The main aims and objectives of the AFL Premiership Players Club are to recognise the contribution that premiership players have made to the game, create social activities and good fellowship amongst members, assist wherever possible in the promotion of the game, particularly at grass roots level, and help charitable organisations.
Since 2000, the club has held an annual Stamp Induction function, where twenty former VFL/AFL premiership players, coaches, club officials and umpires are formally inducted into the AFL Premiership Players Club. Each player receives a framed sheet of stamps, produced by their sponsor Australia Post, featuring all twenty inductees.
On Sunday November 26, Des Meagher became the 44th Hawthorn Premiership Player to be inducted into the AFL Premiership Club at the annual function of the AFLPPC held at the Essendon Football Club Social Club.
Family of the late Des Meagher were invited guests, with teammate Peter Murnane delivering a moving account of Des’s illustrious career with the Hawks. When Des’s daughter accepted the framed set of 2023 stamps, she captured the audience’s imagination as she explained that her father, apart from football, was an ardent stamp collector from a very early age and would have been rapt to be featured on a stamp himself.
Born March 7, 1944, Died March 9, 2011
Recruited Old Xavierians,
Debut Order 559
Guernsey 30, Games 198, Goals 96
Premiership 1971, Night Premiership 1968, 1969
3rd Best & Fairest 1966, 1968, 1972
Best Player VFL Night Series 1967
Club Roles & Honours
Life Member 1973, HFCSC Life Member 1970
Reserves Coach 1980-1993, Premiership 1985
VFL/AFL Roles & Honours
State Games 3, Australia Football World Tour 1968
VFLPA Secretary 1973-1974
‘Desi Meagher would finish work as a pharmacist at Box Hill Hospital, run to training at Glenferrie, dominate the drills that were very tough during John Kennedy’s reign and then run home to Box Hill … he set a new standard.’ – David Parkin on Des Meagher
Des Meagher was ahead of his time. His immense running capacity and endurance lifted the bar and would not be out of place in today’s game. His raking left-foot kick could travel great distances, occasionally hitting its prescribed target! However, his tenacity and forthright attitude on the field melded perfectly with the era of Kennedy’s Commandos.
Teammates recall a rangy, tough and consistent footballer who played mainly as a wingman. Peter Knights said of Meagher, ‘He would have been a great player in today’s football because he was tall and could run.’ He possessed one of the slickest hand-to-boot drops of any player. His disposal efficiency could suffer as a result. By moving the ball forward so swiftly, though, Meagher played a vital part in a very successful Hawthorn game plan where Peter Hudson played one-out and deep in the forward line. Coach, John Kennedy called Meagher a fine running wingman who was equally at home at Glenferrie or on bigger grounds.
Meagher was recruited to Hawthorn with the help of his Old Xavierians’ coach, Peter Rhoden. He had played 75 games for the amateur side and had represented the Victorian Amateur Football Association in 1964 and 1965 before joining the Hawks. Rhoden commented on his old charge, ‘Des was a delight to have in a side with his quirky sense of humour.’
A talented all-round athlete, he had found success with water polo. Playing for Surrey Park Amateur Swimming Club, he was a part of their B-Grade premiership in the 1961-62 season. He represented Victoria in that sport, too. The quirky humour found an outlet in the pool. ‘Des enjoyed terrorising his teammates by bouncing a water polo ball off their heads,’ noticed David Parkin.
Des Meagher played his first senior game for Hawthorn in the Round 1, 1966 clash with Collingwood. Among the six Hawthorn debutants that day were future 1971 premiership teammates Peter Crimmins, Michael Porter and Ray Wilson. Meagher would play 16 games during the 1966 season, finishing third in the Best & Fairest Award – a marvellous achievement for a first-year player.
His form caught the eye of Victorian selectors who picked him to play in the Big V for the clash against South Australia in 1967. During that game in Adelaide, Des was instrumental in Victoria’s six-point win by containing South Australian champion, Barrie Robran. The 1967 season saw him presented with the award for Best Player in the VFL night series. He also played his role in two Night Premierships in 1968 and 1969. He would play representative football with the Australian ‘Galahs’ team in the second of Harry Beitzel’s tours, travelling to England, Ireland, Romania and the United States in 1968.
During the next seven seasons, Meagher consistently tallied over 20 disposals a game. He dominated the wing at Glenferrie during that period. His fitness and athleticism saw him miss few games – missing only six matches over the course of four seasons from 1968 to 1971. John Kennedy Snr remarked how Des, ‘set a great example around the Club with his approach to fitness.’ His fine, consistent play would be borne out in his placing third in Hawthorn’s Best & Fairest award again in both 1968 and 1972. He would also receive the Most Consistent Player Award in 1972 and 1973.
He was again selected for the Victorian State side in 1973, fitting reward for a wingman who played in each of Hawthorn’s 22 games that year. However, by 1975 dropping form and injury crept in and Meagher only managed three games for the season, including the disappointment of the losing Grand Final. He managed 17 games in his final season with the Hawks in 1976. The semi-final against Carlton proved to be his last game and his playing career came to an abrupt end. Des Meagher played 198 senior games and kicked 96 goals during his Hawthorn career
Following his retirement as player, Des Meagher took on the role of coach for Kilsyth in the Eastern Football League. He returned to Glenferrie as a coach of Hawthorn’s Reserves in 1980 and spent the next 14 seasons serving as assistant to David Parkin, his 1971 captain turned senior coach, as well as Allan Jeans, the opposition coach in the 1971 Grand Final and finally, Alan Joyce. ‘He had a huge influence on Hawthorn’s success,’ says Joyce. ‘His loyalty could never be questioned.’
Many of the Hawthorn premiership stalwarts, such as James Morrisey, Andy Collins, Stephen Lawrence served an apprenticeship in the Reserves under Des Meagher. Emerging players would say that they were ready for senior football only once they could outrun coach Meagher.
Peter Knights played under Meagher during the 1985 Reserves Premiership and described Meagher’s style: ‘He was a bit of a hard taskmaster. Allan Jeans would have the seniors training at one end of Glenferrie, while at the other end, Des would be training the reserves really hard. Des proved a good foil for Jeansy in a great coaching combination.’ Meagher’s 14 years at the helm of the Reserves would yield seven straight finals appearances 1982-1988. It would prove a solid foundation for the dominance of the senior side in that era. He also played a large part in the foundation of the VFL Players Association in 1973 and was elected the group’s Secretary in February 1974.
Meagher returned to his Amateur roots by coaching Whitefriars Old Collegians in the VAFA from 1995 to 2000, leading the D-grade side premiership glory in 1998 and the C-grade team to a flag in 1999. ‘Our club grew up with Des at the helm,’ says a President of that club, ‘our memories of Des are fond.’
Des Meagher suffered a stroke and quietly passed away two days after his 67th birthday in March 2011. John Kennedy summed up his charge succinctly. He called Des Meagher ‘a great Hawthorn man and he set a fine example.’
Picture: The Meagher family, Joanna, Jane, Nan & Lisa with Peter Murnane