Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Coventry, Gordon Richard (1901–1968)

by Richard Trembath

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

This is a shared entry with Sydney Alfred Coventry

Sydney Alfred Coventry (1899-1976) and Gordon Richard James Coventry (1901-1968), Australian Rules footballers, were born on 13 June 1899 at Greensborough, and on 25 September 1901 at Diamond Creek, Victoria, seventh and eighth children of Victorian-born parents Henry Coventry, carter later orchardist, and his wife Jane Henrietta, née Spencer.

Both Syd and Gordon were educated at Diamond Creek State School and played their early football for Diamond Creek in the Heidelberg League. Gordon worked in his father's orchard. Syd was a miner at Queenstown, Tasmania, when the Victorian Football League club, St Kilda, signed him in 1921. Collingwood claimed him, however, and he joined that club in 1922 after sitting out a season; he quickly established a permanent position with the 'Magpies'. He was a gas company employee when he married Gladys Eileen Trevaskis on 8 October 1921 at St Mary's Church of England, North Melbourne; that year he joined the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works.

Syd was 5 ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, with a vigorous playing style, alternating between ruck and defence. In 1927 he won the Brownlow medal for fairest and best player; as captain in 1927-34, he led Collingwood to the still unequalled record of four successive premierships between 1927 and 1930 and played 227 games for the club. He represented Victoria twenty-seven times from 1922 to 1933 and was sometime captain.

In 1935-36 Syd coached Footscray unsuccessfully. He enjoyed a long administrative career at Collingwood, being vice-president (1939-49) and president (1950-63). Although he was a poor chairman, with a weak grasp of meeting procedure, his geniality and warmth made up for these deficiencies. He retired from the board of works in 1964. Syd died on 10 November 1976 at his son's home at Fairfield and was cremated. His wife and four sons—two of whom, Hugh in 1941 and Sydney in 1954, had brief careers with Collingwood—survived him.

Gordon was one of Australian Rules football's greatest full–forwards, his scoring feats sometimes seeming to overshadow his brother's role as captain. In 306 games for Collingwood, from 1920 to 1937, he scored 1299 goals, a record not surpassed until 1999 (by Tony Lockett). Gordon played in five premiership-winning sides, headed the league annual goal-kicking totals on six occasions and represented Victoria twenty-five times. In 1930 he was the first man to kick 100 goals in a V.F.L. season and scored seventeen goals in a match, the then individual record. Nicknamed 'Nuts' (probably because his family considered that as a child he had a big head), he was a superb mark and a strong, rather than a fast, forward. He was 5 ft 11½ ins (182 cm) tall and in 1928 weighed 13 st. 2 lb. (83.5 kg). A mild-mannered player, the favourite of Collingwood patron John Wren, he was suspended only once, in 1936, when he retaliated after being struck on boils on the back of his neck.

On 28 February 1925 in Melbourne Gordon had married with Unitarian forms Christabel Violet Lawry. He was a boiler-worker in a yeast factory then became a foreman. After his retirement he also worked as a football columnist on the Melbourne Sporting Globe. He died of heart disease on 7 November 1968 at his property at Diamond Creek and was buried in the local cemetery. His wife, two sons and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Stremski, Kill for Collingwood (Syd, 1986)
  • M. Roberts, A Century of the Best (Melb, 1991)
  • R. Holmesby and J. Main, The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers (Melb, 1998)
  • Table Talk, 30 Aug 1928, p 17
  • Age (Melbourne), 8 Nov 1968, p 28, 12 Nov 1976, p 27
  • Collingwood Football Club archives
  • private information.

Citation details

Richard Trembath, 'Coventry, Gordon Richard (1901–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/coventry-gordon-richard-13267/text23229, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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