Peter Bedford
178 games
325 goals
Brownlow Medal 1970
Captain 1973-1976
Best & Fairest 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975
Leading Goalkicker 1971, 1972, 1973
Swans Team of the Century
AFL Hall of Fame


Few sportspeople ever enjoy a year like Peter Bedford’s 1970. 

In February, he clean-bowled Greg Chappell as his leg spin bowling earned him match-winning figures of 5-40 at the Adelaide Oval, ensuring Victoria lifted the Sheffield Shield. Months later, South Melbourne made the VFL finals for the only time in his career, shortly after he claimed the Brownlow Medal. And, he came within a whisker of wearing the baggy green.

His sporting life has been likened to a Boys’ Own adventure. Bedford fell in love with sport from an early age and competed at the highest levels of football and cricket all year round. In fact, during Melbourne’s late summer, he’d finish cricket practice at the Albert Ground before dashing across to the Lake Oval for Swans pre-season training the same night. 

“Growing up in Port Melbourne, the footy and cricket clubs were an integral part of the community,” Bedford said. “My first love was cricket, and as a kid, I’d be playing three games a weekend. Then, in winter, I’d walk across to the Lake Oval, stand behind the goals with Bobby Skilton’s number 14 on my back, and cheer my heart out for the Swans.”

The blue-collar traditions of Port Melbourne have always been entwined with sport. Bedford recalls a childhood punctuated by local kids forming impromptu matches where skills were honed on the streets.

His father Bill played football for Port Melbourne alongside Bob Skilton’s father in the 1920s and 30s, with Peter following suit, debuting for The Borough in 1965, playing 52 matches, winning the 1966 VFA premiership, and later gaining selection alongside his Dad in Port’s Team of the Century. 

Supremely skilled and equally courageous, Bedford’s sporting talents quickly caught the attention of various clubs and codes. He even decided to pass on a teaching career when his request for time off to play cricket for Victoria was denied. “What do you want to do, son?” his principal asked. “Do you wanna be a teacher or a sportsman?”

Bedford, unsurprisingly, chose the latter. In 1967, Port Adelaide Football Club offered a football contract built around ‘your desire to improve your cricket prospects.’ The contract eluded to South Australian cricket selection, and Sir Donald Bradman even informed Port that he hoped Bedford would come – he even went so far as to say he'd be silly not to.

“They had a job lined up for me with Phil Ridings, the Chairman of Selectors for Australian cricket,” Bedford recalled. “Sir Don was in the background, but when we knocked it back, it probably didn’t enhance my chances of further honours, as he was still at the forefront of Australian cricket.”

There was much to consider.

Bedford and his wife, Brenda, surveyed their options before signing on with the South Melbourne Football Club. The move meant the newlyweds could place a deposit on their first home in nearby Garden City—-which would’ve taken considerably longer earning $7 a day as a first-class cricketer.

At the time, footballers were required to obtain a clearance from their current club before joining another. Seemingly fed up with their players leaving, Port Melbourne refused to release Bedford. Eventually, he left anyway, incurring a 10-year ban from Port’s governing body, the VFA.

“I wondered whether I’d made the right decision, though,” Bedford said. “In my first VFL game against Hawthorn, Skilts got absolutely poleaxed, knocked out cold.”

“They got the smelling salts out and loaded him onto the stretcher. After some extensive rehab at halftime, he went again and kicked five goals. I was lucky to start my career well with four goals, which was the catalyst for some pretty good things to come.”

Two years into Bedford’s time as a Swan, the club’s president, eminent criminal barrister Brian Bourke, pursued the highly respected former Melbourne coach, Norm Smith, to take charge. He joined the Swans with immediate impact, and Bedford recalls a coach that ‘you’d absolutely run through a brick wall for.’

That respect was undoubtedly mutual, with Smith claiming that ‘pound for pound, Peter Bedford is the best player I’ve coached.’ 

And so, after a period that saw 10 senior coaches in 23 years, Smith brought credibility, moulding a team that could finally compete with the best in the competition. Bedford recalls that era’s events as though they were yesterday.

“Norm was just so inspirational, and some of our wins in 1970 were remarkable,” he said. “To beat Carlton, the eventual premiers, by 77 points was unbelievable. Then, on the Queen’s Birthday, 35,500 people crammed into the Lake Oval for our match against Collingwood. We kicked three goals in time-on to hit the lead by a point, and the crowd thought the siren had sounded and started streaming onto the ground.”

“A mounted trooper on his 16-hand horse eventually got them all back over the fence so the game could restart. When it did, Collingwood won the ball out of the centre, and with the ball in mid-air, headed straight to full-forward Peter McKenna, the siren actually sounded, and we won the game.”

The Swans needed to defeat fifth-placed Geelong at Kardinia Park in Round 20 to finish in the top four and reach the finals. Bedford kicked four goals from his 28 possessions, leading the team to a famous seven-point victory. 

“It was a great win, and there was an incident that day, too,” Bedford said. “Doug Wade was lining up for a Geelong goal on a 45-degree angle. In between hand and foot, somebody threw a fairly substantial apple core and hit the ball, which made it just dribble off Wade’s boot. Mopsy Rantall picked the ball up and roosted it downfield, with Wadey left gesticulating with the umpire.”

Just weeks later, in his only finals appearance, Bedford joined his teammates in taking on St Kilda in front of 104,000 spectators. Despite the disappointment of the loss, he describes that day as an incredible thrill.

As was his Brownlow Medal triumph. Heavily favoured to win the award after collecting eight various player-of-the-year awards and winning two cars, he beat Gary Dempsey and Alex Jesaulenko to become the Swans’ fifth recipient of the game’s highest individual honour.

Despite the team’s decline, Bedford upheld his high standard of play, earning the club’s captaincy for his final four years in red and white. He claimed five Swans’ best and fairests, three leading goalkicker awards, and in 2003, was named as second-rover in the club’s Team of the Century. Not bad for a self-proclaimed ‘cricketer who played footy.’

Bedford treasures the connection he maintains with the club. “We’re very lucky to get invited along to matches and club functions, which I often bring my daughter to, and she says to me, ‘Dad, it’s just like we’re all family.’ 

“And that’s the way it is.”