Graeme Lee was only a Saints player for a brief time, but his love for the red, white and black endured throughout his life.
Graeme, who passed away at the age of 81, was one of the many Tasmanians who crossed Bass Strait from the late 1950s and made an impact for the Saints.
He was the second ever player of Indigenous heritage to play for the Saints, following in the footsteps of Jim Wandin who had played a decade earlier.
“Gypsy” had kicked big swags of goals for Wynyard in 1959 playing at centre half-forward, and he starred in St Kilda’s pre-season practice matches in 1960. But he had to fulfil residential qualifications in Victoria and endure a clearance wrangle before a delayed start in June.
It was hardly an ideal start and with St Kilda embarking on a season where the club would make the finals for the first time in 22 years, opportunities were limited. Lee played four senior games in 1961 as a forward, but spent the majority of his time in the reserves. His mighty performance in the reserves preliminary final powered the Saints into the play-off. Lee had five goals on the board by half-time and finished with seven for the day.
A week later, he was part of the reserves premiership team. Because there had been a draw in the reserves finals, the Grand Final was played on the MCG a week after the seniors which gave St Kilda fans the chance to see their team in action.
With the arrival of Lee’s great mate Darrel Baldock in 1962, Lee was moved to the role of wingman and had a strong season in the firsts playing 14 games on the wing. But the appeal of returning home saw him cross to Launceston from 1963 to 1967 and he coached the club to a flag. Later, he played for East Devonport from 1968 to 1973.
He captained Tasmania in the 1966 state carnival. Baldock skippered Victoria and both men made the All-Australian side. Lee ran equal-third in the Tassie Medal for the Carnival’s best player. He shared third place with WA’s John McIntosh, a future Saint.
Graeme Lee was a stalwart in Tasmanian football playing for the state seven times. In retirement, he regularly travelled to Victoria to watch the Saints. Always impeccably dressed, he enjoyed re-living the old times with his mates and was a popular figure at past players reunions.