Australian Dictionary of Biography

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David John McNamara (1887–1967)

by Paul R. Bartrop

This article was published:

David John McNamara (1887-1967), footballer and racehorse trainer, was born on 22 January 1887 at Boosey, near Yarrawonga, Victoria, sixth son of Melbourne-born Michael McNamara, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Quinlan.

Educated at local schools, as a youth Dave engaged in Australian Rules football, playing for Benalla, and horse-racing. In 1905 he joined St Kilda Football Club and in his senior début helped the side to an unexpected victory with four of the team's five goals. By 1907 his goalkicking exploits had helped St Kilda to reach their first finals series, and he was already widely regarded as the finest footballer in the Victorian Football League. Next year he was St Kilda's captain and at the inaugural National Football Championships in Melbourne was adjudged best player of the series.

On 20 October 1909 he married Florence Mary Dobson at St Francis' Church, Melbourne; they had a son and a daughter. Midway through that year McNamara crossed to the Victorian Football Association. With Essendon Association he played in premiership teams in 1911-12, when he kicked 81 and 107 goals. The 1912 total included 18 in one match; he was the first player in Australian senior football to kick over the century in one season. Refused a clearance to return to St Kilda in 1913, he stood out of football until his clearance was granted in 1914. After St Kilda went into recess in 1915, he resumed on its return in 1918. Captain throughout this time, in 1923 he became playing coach. From 1924 he played with the amateur side, Ormond, until well past his fortieth birthday. In the 1930s he returned to St Kilda as a committee-man, was voted life membership, served as vice-president, and in 1938 was elected president.

McNamara's league playing career, mostly at full-forward or centre-half forward, spanned 148 games. He kicked some 600 goals in the V.F.L., the great majority by left-footed place kick. The distances he set with this kick were legendary: 89 yds 2 ft (Sydney, in a long-kicking competition with 'Dally' Messenger, 1914); and a world-record 93 yds (85 m) (St Kilda, 1923). His kicking ability, as well as his physique, earned him the nickname 'Long Dave'.

At 6 ft 3 ins (191 cm) and 14 stone (89 kg), McNamara was an ideal size for a key position player. A fine team man, he held that true footballers could never be fully professional: only a player who loved the game for itself could play to his real potential. In Football (Melbourne, 1914) he outlined his thoughts on the game, mainly 'to combat the pernicious effects' of the game's detractors, many of whom were then highly critical of football and football administrators over McNamara's clearance problems of that year.

After retirement, McNamara devoted himself to horse-racing; he established himself through the 1930s as a trainer of many winners at city and country meetings. In the 1940s he served in various posts, including president, with the Victorian Trainers' Association. He continued training horses until about 1958.

In later life McNamara was a busy worker on behalf of many benefactory appeals and held several hospital life governorships. On 15 August 1967 he died at his Caulfield home. Survived by his daughter, he was buried in Brighton cemetery with Catholic rites.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Fiddian, The Pioneers (Melb, 1977)
  • St Kilda Football Club, Year Book, 1967, 1969
  • People (Sydney), 11 Oct 1950
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 27 Oct 1938, 17 Apr 1965, 16 Aug 1967
  • Herald (Melbourne), 5 Sept 1950.

Citation details

Paul R. Bartrop, 'McNamara, David John (1887–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 January, 1887
Boosey, Victoria, Australia


15 August, 1967 (aged 80)
Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.