Jock McHale

James Francis "Jock" McHale, (12 December 1882 – 4 October 1953) was an Australian rules football player and coach for the Collingwood Football Club in the Victorian Football League in a marathon career that extended from 1903 to 1949.

Jock McHale
Personal information
Full name James Francis McHale
Date of birth (1882-12-12)12 December 1882
Place of birth Botany, New South Wales
Date of death 4 October 1953(1953-10-04) (aged 70)
Place of death Coburg, Victoria
Original team(s) Christian Brothers College
East Melbourne
Coburg Juniors
Height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 78 kg (172 lb)
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1903–1920 Collingwood 261 (18)
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
1912–1949 Collingwood 714 (467–237–10)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1920.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 1949.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables,

Early life

The son of an Irish-born policeman, John Francis, and his wife Mary (née Gibbons), the young McHale was born in Sydney, New South Wales but moved to Melbourne with his family at age 5. He attended St Brigid's primary school in North Fitzroy and St Paul's in Coburg, then moved on to Christian Brothers' College (Parade) in East Melbourne and completed three years of secondary school. Having just turned 15, he left school to take a position with the McCracken Brewery.

Playing career

McHale joined Coburg, at the time a junior club, and came to notice with his consistency, which led to an invitation to play at Collingwood. McHale made his league debut in 1903 for the black and white, playing as a half-back before moving into the centre. Durability was the cornerstone of his reputation as a player – he set a VFL record by playing 191 games consecutively between 1906 and 1917. This record was not beaten until 1943. He served as captain-coach from 1912–1913 and as a playing coach from 1914 up to the 1917 premiership, his second premiership after being part of the 1910 premiership side. McHale played a handful of matches in 1918 and 1920, but from 1918 to 1949 he made his name as the most successful coach in VFL/AFL history, deeds for which he is best remembered. As a player, McHale played 261 games and kicked 18 goals, as well as representing Victoria.

Coaching career

In total, McHale coached 714 VFL games with 467 wins and 10 draws (a 66.1% winning rate). This included a record 59 finals matches and 16 Grand Finals for eight premierships. His tally of 714 games was the record for most VFL/AFL games coached until 2015, when it was passed by Footscray, West Coast, Collingwood and Carlton coach Mick Malthouse.[1] Stylistically, he was regarded more for his analytical and ability to inspire, rather than as a teacher of skills. His football brain earned him the respect of his players and the football public. His stint as coach encompassed three enormously successful eras: 1917–1922 (five Grand Finals in six years for two flags), then 1925–1930 (six successive Grand Finals for four flags) and finally 1935–1939 (five successive Grand Finals for two flags).

The strength of Collingwood under McHale lay in its evenness and adherence to team discipline. McHale fashioned the team as a machine, with no part bigger than the whole – he and his players accepted the same amount of pay every week. He placed great store in his own ability to pick players' strengths and fitness levels and he would assess his players each week during a traditional Thursday Night match-day type training. Although in the years before and after the war Collingwood earned a reputation for failing in tough finals matches, McHale's reputation is assured for guiding the club in achieving VFL football's greatest single feat: the unequalled record of four premierships in a row, set between 1927 and 1930.

During the war, Collingwood fell on its first barren period since the formation of the club in 1892. McHale rode out the privations of the period and the Magpies re-emerged as a contender in 1945. However, the club suffered a series of disappointing finals losses and McHale conceded to age early in 1950 and retired. He stayed intimately involved with the club and helped plan the Magpies' campaign in the 1953 Grand Final. When Collingwood won the match to end a premiership drought of 17 years, McHale was overwhelmed with emotion. The next day he suffered a heart attack, and he died on 4 October at his home in Coburg (noted Collingwood benefactor John Wren suffered a heart attack while watching the same final match, and he died on 26 October 1953).

Coaching statistics

 W  Wins  L  Losses  D  Draws  W%  Winning percentage  LP  Ladder position  LT  League teams
Season Team Games W L D W % LP LT
1912 Collingwood 1899050.0%710
1913 Collingwood 19136068.4%310
1914 Collingwood 18107158.3%510
1915 Collingwood 18144077.8%19
1916 Collingwood 1366150.0%24
1917 Collingwood 16125169.4%16
1918 Collingwood 16115068.8%28
1919 Collingwood 19154080.0%19
1920 Collingwood 19127063.2%49
1921 Collingwood 1798052.9%39
1922 Collingwood 18126066.7%19
1923 Collingwood 1687153.1%59
1924 Collingwood 1688050.0%69
1925 Collingwood 20146070.0%412
1926 Collingwood 20155075.0%112
1927 Collingwood 20173085.0%112
1928 Collingwood 21173183.3%112
1929 Collingwood 20191095.0%112
1930 Collingwood 20164080.0%112
1931 Collingwood 19127063.2%412
1932 Collingwood 20155075.0%312
1933 Collingwood 18117061.1%612
1934 Collingwood 19135171.1%412
1935 Collingwood 21163281.0%212
1936 Collingwood 20173085.0%212
1937 Collingwood 21156071.4%312
1938 Collingwood 21147066.7%412
1939 Collingwood 21165076.2%212
1940 Collingwood 18810044.4%812
1941 Collingwood 18126066.7%512
1942 Collingwood 14212014.3%1011
1943 Collingwood 15510033.3%1011
1944 Collingwood 18711038.9%1012
1945 Collingwood 22157068.2%212
1946 Collingwood 22138161.4%212
1947 Collingwood 19117160.5%512
1948 Collingwood 21147066.7%312
1949 Collingwood 20137065.0%312
Career totals 713 466 237 10 66.1%


In 1996 Jock McHale was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and then was elevated to legend status in 2005.

Since 2001, the premiership coach is awarded the Jock McHale Medal, in honour of McHale's brilliant coaching record. The AFL has retrospectively made this award to each premiership coach since 1950, the year after McHale retired as a coach.

Crime novelist Kerry Greenwood wrote the 1991 short story The Vanishing of Jock McHale's Hat. It was adapted into a season 2 episode of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, titled "Marked for Murder", which aired in 2013.

1930 Grand Final

The AFL officially recognises McHale as having coached 714 games and eight premierships, but it is a matter of some historical controversy that the 1930 Grand Final and premiership are credited to McHale's statistics.[3] McHale had coached the team throughout that year and into the week of the Grand Final, but was absent on the day of the Grand Final, having fallen ill with influenza days before the game. Club treasurer Bob Rush performed the match day coaching duties in his place. For many years, Rush was credited with having coached the game; but after a decision in 2014 by the AFL's historians, McHale is now credited as Collingwood's sole coach in the game.[4]


Jock McHale died of a heart attack on 4 October 1953, aged 70 at his home in Coburg, only a week after Collingwood had won its first Premiership in seventeen years. He is buried with his wife Violet, son James and daughter Mary.

McHale is buried at Coburg Cemetery, Preston, Victoria. His grave is included in a self-guided heritage walk at the cemetery and information about his life is available on a sign posted at his graveside.[5]


  1. Travis King (1 May 2015). "Collingwood cruises to win as Malthouse milestone falls flat". Australian Football League. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  2. "Jock McHale's coaching profile". AFL Tables.
  4. Courtney Walsh (31 October 2014). "No fudge: AFL insists Mick Malthouse celebration will be by the numbers". The Australian. Melbourne, VIC. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  5. Friends of Coburg Cemetery website

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