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Lest We Forget...

Norm Le Brun


Career : 1935
Debut : Round 1, 1935 vs Geelong, aged 27 years, 4 days
Carlton Player No. 517
Games : 50 (5 at Carlton)
Goals : 31 (2 at Carlton)
Last Game : Round 10, 1935 vs Essendon, aged 27 years, 67 days
Guernsey No. 18
Height : 171 cm (5 ft. 7 in.)
Weight : 76 kg (12 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB: 22 April, 1908

A remarkable football nomad with real ability, Norm Le Brun played with three other VFL clubs (South Melbourne, Essendon and Collingwood) before making his debut for Carlton at the age of 27 in 1935. Following the declaration of World War II in 1939, Le Brun volunteered for active service, and was eventually selected for Australia’s elite Commando force. In November 1944, he was killed in action while fighting against the Japanese in New Guinea.

Norman Stanley Le Brun was born in the Victorian sea-side village of Sorrento in 1908, but his family later moved to inner-suburban Richmond. He grew into a stocky, well-built youngster with football talent and tenacity in equal measure; the product of a harsh childhood in an environment where only the toughest prospered. Le Brun's mother had a Cape Verdean / Jamaican heritage whilst his father's parents were from Jersey and Scotland.

When the Great Depression devastated Australia’s economy in 1928, it was the working class who were hardest hit. Even the most menial of jobs became scarce, so football ability was a valuable asset. Le Brun was playing with Richmond’s Reserves team in 1929 and supplementing his meagre match payments (for wins only - losses paid nothing) with occasional brick-laying jobs, when South Melbourne enticed him to the Lake Oval with the promise of senior selection.

Norm spent only one season with the Bloods, during which he found it hard to hold a regular place in their talented team. After three senior matches as a rover/forward, he headed north to Bendigo in 1930, and joined Sandhurst, where he was a sensation from his first match. No speedster, but fearless and hard at the contest, he was a terrier in the packs and ran all day. He was a worthy joint winner of the League’s Best and Fairest that season, sharing the honour with another future Blue in ‘Mickey’ Crisp. By then, someone with links to Essendon had passed on the nuggety rover’s credentials, and in 1931 he was coaxed back into VFL football with the Dons.

In 1933, after two seasons and 23 senior appearances for Essendon, Le Brun switched again - this time to Collingwood. Two years at Victoria Park added 19 games and 23 goals to his resume, before he headed off once more and landed at Carlton in 1935.

The Navy Blues had narrowly missed the finals in 1934, yet held high hopes of doing much better the next year with the added talent and experience of Rod McLean, Clete Turner and 27 year-old Le Brun, who all joined new coach Frank Maher’s team for round 1 of the season against Geelong at Princes Park. But in that cliff-hanger of a match, Geelong’s veteran full-forward George Moloney goaled in the dying minutes to deny the trio – and Carlton - a winning debut.

That defeat was perhaps an omen for Le Brun, because although Carlton recovered from a bad start to the season and made the finals, he was only selected in four more games all year. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that his VFL career came to an end with him on the move once more, to VFA heavyweights Coburg.

He spent two seasons with the Lions, another with South Warrnambool, then was captain-coach of NSW club Ganmain in 1940 when they won the South Western District League Premiership. By that time Adolph Hitler’ Nazis were marching into Poland, and World War II was about to bring death and destruction to the world on a massive scale.

Norm Le Brun was one of the thousands of Australians who signed up to serve for the duration of the war, and underwent basic army training. Then, his strong body and obvious high level of fitness made him a prime candidate to join our crack specialised forces. After passing all the selection processes and undergoing intensive instruction, he joined the 2/10th Commando Squadron in the jungles of New Guinea.

On the 15th of November, 1944, while pursuing retreating Japanese forces through thick jungle, Trooper Le Brun was shot and killed by an enemy sniper concealed among the roots of a large tree. Australia lost another precious son that day, when a varied, hectic, yet never boring life was ended at the age of 36.

Footnote

Albury Banner & Wodonga Express, 8 May 1936 (p36):
"Aussie rules Sunday football began on Sunday last, when Griffith defeated Leeton 96 to 43.
Griffith is being coached by Le Brun, late of the Carlton team."

Milestones

50 Games (VFL): Round 10, 1935 vs Essendon

Articles: Every Picture tells a story - Signatures from 1935 | The Blues at War

Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Le Brun | Le Brun's Blueseum Image Gallery

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