The Beard is Cleared

John Corbett ‘The Beard’

This story has been told before but this a good yarn which bears repeating:

In 1964 it appeared that the Sydney University side had the chance to play John Corbett, who was a bit of a star interstate, in their team, however with a time limit on clearances, time was of the essence.  Before he could play in Sydney, John required a clearance from Adelaide University – the last team he had played with.

In those days paper clearances had to be completed by the club then submitted to the league.  They would go before the Friday Night’s Match & Permit Committee then posted to the SANFL in Adelaide.  The SA league would then forward it (all by snail mail) to the Association or League which Adelaide Uni participated in.  They in turn would forward it to the club.  This was a ridiculous situation because it took soooo long, but normal for the day mainly because the paper clearance had to come back through the same channels.

A note was put with Corbett’s clearance that “it be attended to urgently.”

Of course in Sydney, and quite possibly other leagues around the country, these players would appear on the team sheet and play illegally under an assumed name.

For the clubs with a low profile this did not present a real problem but if the player began to accumulate best and fairest votes under that bodgie name, then when cleared, also under his real name, well …. questions could be asked. (and this did happen!!! – and often)

After waiting a fortnight, the 1964 Sydney Uni secretary, Paul Muller, sent a reply-paid telegram to Adelaide enquiring about the fate of this clearance. The telegram came back and on the following Friday night was tabled before the Permit & Match Committee.

The telegram read “BEARD CLEARED.”

Now in those days not many players wore beards. Apparently John’s nickname was The Beard and the response drew quite a bit of amusement from the normally sedate and conservative meeting attendees of the day, so much so, that the attached photograph and story about the incident was published in the Daily Telegraph.

Great story and incidentally, John ended up playing with Uni of NSW, who, in 1964, were just coming into the Sydney AFL scene  John turned out to be a very effective captain of the side which was competing in Sydney’s reserve grade.  He continued on with the club until he gained his PHD and went to work in California.

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