The Beard is Cleared



These words echoed around the small Australian Football community in Sydney late in the 1964 season.

A bearded John Corbett had signed up with the Sydney University club and the students desperately wanted him on the field but first needed John to be cleared from his former Adelaide University Football Club.

These were the days when players, as is still the case, completed registration forms to play in Sydney however if a player was from another club, he also had to fill out separate transfer papers.  These were then sent to the NSW League then onto the state body of the club where he last played, then to that player’s association and subsequently onto the player’s last club – all by snail mail.  Depending on the attitude of the officials involved, this could take weeks and the player was not permitted to play and had to sit out and wait.  Having said all that, there was a time limit for this procedure.

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 name, then when cleared, also under his real name, well …. questions could be asked.

In this case Sydney Uni could not get a response from John’s former club which led one of their officials, Paul Muller, to send off a reply paid telegram to Adelaide inquiring about the fate of the clearance. This was an accepted practice which short circuited the system.

In true University style a telegram came back to the league which was tabled at the then regular Friday Night Match & Permit Committee meeting.  It read: “BEARD CLEARED”.

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.

Incidentally, John played with Uni of NSW and 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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