In Jim Main's series, 'Swan Songs', on great players from the past, this week he talks to former Swans half-forward, Max Oaten...
Born: January 26, 1935
Although Max Oaten played just 80 games with the Swans, his name is forever etched in gold on the club’s honour rolls.
He twice topped the club’s goalkicking, with 34 in 1958 and with 39 in 1960, yet played much of his VFL football on a half-forward flank.
A superb aerialist, he played most of his early football as a winger with Golden Point and then as a defender with Melton.
Oaten, a schoolteacher, in 1956 had just been transferred from Toolern Vale to Melton when a taxi driver told the Swans about this promising country footballer.
Club secretary Joe White signed Oaten before rival clubs realised his potential and inadvertently pipped Collingwood by three days.
Oaten explained: “I was boarding at the time with Jack Coventry, Syd Coventry’s son, and he told me the Magpies would sign me for the following season.
“I then had to tell him that he was too late and that I had signed with South just three days earlier.”
Oaten made his senior VFL debut against St Kilda as a ruckman/forward pocket and although he kicked a goal with his first touch, admitted he had a “mediocre” game.
He kicked three goals in his third match, against Melbourne, and joked that this had doubled his goals total for his entire career to then.
Oaten’s arrival at the Lake Oval in 1956 coincided with the return from coaching North Wagga of champion Swan centre half-forward Ron Clegg but, nevertheless, South lacked goalkicking power and that’s why Oaten found himself up forward.
“I liked playing at full-forward, but it is a misconception that I played most of my games there and I suppose this was caused by my two goalkicking awards,” he admitted.
“I actually won the reserves best and fairest in 1956 while playing mainly at centre half-forward and I spent most of my time on a half-forward flank when I won the goalkicking award in 1960.
“A total of 39 goals doesn’t sound much but it was a very wet season and I actually came third in the VFL goalkicking (with Essendon’s Ron Evans taking out the honours with 67 goals).”
Oaten wore the number 19 guernsey throughout his career and marvels that this number also was worn by the great Michael O’Loughlin in most of his 303 games with the Swans from 1995-2009. “What a player,” Oaten enthused.
And, of course, top key defender Anthony Daniher also wore number 19 in his 115 games with the Swans from 1981-86.
Oaten’s association with the Swans continued when son Michael played six senior games in the red and white over the 1980-82 seasons.
A highly-promising forward who kicked 81 goals in the reserves in his first season with the Swans, Michael’s career tragically was ended when he badly injured an eye against Melbourne in 1982.
He had to have five operations to correct a double vision problem, his career over at just 21 years of age.
The Oatens, father Max (wife Cecily is deceased) and sons Michael, Gary and Russell are committed Swans supporters and watched on TV the 2005 Grand Final defeat of West Coast.
“We never thought it would happen, so it was just marvellous,” Oaten said. “Let’s hope there is another one around the corner.”
Oaten might follow the Swans very closely, but doesn’t get to too many games in Melbourne, mainly because he watches grandson Matthew play with Melbourne amateur club Ormond.
“Although I cannot get to many games, it doesn’t mean the heart isn’t there,” he insisted. “The Swans are very dear to my heart”.