From the beginnings of Australian Football long before coaches came into vogue, the team captain acted as a 'coach.' As well as supervising training two nights per week, during the course of a game they controlled the team, moving players into other positions and motivating them. With the advent of coaches in the early 1900's, the non-playing coach was at a disadvantage being unable to speak to his players until the end of the quarter. The playing-coach did not have any such problems and could speak to his men on field during the match.
So a way around this problem was to pass messages through the agency of a club trainer.
When this practice first began is unclear, but by the 1930's it was newsworthy.

1931 Trainers Cannot Be Messengers

"There seems to be have been a general move recently in Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia to stop trainers from encroaching on football grounds. The idea is to prevent them from taking messages from coaches. No exception can be taken to that, but a general prohibition is rather drastic." (The News (Adelaide) August 06 p10);

According to the AFL web site ( http://www.afl.com.au/afl-hq/the-afl-explained/rule-changes-18582013 ),
In June 1953 trainers were banned from delivering coaches' messages.

1953 Umpires' Complaints On Trainers

"Last week, the Victorian football league permit committee rejected a move to 'legalise' the carrying of messages to players by trainers. It is common nowadays here and in Victoria for trainers to carry instructions from the coach to a man on the pretext that an injury is to be treated."
(News Adelaide June 09 1953 p23)

Then in 1955 coaches' runners (a trainer) used for the first time. They were permitted to talk to team members during matches.

1955 Football Trainers May Yet Carry Coaches Message.

To see the Argus' July 30 report, click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71670621

1955 Trainers Given The All-Clear

The Argus article from August 06, Runners will be allowed from August 13, to read click here> http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71672012
Round 17, 1955 Runners were permitted at the South Melbourne v Carlton match at the Lakeside Oval.

R. Lowrie

1962 - Chris Pavlou
1968 - Syd Jackson - was used as a runner due to hold up in obtaining a clearance from the WAFL, Graham Donaldson
1969 - Gary Lawson-Smith - was used as a runner due to hold up in obtaining a clearance from the SANFL
1970 - Serge Silvagni - was the runner for the early part of the season until talked out of retirement to play out the season. Rodney Wilkinson replaced him as runner.
1971 - Rodney Wilkinson

1978 - Peter Power
1979 - R.Lowrie (pictured above)
1980 - R.Lowrie
1981 - R.Lowrie
1982 -
1983 - Brendan O'Sullivan
1984 -
1985 -
1986 - Trevor Keogh
1987 - Trevor Keogh
1988 - Trevor Keogh, Rod Ashman
1989 - Trevor Keogh
1990 - Trevor Keogh
1991 - Peter Weightman
1992 -
1993 - Colin Seery
1994 - Colin Seery
1995 - Colin Seery
1996 - Colin Seery
1997 - Robert Hubbard
1998 - Barry Mitchell, Paul Jepson
1999 - Robert Hubbard, Jason Reddick, Stan Leahy
2000 - Barry Mitchell, Peter Maynard, Craig Brittain
2001 - Peter Maynard, Peter Dean, David Kernahan
2002 - Peter Maynard, Trevor Mitchell, John Maartensz, David Kernahan
2003-2007 - Brendan Risely

Trevor Mitchell
Peter Maynard
David Kernahan
Peter Dean
John Maartensz
Jason Reddick
Brendan O'Sullivan

Round 8, 1990 - A wrestle between Peter Dean and Dermott Brereton ended up having the Carlton runner Trevor Keogh dragged into the middle of the wrestle.

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