Melbourne’s Brownlow Medallists span a diverse range of personalities, contributions and times. From the 1920s to the start of the 21st century, from across the Irish and Collingwood cultural divide, and from the centre of the ground to the ruck, they encompass all parts of our history.
Ivor Warne-Smith was born at Lavender Bay, Sydney, but learned about football when attending Wesley College in Melbourne. During the First World War, he served in France and Gallipoli. In 1919, he was invited to train with Melbourne, and proved good enough to play the last eight games of that season. But, in 1920, he went to Tasmania to run an apple farm. He went on to play football with Latrobe in North-Western Tasmania, and led them to two premierships and three Grand Finals in three years, after being appointed their captain-coach in 1922. In 1924, he won the Cheel Medal, for being the North-Western Union’s best and fairest player. He also won two best and fairest awards with Latrobe. At the end of 1925, he was chased by Richmond to return to playing VFL football, but found out that he was tied to Melbourne. So, at the age of 27, Ivor Warne-Smith started playing again for the Club. He was capable of playing all around the ground, although was generally considered as being at his best in the centre.
In 1926, Warne-Smith was voted best afield at least nine times, and won the Brownlow Medal in Melbourne’s premiership year, with nine votes, four ahead of his nearest rivals. In 1927, he became Melbourne’s vice captain, and in 1928, was appointed captain-coach of the side. In that year, he became the first player to win the Brownlow Medal twice. Despite initially being non-playing coach in 1932, Warne-Smith was reintroduced as a player in that season due to the side being decimated by poor form and injury. This led to the unusual situation of the coach playing, but not captaining the side.
Ivor Warne-Smith ultimately retired as a player at the end of the 1932 season. He had 146 games to his credit, and 110 goals. But he had more than that – two time winner of the Brownlow Medal, he was one of the game’s highest ever achievers.
Warne-Smith’s connection with Melbourne survived retirement. He went on to serve again in wartime, successfully appealing the Army’s ruling that, at the age of 43, he was too old. Upon return from the war, he became Chairman of Selectors at Melbourne in 1949, going on to work closely with champion coach Norm Smith. He held his position until his death in 1960, and was an integral part of the side’s success throughout this era.
A medical student, Cordner combined studies with university football, and progressed to the Melbourne side, making his senior debut in the 1941 semi final. He developed into one of Melbourne's best - a follower and defender full of flair, and always reliable.
The winner of the Brownlow Medal in 1946, he captained Melbourne in 1948 and 1949, leading the side to the memorable tie and replay win over Essendon for the 1948 flag. He represented Victoria in 1946, 1948 and 1949, and was made a Life Member in 1950.
He was the first winner of the 'Bluey' Truscott Memorial Cup, as the Best and Fairest was named from 1943 onwards. His medical career eventually led to his giving up football, as an emergency situation left him exhausted during one finals match in 1950. After leaving the Club, he went on to play a role on the Club Committee, at the VFL Tribunal, and as President of the MCC.
Ever irrepressible, Brian Wilson started his long journey in VFL/AFL at the age of 16, when recruited by Footscray from Braybrook. Two years later, suffering weight problems, he was delisted and picked up by North, where his form improved.
However, in a surprising move, he was transferred to Melbourne after two years with North. At Melbourne, he had an immediate impact, winning the Brownlow in his first season - the third youngest player to ever do so. While playing most of his early football in the centre, he later became a forward pocket specialist, renowned for his enthusiasm.
A member of the Grand Final side of 1988, Wilson retired from Melbourne just before the 1990 finals, disillusioned and suffering hamstring injuries. A surprise draft choice by St Kilda, he played just a handful of games, including one match winning effort against Melbourne, in which he kicked six goals.
An agile ruckman with great pace, Moore had great ball handling skills, which saw him being used at full forward in his early days with the Magpies. Recruited from Eltham, he became Collingwood's No. 1 ruckman in 1979, following the departure of Len Thompson.
His form in this role saw him winning the first of his two Brownlows in the same year. Two years later, Moore was made captain, but a hamstring injury took its toll. Eventually he was traded to Melbourne, where he won his second Brownlow in 1984, and became part of the team's resurgence in 1987.
He is one of only four players to have won a Brownlow at two clubs, the others being Greg Williams at Sydney and Carlton, Ian Stewart at St Kilda (where he won two) and Richmond, and Chris Judd at West Coast and Carlton.
The Jim Stynes story is one of the most unique in V/AFL history. One of Australian Rules’ most incredible stories, Jim Stynes first came to Australia in November 1984 under the scheme initiated by Ron Barassi – the ‘Irish Experiment’, set up early in the 1980s thanks to the belief that Irish boys had the necessary athleticism and ball skills to be successful at the Australian game. In 1986, Jim was transferred to VFA club Prahran to learn more about the fundamentals of the game, particularly the art of body contact, and in 1987, he went on to make his senior debut with Melbourne.
It was the beginning of a remarkable career, which saw Jim become one of the most revered figures in the competition. Fiercely competitive and equipped with a never-say-die attitude, he overcame setbacks that may well have defeated a lesser person. Apart from simply learning the game from a relatively late age, he became the focus of the football world for the infamous ‘running across the mark’ incident that gave Hawthorn’s Gary Buckenara the winning goal in the 1987 Preliminary Final.
Stynes came back from this to win the 1991 Brownlow Medal and play a League record 244 consecutive games out of his total of 264, before retiring at the end of the 1998 season. He went on to serve as Club President a decade later.
Overlooked in two drafts, then given a run in the 1997 pre-season without any guarantee of being drafted, Woewodin’s persistence and tenacity paid off. The last player placed on Melbourne’s list before the 1997 season, Woewodin made his senior debut in Round One. He quickly became an integral part of the midfield ‘engine room’, which was such a vital part of the side’s finals campaigns in 1998 and 2000.
Woewodin’s best year at Melbourne was undoubtedly 2000. This season saw both the Club and Woewodin reach the heights with a Grand Final appearance, the Brownlow – and the Best and Fairest – after just missing out to David Schwarz in 1999. Woewodin also completed the year in style, representing Australia against Ireland in the International Rules Series in Dublin. His career levelled out from these heights, and at the end of 2002 he departed for Collingwood, where he went on to play 62 games.