Vale Jack Morgans Two Blues legend

Jack Morgans, Prahran Football Club icon and club patron, has died aged 91 on early on Wednesday September 20 at Caulfield Hospital.

A memorial service was attended by more than 150 past and present players and officials, family on Tuesday September 26 at 2.30 pm at Toorak Park.

Morgans devoted a lifetime of service to Prahran from the day he joined the committee in 1951.

Dubbed Mr Prahran, Jack was indeed a pillar of the club with his length of service unrivalled.

Jack served on the committee from 1951-91, then 1994-2011 and has been club patron since. He was president from 1969-74, made a life member in 1960 and VFA life member in 1991.

Until recent weeks Jack was still helping the club by doing the bingo banking on a Monday morning.

This is an extract of an article penned for a magazine published by Kevin Sheedy at his request in honour of his 50th year in senior football.

By Tim Habel

JACK Morgans was never going to support any football club other than Prahran.

After all, his parents and grand parents lived in Errol Street, Prahran, as Jack did all his life, a fact recognised this year by Stonnington City Council who called a previously unnamed lane between  Westbourne and Errol Streets Morgans Lane in recognition of the family’s century plus presence.

Long time club historian and former secretary Ray Ryan claims Morgans’ contribution to Prahran Football Club is unmatched in the club’s 130 year history.

As a committeeman from 1951 to 2004, a dual premiership president in 1970 and 1973 , life member, Under 18s manager, publicity officer, assistant secretary, property steward and now club patron Morgans has been a constant with the Two Blues.

Only JJ O’Connor’s 28 year reign as president from 1928-1956 rivals Morgan’s contribution, Ryan says.

Jack, who celebrated his 90th birthday in June 2016,  saw all seven of Prahran’s VFA premierships dating back to the club’s first in 1937 as an 11 years-old.

“I remember I ran all the way home to tell my mother we’d won.’’

As a teenager Morgans joined the Prahran Younger Set, which led to him being invited to join the football club committee.

His first job was selling raffle tickets on game days and eventually worked his way up the ladder to presidency in 1969.

“Jack did everything. Just because he was president didn’t stop him. After listening to the coach’s half-time address he would come out and pick up the cups and saucers from afternoon tea and hand them to the ladies in the kitchen. ‘’ Ryan said.

‘’He was fantastic, he was a good organiser, very popular, always had a happy nature and a smile on his face’’. Hence the monniker ‘Smiling Jack Morgans.’ (Which Kevin Sheedy uses in his signature).

Morgans said it was an era when everyone chipped in.

“We would wash the jumpers, sell raffle tickets, put up banners before games and take them down. You were devoted to the club, you would go to training after work at 5 o’clock, have a chat and a drink and wouldn’t get home to 10 o’clock.’’

Morgans’ occupation as production manager at Southdown Press proved opportune as he was able to arrange for the printing of the club’s annual report.

All football clubs endure highs and lows and none more than Prahran which was voted out of the VFA in 1994 and went into recess for four years before returning in the Victorian Amateur Football Association in a joint venture with Southbank Football Club as Prahran Amateur Football Club and fielding juniors teams.

During those trying times Morgans’ wise counsel was often sought and he remains club patron of the senior team now known as Prahran Assumption.

The Prahran Football Club named its Chapel Street social and memorabilia room the Jack Morgans Room in June 1997 in recognition of his service to the club.

Morgans has seen a host of stars come and go but maintains Paddy Walsh, 1951 premiership captain, was the best player he saw at Prahran.

One star he admits surprised him and many others at Prahran was a young Kevin Sheedy.

‘’He played his first senior game at 16 against Camberwell so he must have impressed in the thirds (Under 18s) . (But) He couldn’t kick, but his handball was very good, he was too fast for most of our players.’’

Sheedy defied those predictions  to be a three times premiership player at Richmond.

Morgans was at the helm in Prahran’s VFA  ‘golden era’ when it won premierships in 1970 and 1973  with Kevin Rose who crossed from Collingwood as coach and then 1978 when Cr Bill Dane had assumed presidency.

There is a strong mutual respect between Morgans and Rose.

Rose called him an “outstanding president who displayed common sense and was a clear thinker.’’

Territorial rivalry was the cornerstone of the VFA competition. Prahran competed against a host of neighbouring suburbs such as Camberwell, Caulfield, Brighton and Sandringham but the Two Blues’ arch rival was Port Melbourne.

Morgans recalled Port “always won at Port and we always seemed to win at Toorak Park.’’

There was also respect-  games between Prahran and Coburg were for the Morgans-Wells Trophy, in honour of the Prahran president and long time Coburg secretary Bryan Wells.

Because VFA games were played on Sundays in the days when there was no Sunday racing, bookmakers had a strong link to many clubs, none more so than Prahran. Huge money changed hands on the outcome of matches, long before the TAB or corporate bookmakers bet on games.

Alf Blamey, former president and rails bookie, said you could always get a bet on VFA football which  was a hot topic when bookies gathered at the Victoria Club on a Monday to finalise Saturday’s betting transactions.

Blamey and Morgans recalled former Prahran president Sir Rupert Steele was the first administrator to sound the warning bells in 1980 when the VFL began to televise Sunday games against the Channel 0 VFA games.

He called for an affiliation of 12 First Division VFA clubs with the 12 VFL clubs but the idea was blocked by Division 2 VFA Clubs and the VFA gradually lost its drawing power.

Morgans is saddened by the VFA’s demise.

“It was very popular when I first started to go, then dropped after over the war, then when the games were televised you  would get 25,000 at 30,000 at grand finals.’’

Indeed the Two Blues won the 1978 VFA flag against Preston in front of 30,569, the largest crowd since 1945.

Steele, later Sir Rupert, was VRC chairman at the time, made the most of that premiership. He arranged for the Prahran players to be part of a motorcade down the straight before the first race on Turnbull Stakes Day the following Saturday, a practice not done before or since

In Mark Fiddian’s excellent history of  Prahran ‘The Blue Boys’, he notes how Morgans humbly describes his reward for his dedicated service to the club.

“The friends you meet – you never seem to lose them- and what you do for the youth in the district.’’

Generations of players have passed through the doors at Toorak Park and they have seen how officials such as Jack Morgans embraced them all, and showed them how a football club can give young people a sense of purpose and direction in life and how to win with grace and lose with dignity.