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On This Day: Bob Pratt 15 goals

Peter Blucher  May 19, 2017 3:46 PM

AFL Historical - South Melbourne

Bob Pratt booted 15 goals on this day back in 1934 against Essendon.

Saturday May 19, 1934. It was a red-letter day for the South Melbourne Football Club when full forward Bob Pratt kicked a staggering 15 goals in a game against Essendon at Lake Oval.

It was a performance that surpassed the previous South best of 14 goals kicked by Harold Robertson in 1919, and set a club record that would stand for 61 years.

It was the all-time record at the Swans’ original and spiritual home ground, and the standout individual performance in arguably the greatest single-season goal-kicking performance in history.

It was a mark that has been bettered only seven times in more than 15,000 matches over 120 years of VFL/AFL history.

And it came on the back of virtually no preparation and three weeks after an underdone Pratt played in the lesser side in an intra-club practice match, and was so unfit he was given a run on the ball.

It was a phenomenal performance from a player who all these years later remains the leading all-time goal-kicker in Swans history, and is considered one of the greatest full forwards the game has seen.

Harold Robert ‘Bob’ Pratt was born to Harold Robert Pratt and Olive Pratt on August 31, 1912 in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Brunswick West. He grew up in suburban Mitcham, and was known as "Bob" to avoid confusion with his father.

Pratt played junior football at Mitcham, attracted the attention of VFL clubs South Melbourne and Hawthorn, and was signed by South on the recommendation of the Mitcham coach after Hawthorn had lost interest following one poor performance from the promising youngster.

He debuted at centre half forward aged 17 years 245 days in Round 1 1930, switched to full forward in Round 2 1932, and never looked back.

Idolised by fans for his spectacular high mark, excellent ground work and long and wonderfully accurate kick, Pratt booted 109 goals in 18 games in the club’s 1933 premiership side, finishing as the season’s leading goal-kicker overall after Collingwood’s Gordon Coventry had edged him out by one goal in the home-and-away season.

But, as is recorded in Jim Main’s official Swans history, In The Blood, when the players assembled for training six weeks before the start of the 1934 season, Pratt was missing.

He trained for just two weeks and played in only one practice match, wearing a blue jumper of the nominal second team against the first team in South jumpers.

But such was the mercurial talent of the 180cm, 76kg spearhead that he kicked eight goals against Collingwood in Round 1 as South unfurled the premiership flag, and followed up with 10 goals in a loss to Carlton in Round 2.

So, with a 1-1 record, South faced an Essendon side that had also started 1-1 after collecting the 1933 wooden-spoon.

South won 23.10 (148) to 15.16 (106) as Reg Humphries debuted for South and David Wilkie played his one and only game for Essendon.

Pratt, in his 71st game at 21, dominated in all facets to post what at the time was the equal second highest single-game goal tally in the game’s history.

Only Coventry’s 16-goal haul for Collingwood in 1929 was ahead of him, as Pratt matched Coventry’s 15 goals in 1933.

By Round 13, when he kicked 11 against Carlton at Lake Oval, Pratt had posted what is still the fastest 100 goals in a season.

His round-by-round haul was astonishing … 8-10-15-6-7-4-6-5-8-7-9-8-11.

By season’s end he had kicked 150 goals to obliterate Coventry’s League record of 124 goals in 1929.

Pratt also kicked 94 behinds in 1934 to better his own single-season record of 93 behinds in 1933 and set a benchmark which has never been beaten.

Pratt’s magical 150 goals was equalled by Hawthorn’s Peter Hudson in 1971, but, significantly, Hudson needed 24 games. Pratt took only 21.

Oddly, in his record-breaking year, Pratt finished runner-up to 1933 premiership teammate Terry Brain in the 1934 South best and fairest. When he asked a committee member why he was told: “You’re very spectacular but not very effective”.

He did, however, receive the equivalent of $100 from the club in recognition of his achievement, and posted his best finish in the Brownlow Medal – 8th with 13 votes.

An inaugural inductee to the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996 and an inaugural Legend in the Swans Hall of Fame in 2009, Pratt kicked another ‘ton’ in 1935 to top the League goal-kicking for the third year in a row.

Only two other players have kicked 100 goals in a season for the Swans: Warwick Capper topped triple figures in 1987 and Tony Lockett, the League’s all-time leading goal-kicker who joined Sydney in 1995 after 12 years at St Kilda, did it three times in 1995, ’96 and ‘98.

Century goal-kickers for the Swans have been:

150 – Bob Pratt (1934)
121 – Tony Lockett (1996)
110 – Tony Lockett (1995)
109 – Bob Pratt (1933)
109 – Tony Lockett (1998)
103 – Bob Pratt (1935)
103 – Warwick Capper (1987)

Not until Lockett kicked 16 goals for the Swans in a 124-point win Fitzroy in 1995 was Pratt’s 15-goal mark bettered by a player in red and white.

Pratt, who sensationally missed the 1935 grand final after he got off a tram in High Street Prahran and was clipped by a truck two days before the game, retired in 1939 before a one-game comeback in 1946 after enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force and serving in the Pacific and Borneo during World War II. 

Seventy-one years on his career total of 681 goals from 158 games remains the Swans all-time best from Michael O’Loughlin (521), Barry Hall (467), Adam Goodes (464), Lockett (462) and Bob Skilton (412).

Pratt’s game average of 4.31 ranks second only to Lockett’s 4.71 for the Swans, and is sixth in all-time career averages behind Hudson (5.64), John Coleman (5.48), Lockett (4.84), Jason Dunstall (4.66) and Peter McKenna (4.58).

Pratt’s 15 goals in a game ranks equal 8th on the all-time list.

Pratt died in 2001 aged 88 and was named in the forward pocket in the Swans Team of the Century in 2003, beside Lockett at full forward.

Players to have kicked 15 or more goals in a game in AFL history are:

18
Fred Fanning (Melb) – 1947 

17
Gordon Coventry (Coll) – 1930
Jason Dunstall (Haw) – 1992 

16
Gordon Coventry (Coll) – 1929
Peter Hudson (Haw) – 1969
Peter McKenna (Coll) – 1969
Tony Lockett (Syd) -1995 

15
Gordon Coventry (Coll) - 1933
Bob Pratt (South Melb) – 1934
Kelvin Templeton (Foots) – 1978
Tony Lockett (St Kilda) - 1992

Players who have kicked 10 or more goals in a game for the Swans have been:

16
Tony Lockett v Fitzroy, Western Oval, 1995 

15
Bob Pratt v Essendon, Lake Oval, 1934

14
Harold Robertson v St Kilda, Lake Oval, 1919 

12
Bob Pratt v Footscray, Lake Oval, 1934
Lindsay White v Melbourne, Princes Park, 1942
Tony Lockett v Richmond, SCG, 1996
Tony Lockett v Port Adel, SCG, 1998

11
Bob Pratt v Carlton, Lake Oval, 1933
Bob Pratt v Essendon, Windy Hill, 1934
Bob Pratt v Carlton, Lake Oval, 1934
Lindsay White v North Melb, Princes Park, 1942
Tony Lockett v Brisbane Bears, SCG, 1996
Tony Lockett v Hawthorn, SCG, 1998 

10
Bob Pratt v North Melb, Arden Street, 1933A
Bob Pratt v Carlton, Princes Park, 1934
Bob Pratt v Collingwood, Lake Oval, 1935
Lindsay White v St Kilda, Princes Park, 1942
Jack Graham v Geelong, Kardinia Park., 1948
Warwick Capper v Richmond, SCG, 1986
Richard Osborne v Melbourne, SCG, 1993
Tony Lockett v North Melb, Princes Park, 1996
Tony Lockett v Collingwood, MCG, 1998