Frank Brew, pictured on the right end of the front row above, played 87-games with South Melbourne from 1947-53. The Sydney Swans are saddened to learn that he died yesterday, Thursday, August 13, of Coronavirus. He was 92.
As the news spread last night Brew was remembered not just an outstanding wingman with South Melbourne, but also a stalwart of the Northcote cricket club in Melbourne, where he served as captain and later coach before a stint as the groundsman at Carlton’s Princes Park.
Former Australian Test cricketer Gary Cosier posted on Facebook: “Thanks Frank for all you did for cricket and a few of us young blokes who started under you. RIP Brewy.”
Former Test fast bowler Rodney Hogg added: “What a great person to know. We were so lucky. Well said Gary Cosier”.
Brew, a diminutive man of 171cm and 67kg, was born during the 1927 AFL finals series, lived through the Second World War, joined South from East Brunswick and debuted aged 19 in Round 5, 1947 against Geelong at Lake Oval.
He had lived in the Carlton recruiting zone but was signed by South after the Blues waived their rights to him, and in the club history book “In The Blood”, written by Jim Main, he was described as “a quality recruit”.
Player #665 on the all-time playing list, Brew wore guernsey #3 throughout his career and ranks fifth in games played in #3 for the club behind Jarrad McVeigh (325), Dale Lewis (180), John Austin (129) and Brian McGowan (118).
In his seventh game Brew shared in the 200th game celebrations of Swans champion Jack Graham, and through his time at Lake Oval he saw the debut of seven Swans 100-gamers: Jack Garrick (117), Jim Taylor (153), Mick Sibun (111), Ian Gillett (135), Brownlow Medallist Fred Goldsmith (119), Jim Dorgan (02) and Bill Gunn (104).
In seven years at South, Brew played under five coaches: Bill Adams (1947-48), Jack Hale (1948-49), Gordon Lane (1950-52), Laurie Nash (1953) and Herbie Matthews (1954).
He also played under four captains: Graham, Bert Lucas, captain-coach Lane and Ron Clegg.
Sixty-seven years after his last game, and forever into the future, Brew will hold a place in football history as one of 40 players to have played in an AFL match in Albury. And one of 20 winners.
It was in Round 8 on June 14, 1952, when South and North Melbourne headed across the Murray into NSW as part of what the League had named “National Day” but was referred to in the media as “the Propoganda Round”.
Wanting to spread the popularity of the competition, the League scheduled a full round of matches in country Victoria and interstate. There were games in Albury, Euroa, Yallourn, at North Hobart Oval, the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds and the SCG., which hosted Richmond and Collingwood.
The score was level at three-quarter time but in the final term South added 6.1 to 2.3 to win 18.10 (118) to 14.12 (96). Captain-coach Lane and Paddy Deagan kicked four goals apiece.
Brew, though, may not have made the trip to Albury had his wishes been granted two years earlier.
At 24 he had been appointed coach of Deniliquin in the Riverina for the 1952 season but was unable to take up the position when the South Melbourne committee refused to grant him a clearance.
As was reported in the local paper, Brew was told he was rated too highly to be released, having played so well the year before to have been in the running for selection for the Victorian team at the Australian Carnival.
Considering his short length of service at the club, the committee said they would not feel justified in granting his request, the paper reported.
It proved a blessing for the young wingman, and in 1952, in addition to playing in Albury, he had his best season.
He played 18 of a possible 19 games and polled nine votes in the Brownlow Medal to rank second among South players behind Gunn, who picked up 10 votes to finish equal 10th overall. Brew was equal 15th.
In the same year Brew and the Swans went agonisingly close to playing in the finals for what would have been the only time in his career.
Indeed, an injury to Brew may have inadvertently played a key role in their near miss.
After Round 17 South were fourth on the ladder, half a game ahead of Carlton.
They lost to third-placed Fitzroy by seven points at Brunswick Street Oval in Round 18, when Brew was injured. Without him in the last game of the home-and-away season they were beaten by five goals by 11th-placed Footscray at Western Oval to miss the top four by half a game.
On a year-by-year basis from 1947-53 Brew split his 87 games 10-10-14-16-14-18-5. He played 44 times at Lake Oval and overall had 39 wins and two draws. He kicked 28 goals, polled 12 Brownlow votes and, curiously, was unbeaten in three games at the MCG.
Having debuted against Geelong at Lake Oval, Brew enjoyed the biggest win of his career against Geelong against Lake Oval in Round 19, 1948. South Melbourne won by 96 points when, for one of just five times in his career, he was a multiple goal-kicker with two.
Brew finished his career against Geelong, too. It was Round 6, 1953 at Kardinia Park. He was 25.
While Swans fans remember the lightly-built Brew for his speed, elusiveness, and his beautiful kick tearing down the Lake Oval wing, he was also a fine cricketer.
He was a left-arm wrist spinner and according to sporting folklore “he had a terrific googly and was also an unorthodox and very aggressive lower order batsman”.
The history books tell of a special Brew cricketing highlight in a career in which he played under former Australian Test captain Bill Lawry in a famous district cricket grand final in the summer of 1965-66.
It was a match that in 2000 was voted the District Match of the Century by the umpires’ body of the Victorian Cricket Association.
It was Northcote against Essendon. The match was played at the Albert Cricket Ground over four days in April for a first innings result.
The Essendon side was captained by Ian Monks, who had played 16 VFL games with Essendon in 1953 and 1955, and 14 games with South Melbourne in 1956-57.
It included two other notable footballers: the great Barry Davis, an Essendon champion turned North Melbourne premiership captain; and 1965 Essendon premiership fullback Greg Brown. It also included three Victorian cricketers: opening bowler John Grant, left-handed batsman John Swanson, and leg-spinner Keith Kirby.
Lawry’s Northcote side also included ex-Tasmanian cricketer Ian Cowley and Paul Shanahan, who later played 21 AFL games with Fitzroy from 1969-72.
Essendon made 9-514, with Monks declaring at tea on the second day after he had made a patient century. Northcote replied with 5-516. Lawry made 282 not out, batting for 509 minutes to face 454 deliveries and hit 32 boundaries.
Such was the occasion that on the last day of the match, the ground on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road was packed.
Crowd estimates ranged from 5000 to double that. Even Prime Minister Robert Menzies was there, wearing an open-necked shirt, as overflow patrons stood on their car roofs to watch the game.
It got tight late in the game before a 37-year-old Brew smashed a quickfire 47 to see his side within easy reach of victory.