Imagine having the Australian 200m sprint record holder running around for your club.
Well, that is exactly what happened to West Brunswick when Mexico City silver medallist Peter Norman decided to pull on the boots in the early 70’s.
Norman, who is arguably better-known for his role in the Black Power Salute alongside Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 medal presentation, wanted to maintain his fitness over the winter months and initially joined the Westies as boundary umpire. His athletics coach, Neville Silitoe, trained West Brunswick players over the off-season so it seemed fitting to encourage his athletes to join the football club over their winter break.
When Norman was famously not selected for the 1972 Munich Games, he decided to give up running the boundary and instead focused on playing the game.
Former teammate and club stalwart, Stephen ‘Ocker’ Fyffe, spoke glowingly of Norman during his West Brunswick days but jokingly admitted he wasn’t the most talented player.
“He was a great personality, larger than life, but he wasn’t such a good footballer,” Fyffe told the VAFA ‘Clubs in Focus’ Podcast.
“He’d get on the field and obviously the opposition players said, ‘oh hang on I know that bloke he’s that fast athlete’.
“There were a few guys who foolishly would get the ball, recognise that Peter was on the field and do things like have a bounce or try and run that two or three bounces down the ground as a test of their speed.
“Peter would look at them and say ‘Ocker, if that guy does that again, I’m gonna kill him’.
“So inevitably the characters would take him on and Peter, like the great gentleman that he was, he would chase them down and say, ‘alright got ya, ya bastard’ and gave them a very solid backhand.”
Norman played 57 games at West Brunswick and later coached the U19’s.
The full West Brunswick ‘Clubs in Focus’ Podcast will be released by VAFA Media tomorrow with an in-depth look at the club’s history and guest interviews with Fyffe, Ben Sexton, Beth Cooke, Polly Fletcher and Nick Mitchell.