The Swans have had 20 players named ‘Harry’. There have been 100-gamers Harry Clarke, a 1933 premiership player, Harry Lampe, an 1899-1907 grand final player, and Harry Cunningham, a 2014 grand final player, plus Harry Morgan, a 1914 grand final player and the club’s only ‘Harry’ to kick 100 goals for the club.
This quartet are the Swans most celebrated Harrys. Or are they?
There’s another gentleman from the 1930s who tops the Harry Club Honour Board as the Swans all-time leading goal-kicker and an AFL Hall of Fame Legend.
Yes, Harold Robert Pratt, known as ‘Bob’ across all AFL platforms, is technically speaking the Swans’ best Harry despite answering to ‘Bob’ from his early youth when his parents Robert and Olive wanted to avoid family confusion.
Certainly, the champion full forward has always been loved by Swans supporters as ‘Bob’.
It was 3 May 1930, 91 years ago today, that Pratt arrived on the football scene with his debut for South Melbourne against Melbourne at Lake Oval.
The Swans had turned to an old favorite to haul the club out of a slump, with Paddy Scanlan, South Melbourne captain 1923-26 and Footscray captain-coach 1927-28, returning ‘home’.
When Scanlan took the side into Round 1 he was the club’s fourth coach in 20 games after a troubled 1929 under first Jim Caldwell and later Fred Fleiter in the wake of the exit of 1923-28 coach Charlie Pannam.
Pratt joined a South side captained by Jim Scanlan. The Scanlans were the only pair of brothers to have been coach and captain of the same side.
Pratt’s debut 245 days beyond his 17th birthday capped a meteoric rise for the 180cm stripling, who was born at suburban Brunswick West in inner-city Melbourne and grew up 40km east in Mitcham.
He had attracted interest from South and Hawthorn but made his way to Lake Oval on the strong advice of the Mitcham coach – a chap named Pollard - after Hawthorn had dropped off following a less than brilliant Pratt display in a windy practice match.
Pratt was one of nine debutants in his first AFL match, including fellow Swans first-gamers Ron Shapter, Rod Leffanue and Tasman Knight, and kicked four goals from centre half forward in a 25-point loss.
He was their club’s No.2 forward behind Austin Robertson Snr and in his first season kicked 43 goals to Robertson’s 54. In his second season he kicked 24 to Robertson’s 38 before his career took a significant change in 1932.
With Robertson moved to defence, South recruited the highly-rated Roy Selleck from Springvale to play full forward. But after Selleck kicked 1-1-0 in his only three games, Pratt was pushed to the goalsquare. He kicked seven in his first game at full forward and never looked back.
After averaging 2.0 goals per game in his first two years, Pratt went on to become one of the most lethal goal-kickers in League history. He booted season totals of 71-109-150-103-64 from 1932-36 as South won the 1933 flag and played in the 1934-35-36 grand finals.
They are unthinkable numbers today with his 1934 season simply mind-boggling.
He kicked 8-10-15-6-7-4-6-5-8-7-9-8 through 12 games before 11 in the 13th game to post his century. He added 11-12 in the next two games before a comparatively moderate 3-3-5 to close the home-and-away season and then 4-6-2 in the finals.
His total of 150 smashed the League record of 124 set in 1929 when Collingwood’s Gordon Coventry was the first player to top triple-figures. It still stands 87 years on, having been equalled in 1971 by Hawthorn’s Peter Hudson, who famously kicked into the man on the mark when set to boot his 151st goal from close range.
Also in 1934, Pratt kicked 94 behinds – understood to be another League record although not officially acknowledged by the League given that record-keeping at the time was haphazard.
Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1942 and serving as a corporal in the 7th Medical Receiving Station defending airfields in the Pacific and in Borneo, he was always in the news.
Never more staggeringly so in 1935 when, after kicking six goals in the major semi-final, he missed the grand final after a freakish accident on the Thursday night.
Stepping off a tram in High Street, Prahran, he was clipped by a truck carrying five tonnes of bricks and suffered a badly injured ankle and lacerated legs.
As legend has it, the truck driver was a South Melbourne supporter and offered Pratt a packet of cigarettes as a way of apology. Collingwood won the grand final by 20 points.
Discharged from the RAAF in November 1945, Pratt made a short-lived comeback at 33 in 1946, playing his 158th and last game 2424 days after his 157th game. He kicked two early goals in his return against Carlton at Junction Oval before a career-ending leg injury.
Selected in the Swans Team of the Century in 2003 and an inaugural Legend in the Swans Hall of Fame in 2009 on top of his AFL recognition, Pratt died following a long illness on 6 January 2001 at Frankston Hospital in Melbourne.