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Andrew, Cyril Bruce (1908–1996)

by Dave Nadel

This article was published online in 2020

Bruce Andrew, c.1930

Bruce Andrew, c.1930

courtesy of Collingwood Football Club archives

Cyril Bruce Andrew (1908–1996), Australian Rules footballer, administrator, educator, and commentator, was born on 28 February 1908 at Collingwood, Melbourne, sixth of eight children of Victorian-born parents George Andrew, storeman, and his wife Jane Elizabeth, née Nicol. Educated locally, Bruce obtained his Leaving certificate then joined the Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) Ltd as an office boy in 1923, subsequently working in the commercial and books departments. Raised in a sporting family, he played full forward for Abbotsford in the Sub District Football League, kicking more than one hundred goals in 1926. The next year he followed two of his brothers and gained selection in the Collingwood Football Club reserves team in the second-tier District League.

In June 1928 Andrew was promoted to Collingwood’s senior side in the Victorian Football League. Recruited for his pace, he played on the wing and was named best first year player. He was a member of Collingwood’s 1928 and 1930 premiership teams, which were part of the record four successive premierships that the ‘Magpies’ won under the coaching of Jock McHale, but missed the 1929 premiership through injury. Retiring prior to the 1933 season, he was elected a club vice-president (1933–40). In 1934 he played four more senior games for a total of sixty-two.

Although an accomplished player in a champion team, Andrew made his most significant contribution as a tireless educator and promoter of Australian Rules football. As a committee man at Collingwood, he helped to develop young players by replacing the baseball games that preceded Collingwood home games with schoolboy football matches from 1935. At the HWT, he produced instructional books and pamphlets, and eventually coloured lantern slides for lectures about football that he delivered around Victoria in 1936. He wrote articles for the Sporting Globe and became a radio commentator on 3DB. On 13 May 1939 at St Nicholas Church of England, Mordialloc, he married Marjorie Lydia Turner, a typist.

Andrew enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 3 July 1940. Briefly a pay clerk, he was commissioned on 1 November and employed on logistics duties in Australia. From 1942 to 1945 he was posted to RAAF Overseas Headquarters, London, in the rank of flight lieutenant. He worked as a public relations officer, including during an attachment to No. 453 Squadron (May–November 1944). While in Britain, he represented the RAAF in Australian Rules football, cricket, and rugby union. Repatriated in February 1945, he was demobilised on 3 August. The next month he resumed employment with the HWT as a staff writer for the Sporting Globe.

In June 1949 Andrew joined the Australian National Football Council (ANFC) as its national field director. He became the council’s first full-time secretary in 1951, a post he held until 1974. In this role he promoted Australian Rules football all over Australia, particularly in those States where rugby league was the dominant code. He was also active in promoting the game in remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, and in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Among the many books and pamphlets that he produced for the ANFC were Australian Football: Hints and Advice: A Text Book on How to Play the Australian National Game of Football, first published in the 1950s, and Australian Football Handbook (1971). These included pictures of contemporary champion footballers such as Ted Whitten demonstrating various skills of the game.

Appointed MBE in 1972, Andrew received life memberships of the Collingwood Football Club (1938), the Victorian Football League, the New South Wales Football Union (1974), and the Queensland Australian Football League, and a special merit award from the North Queensland Australian Football Association (1975). In February 1996 he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame for his contribution to the game as an administrator. Survived by his wife and their daughter, he died on 6 June 1996 at Parkdale, Melbourne, and was cremated.

Best remembered for his time as a panellist (1959–80) and kicking competition judge on HSV-7’s ‘World of Sport,’ Andrew was known for his distinctive brilliantined hairstyle, ‘parted so emphatically down the centre that it was claimed he used a theodolite’ (Ross 1996, 220). The former St Kilda captain and Brownlow medallist Neil Roberts gave a better indication of how he should be remembered when he wrote shortly before Andrew’s retirement from the ANFC:

There is something sort of sacred about this friendly, self-made man. He’s earned a reverence in football that will never be matched. There will never be another Bruce Andrew—because pioneering can be done but once. (Roberts and McFarlane 2016, 4)

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Australian. ‘AFC Secretary Retires after 25 Years’ Service.’ 23 July 1974, 19
  • Carter, Ron. ‘Star Player Never Gave Up the Game.’ Australian, 15 June 1996, 13
  • Herald-Sun (Melbourne). ‘Bruce Andrew: Aussie Rules Ambassador.’ 25 June 1996, 63
  • National Archives of Australia. A9300, ANDREW C. B
  • Reilly, Stephen. ‘Evangelist Spread the Word on Football.’ Age (Melbourne), 4 August 1995, 30
  • Roberts, Michael. A Century of the Best: The Stories of Collingwood’s Favourite Sons. Abbotsford, Vic.: Collingwood Football Club, 1991
  • Roberts, Michael. ‘A Player with Pace Led the Way in Promoting Football.’ Age (Melbourne), 19 June 1996, 16
  • Roberts, Michael, and Glenn McFarlane. Champions of Collingwood: The 125 Greatest Magpies. Carlton, Vic.: Nero, 2016

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Dave Nadel, 'Andrew, Cyril Bruce (1908–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrew-cyril-bruce-30064/text37304, published online 2020, accessed online 26 February 2021.

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