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Thurgood, Albert John (1874–1927)

by John H. Reeves

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Albert John Thurgood (1874-1927), Australian Rules footballer, was born on 11 January 1874 in North Melbourne, son of John Joseph Thurgood, builder, and his wife Amelia Mary, née Buckland, both London born. He was educated at Brighton Grammar School.

In 1892 Thurgood joined the Essendon Australian Rules Football Club, winner of the Victorian Football Association premiership in 1891-94. He immediately became a key player in the side. Six feet (183 cm) tall and weighing twelve stone (76 kg), he usually played at centre-half-forward, but his versatility enabled him to be switched to any position on the ground. In an era of long kicking Thurgood became famous as the longest kick of all: he could regularly punt-kick over 80 yards (73 m) and drop-kick over 90 yards (82 m). One of his place-kicks (1899, with slight wind assistance) was measured at 107 yards 2 ft 1 in. (98.48 m) and is still regarded as the record. For Essendon, in the three seasons from 1892 to 1894 in premiership matches he kicked 56, 64 and 63 goals from centre-half-forward.

To the consternation of supporters, Thurgood did not turn out with Essendon for four years from 1895 when he left Victoria for Western Australia to seek work. Having played for Fremantle, he returned to Melbourne in 1898 and next year resumed with Essendon which had become a member of the recently formed Victorian Football League. On 26 April 1899 he married with Methodist forms Ida Alma Mary Thomas at Fairfield. In the Essendon side he again became the dominant player. Three times champion of the colony (1893, 1894 and 1901), he was one of the greatest footballers the game has produced. He headed the goal-kicking list with 26 goals in 1900 and co-headed it in 1902 with 33. These levels were only half his goal tallies of association days: the more equal quality of sides in the league was revealed in more effective opposition.

The peak of Thurgood's career came with the 1901 grand final against Collingwood, played on 7 September at the South Melbourne ground before a crowd of some 30,000. In one of his finest performances he kicked three of his side's six goals and was a major contributor to Essendon's victory. Next year Thurgood was suspended for three matches for striking opposition players. He played in the grand final, but only scored one goal in the match won by Collingwood. After three non-playing years, Thurgood came back for a few games in 1906; he was not particularly successful and retired permanently from football.

A better than average cricketer and golfer, after his retirement Thurgood became active in horse-racing, for some years as a bookmaker and subsequently as an owner. He ran a number of successful horses, including Amazonia which won the Bagot Handicap in 1921 and was placed third in the Melbourne Cup that year. Thurgood died in the Alfred Hospital, Prahran, on 8 May 1927, as a result of a motor car collision, and was buried with Anglican rites in Brighton cemetery. His wife and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Atkinson (compiler), The Courage Book of VFL Finals, 1897-1972 (Melb, 1973)
  • G. Atkinson Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Australian Rules Football (Melb, 1982)
  • M. Maplestone, Flying High (Melb, 1983)
  • Age (Melbourne), 9 Sept 1901, 22 Sept 1902, 9 May 1927
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 Sept 1901, 22 Sept 1902, 14 May, 3, 28, 29 June 1927
  • Herald (Melbourne), 9 May 1927.

Citation details

John H. Reeves, 'Thurgood, Albert John (1874–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/thurgood-albert-john-8808/text15449, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 20 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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