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Nash, Laurence John (Laurie) (1910–1986)

by Peter Pierce

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Laurence John Nash (1910-1986), Australian rules footballer and cricketer, was born on 2 May 1910 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, youngest of three children of Victorian-born parents Robert Henry Nash, gas stoker and Collingwood Australian rules football player, and his wife Mary Ann, née Ryan.  Educated at St Ignatius’ School, Richmond, Laurie proved precociously talented at sport; at 19 he played grade cricket for Fitzroy.  In 1929 his family moved to Tasmania, where his father ran the Parattah Hotel.  That year he made his first-class cricket début for Tasmania, against Victoria, later in the season dismissing (Sir) Donald Bradman for 20 in a match against the Australian XI.

In 1930 Nash joined the City Australian rules football team, Launceston, and represented Tasmania at the national carnival at Adelaide.  Back at the pitch as a right arm fast bowler, in 1931-32 he took nine wickets for Tasmania in the match against the South Africans in Hobart and then, playing for Australia in the fifth Test in Melbourne, 4 for 18 in the first innings.  He worked as a sports-goods salesman and on 14 September 1932 at St John’s Church of England, Launceston, he married Irene Francis Roles (d.1975).  Legends flourished about his clashes with authority, and amid controversy 'Nashie'was not chosen to play for Australia in the 1932-33 Test series.  With some justification, he would boast that his retaliatory bowling could have ended the English 'bodyline' assault in two overs.

Returning to Victoria, Nash joined the South Melbourne Football Club (captain 1937) and—despite his medium height, 5 ft 9 ins (175 cm)—became a renowned centre half-back and centre half-forward.  In 1933 he was judged the 'best on ground' in the premiership against Richmond, and kicked a record 18 goals for Victoria against South Australia the following year.  His prodigious gifts meant that work was always found for him, but he did not hold jobs for long.  Joining the Police Force of Victoria in 1935, he resigned in 1937.  In 1936-37 he was recalled for his second and last Test series, taking five English wickets.  Overall, his Test bowling average of 12.60 is the fourth best of anyone to take 10 wickets, and he remains the only Australian to have played Test cricket and in a Victorian Football League premiership.

In 1938 Nash was expensively recruited by Camberwell as captain-coach.  Although he kicked 418 goals in four years, he had uncongenial relations with his players.  After enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 2 February 1942, he joined a transport regiment and served briefly in New Guinea in January 1943 and with the 2/7th Cavalry Regiment before returning to Australia and transferring to the 2/177th Brigade Workshop.  From September he served with the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion in New Guinea.  Back in Australia by February 1944, he was court-martialled in August for being absent without leave and found guilty.  He was discharged as medically unfit on 18 November.

Playing again with South Melbourne, Nash was in the 1945 'bloodbath' grand final against Carlton.  He then coached with success in rural Victoria, but not when he returned to South Melbourne for the 1953 season.  Finding work as a hotel broker and manager, auctioneer and clerk, he also became a regular 'larrikin' panellist on Australian Broadcasting Commission television football programs.  Survived by his daughter, he died on 24 July 1986 at West Heidelberg and was cremated.  He is regarded as one of the greatest Australian rules players.  An exuberant self-publicist, he would have concurred in such a view.  Asked once who was the best he ever saw, Nash replied:  'I just happen to see [him] . . . in the mirror every morning when I shave'.  He was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Wallish, The Great Laurie Nash (1998)
  • I. W. Shaw, The Bloodbath (2006)

Citation details

Peter Pierce, 'Nash, Laurence John (Laurie) (1910–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/nash-laurence-john-laurie-14982/text26171, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 January 2018.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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