Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Naylor, Bernard George (Bernie) (1923–1993)

by Anthony J. Barker

This article was published online in 2017

Bernard George Andrew Naylor (1923–1993), Australian Rules footballer, was born on 19 April 1923 at Fremantle, Western Australia, tenth surviving child of locally born William Alfred Naylor, baker, and his Victorian-born wife Annie Elizabeth, née Harken, both prominent in the Catholic community. Registered as George Andrew, he was baptised Bernard. Bernie was educated at the Christian Brothers’ College, Fremantle, where he demonstrated talent in the high jump. After passing his junior certificate (1939) he left school and started work as a clerk. Joining his brother Thomas, Bernie played with the Fremantle CBC Old Boys’ Football Club in the amateur association. In 1941 he was recruited by the South Fremantle Football Club in the Western Australian National Football League (WANFL). That year he kicked sixty goals as the club’s ‘goal sneak’ (full forward).

In 1942 the WANFL suspended the senior competition for the duration of World War II. Mobilised for full-time duty in the Citizen Military Forces on 10 January 1942 and transferring to the Australian Imperial Force in July, Naylor served as a signalman, mainly at the headquarters of the 13th Brigade. In Darwin (1943–44) and New Britain (November 1944 to January 1946) he played in army football matches and `practised kicking a football between palm trees to improve his accuracy’ (Lauge 1993, 74). He was promoted to lance corporal in May 1945, and was discharged from the AIF on 13 February 1946 in Perth. On 29 March 1948 at the Sacred Heart Church, Highgate, Perth, Naylor married Patricia Loyola Slattery. That year he began working as a clerk at the Fremantle branch of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA).

Naylor was a major force in six South Fremantle premierships (1947–48, 1950, and 1952–54). A right-footer, he kicked more than one hundred goals in each of five seasons and headed the league aggregates in six of them (1946–48, 1952–54). His record 167 goals in 1953 included twenty-three in one game and equalled the national record. West Perth’s Ray Schofield rated him second only to the ‘all-time best’ full forward, Essendon’s John Coleman, and ‘a better, more reliable kick’ (Sunday Times 1953, 24). That year Naylor won South Fremantle’s A. W. Walker medal for the best and fairest player. He attributed the length and accuracy of his torpedo punting to an unconventional grip on the ball with the lace on the right, rather than uppermost. Although his six feet two inches (188 cm) and 182 pounds (83 kg) made him one of the biggest WANFL players of his era, leaping high was less important to his success than exceptional speed to take uncontested marks. His method depended on fellow team members such as the rover Steve Marsh, who possessed a ‘bullet-like drop-kick and stab-pass’ (Hagdorn 2014). The ability of Victorian teams to stifle such support explained Naylor’s lack of success in State representative games (1946–­48, 1950, 1952–54).

At the age of thirty-one Naylor retired from football. The needs of his growing family demanded that he develop his CBA career for, while expenses were paid, the only remuneration for players was small payments into a provident fund. In 1962 he transferred to the Palmyra branch and was later school liaison officer (1966–67) attached to the CBA administration, Perth. He retired in 1983. Survived by his wife, four daughters, and son, he died of cancer on 26 September 1993 and was buried in Fremantle cemetery. The Bernie Naylor medal for the player who kicked most goals in the season was instituted in 1996. He was inducted into the West Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Barker, Anthony J. Behind the Play: A History of Football in Western Australia from 1868. Perth: The West Australian Football Commission, 2004
  • Christian, Geoff. The Footballers: From 1885 to the West Coast Eagles. Perth: St George Books, 1988
  • Hagdorn, Kim. ‘Steve Marsh, 89, Fires Great Derby Wrangle in Wanting to be Traded Back to South Freo.’ perthnow, 8 March 2014. Accessed 29 October 2014. http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/steve-marsh-89-fires-great-derby-wrangle-in-wanting-to-be-traded-back-to-south-freo/story-fnhocxo3-1226849074859. Copy held on ADB file
  • Lauge, Steve. ‘Bulldog Superstar Dies.’ West Australian (Perth), 27 September 1993, 74
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, WX30892
  • Sunday Times (Perth). ‘Played 160 Games with Club.’ 17 May 1953, 24
  • West Australian Football Commission. ‘Hall of Fame Inductee: Bernard George NAYLOR.’ 2004. Accessed 24 October 2014. http://www.wafootballhalloffame.com.au/inductees/2291-bernard-naylor. Copy held on ADB file

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Anthony J. Barker, 'Naylor, Bernard George (Bernie) (1923–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/naylor-bernard-george-bernie-17851/text29438, published online 2017, accessed online 7 December 2019.

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