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SA football buffs hoping for Magarey Medal white knight

Football

South Australian football aficionados are scrambling to find the funds to keep two early Magarey Medals in Adelaide, with Tom McKenzie’s 1902 and 1905 gold medals up for auction later today.

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South Australian football is hoping a white knight on Thursday night will buy two of the game’s early Magarey Medals – and keep them in Adelaide under SANFL care.

Adelaide coin dealer Grant Morton has put on sale two of South Australian football legend Tom McKenzie’s gold medals, 16 years after he bought the 1902 and 1905 Magarey Medals at auction in Sydney.

The reserve price for each medal is $32,000 – the price Morton paid for the Magarey Medals in July 2005.

The SANFL, which has had its finances stretched by the COVID pandemic during the past two years, has ruled out making its own bids for the medals that will be auctioned online by Michael Treloar Auctions.

“We would certainly be interested to discuss with any potential owner the possibility of adding (the McKenzie medals) to the collection at Adelaide Oval,” SANFL chief executive Darren Chandler told InDaily.

“The SANFL history committee has worked to establish an extensive collection of Magarey Medals, dating back to the first (won by Norwood player Alby Green) in 1898.”

This collection – that mixes original Magarey Medals donated to the SANFL and replicas – was established in 2017 by Christine Halbert, the wife of 1961 Magarey a Medallist and Sturt great John Halbert. It is a prominent display in the Chairman’s Room in the Riverbank Stand at Adelaide Oval.

Halbert is hopeful South Australian football fans can secure the money to bid for the McKenzie medals by making donations to a fundraising campaign controlled by the Australian Sports Commission.

At the same time, former SA Football Commission member and former West Adelaide Football Club president David Shipway has rallied former SANFL players and compatriots at the Carbine Club to form a syndicate to bid for the Magarey Medals.

Christine Halbert is keen to have the McKenzie medals – that have drawn interest from as far as Ireland – to stay in Adelaide, preferably with public access through the SANFL.

“You become concerned when they are in private hands, particularly if they finish up in a drawer and forgotten with time,” she told InDaily.

“You would like to know where they are – they are part of early South Australian history and there is good reason to ensure they remain in South Australia. We would not want them to be lost again.”

McKenzie, an Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee, won three Magarey Medals – 1902, 1905 and 1906. The whereabouts of the third medal are unknown and part of a mystery that had led to many theories on where McKenzie left the gold trophies.

Morton, a long-time collector of sporting memorabilia, had thought the McKenzie Magarey Medals had been melted down for their gold value during the Depression years or even buried with McKenzie at the West Terrace cemetery after his death in 1927 at the age of 45.

“I do hope the medals do find their way back to McKenzie’s clubs or the SANFL,” Morton told InDaily.

McKenzie, sometimes referred to as “MacKenzie”, was born in 1882 and played 175 senior SANFL games with West Torrens and North Adelaide before he served in France and was seriously wounded during World War I.

Morton is selling his collection of sporting awards and photographs that he has bought and gathered over more than three decades.

There are more than 100 significant pieces in the auction lot including the gold medals awarded to Norwood great John Joseph Woods, the 1906 gold premiership medal struck for Port Adelaide star Stanley Cocks and the 1911 medal handed to West Adelaide player Roy Stearnes after his team won the Champions of Australia title.

Morton also is selling a Port Adelaide Football Club membership season ticket from 1889.

Morton has decided to stay at home during the online auction.

“I will be enjoying a glass of red,” Morton said. “There has been a lot of interest in the collection, but I don’t know what to expect. It will be sad to let go of a collection that has given me a lot of joy. I hope those who now get to have these rare pieces of sporting history enjoy them as much as I have.”

Chandler told InDaily the SANFL would prefer significant football medals were not put on public sale by the trophy winners or those who inherit the medals.

“Given the historical significance of each Magarey Medal, the SANFL is not supportive of them being sold,” Chandler said. “We understand this is a decision to be made by each owner.”

Only the McKenzie medals and that of 1932 winner Max Pontifex have been known to come up at auction. The Pontifex medal sold for $37,000 and that return supported a family education fund.

The Magarey Medal is Australian football’s oldest individual award. It was established in 1898 by league leader and Adelaide lawyer William Magarey for the SANFL’s fairest and most brilliant footballer.

Until 1991, the Magarey Medal had a different design each season. Today, the medal features the image of Magarey.

The online auction begins at 7pm today (Thursday, October 7) at auctions.treloars.com

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