Ouyen resident Dan Knott, who died this week aged 95, and Collingwood champion Alby Pannam were members of a very exclusive club.
They both played alongside three of football’s most famous players. In the 1940s Dan Knott played with Lou Richards at Collingwood, Jack Dyer at Richmond, and then Ron Todd, the former Magpie sharpshooter, at Williamstown.
The modern-day equivalent might be to have played in the same teams as, say, Dane Swan, Dean Cox, and Buddy Franklin.
Dan Knott was recruited to Collingwood in 1940 from the Victoria Brewery team in Abbotsford. His first senior game was in round 2, a 15 point loss to Geelong at Victoria Park.
A member of Collingwood’s reserves premiership team that year, he went on to chalk up 18 senior games for the Magpies. This included two games in 1943 when he was on leave from transport duties with the army in Alice Springs.
Interviewed for The Sunday Age 12 months ago, Dan, a quick wingman and defender, remembered Lou Richards as being “a real comedian. He was always very witty”. Magpie coach Jock McHale “was a very nice fella, treated me well”.
Amongst Dan’s 18 Collingwood games was one game in 1941 at Brunswick St Oval against his older brother Arch, a follower with Fitzroy (and later St Kilda).
“I can’t remember who won, but I didn’t do too well.” (Collingwood won by 26 points – 18.15 (123) to 15.7 (97) – so perhaps Dan played better than he thought.)
Dan received one Brownlow vote while at Collingwood, in 1941, and thought he might have been lucky to get that vote.
“I used to mouth off a bit,” he said, after initially claiming he was very quiet on the field.
“The umpires would say ‘You need to close your mouth, Knotty.’ “
Dan was discharged from the army in 1945 and sat out the 1946 season with a collarbone injury.
De-listed by Collingwood, he joined Richmond in 1947, where he had four senior games, all alongside Jack Dyer. “I really loved it there. I barracked for Richmond when I was a boy. Jack Dyer was okay. Some players were scared of him, even Richmond players, but not me.”
Dan spent much of the season at Punt Road in the Tigers’ seconds, where he won the best and fairest. His captain-coach was his former Collingwood teammate Alby Pannam, who, after 181 games with Collingwood, played two senior games with Richmond in 1947. Pannam would have played alongside Lou Richards and Ron Todd at Collingwood and then Jack Dyer at Richmond. (Captain Blood played every game of the 1947 season.)
Dan was transferred to Williamstown in 1948, in a swap with wingman Geoff Spring, who went on to play 147 games for the Tigers. “He was one of the best Richmond players, one of the best.”
At Williamstown Dan’s team-mates included the prolific goalkicker Ron Todd, who had controversially moved from Collingwood to the Seagulls in 1940.
Knott started on the bench in the 1948 Grand Final against Brighton, with Todd listed on the half-forward flank. “I got a run after half-time but I musn’t have done much,” said Don. Brighton, the Penguins, won the flag by nine points.
Dan married in 1948 and moved to Chelsea with his wife Rosina. He played for Chelsea for two years in the old Federal league. At the age of 32 he hung up his boots.
After working as a brewery truck driver he was appointed manager of the Yorkshire Stingo Hotel in Collingwood and became, of all things, a Melbourne supporter. He liked the fact there was plenty of seating at the MCG, so regularly took the family there. He even convinced his wife, a Collingwood supporter, to swap allegiance.
When asked last year about the Demon’s woes Dan declined to comment, saying his words might not be fit to print.
Dan’s lounge-room in Ouyen was adorned with premiership team photos of Victoria Brewery and Collingwood reserves from more than 70 years ago, and a team photo from his year at Williamstown.
Dan was also quite a runner, and hurdler. He and his two brothers were harriers with the Collingwood Athletics Club. Dan’s brother George represented Australia in the 1948 Olympics, in the 10,000 metre walk, and has a reserve named after him on Heidelberg Road, Clifton Hill.
A shorter version of this story was published in The Sunday Age on Sunday 9 June 2013.