as Colin actually played in 15 matches, but it was still a mighty effort by the 24-year-old.
In those days the umpires awarded only one vote per game, although it was said that during the count, there was one vote ruled invalid because the umpire had nominated two people to share it!
Many years later in 1968 Colin Watson recalled:
“I was having a foxtrot at St Kilda’s end of season dance at the Maison De Luxe Elwood, when a bloke told me I was wanted on the phone.
Five weeks later I went to the VFL office and a clerk searched around for a while and found an envelope with my name on it. The Medal was inside.”
Strangely enough, Colin Watson did not win St Kilda’s best and fairest in his Brownlow year. He had been the Saints best and fairest in 1924, which he maintained was a better year. Indeed he did not win any of the trophies awarded to St Kilda players in 1925 and it may have been due to the club’s displeasure that he was leaving and taking up a coaching post at Stawell, for 12 pounds a game, plus a job.
In 1926 he was appointed coach of Maryborough in the Ballarat League and because he was never cleared by St Kilda, the VFL suspended Watson and the entire Ballarat League.
In 1933 he was lured back to St Kilda after a seven-year absence and continued to play excellent football at the age of 32.
How good was Colin Watson?
In 1920 when he was playing for South Warrnambool, the local season ended a few weeks after the VFL and the club invited Roy Cazaly to coach the team for the semi-final and final.
Cazaly wrote in later years: “I had never seen a player with such natural talent. It was plain as the nose on your face that here was the ready-made champion. As a youngster I saw his equal only once. That was some years later when I had charge of the City team Launceston. For two years I had Laurie Nash under me. The greatest compliment I could pay the young Nash was to say of him : 'He’s another Colin Watson.'"