John Todd (footballer)

John Herbert Todd (born 21 May 1938 in Manjimup, Western Australia) is a former Australian rules football player and coach, most notable for his long and successful coaching career in the West Australian Football League (WAFL).

John Todd
Personal information
Full name John Herbert Todd
Date of birth (1938-05-21) 21 May 1938
Original team(s) South Fremantle reserves
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1955–1966 South Fremantle 132
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
1955–1962 Western Australia 13 (27)
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
1959, 1966–68, 1995–98 South Fremantle 172 (83–88–1)
1973–76 East Fremantle 87 (45–41–1)
1977–87, 1990–94, 2000–02 Swan Districts 417 (217–200–0)
1988–89 West Coast 45 (20–25–0)
Total 721 (365–354–2)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1966.
2 State and international statistics correct as of 1962.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 2002.
Career highlights

Todd played for South Fremantle in the during the 1950s and 1960s, and won the Sandover Medal in 1955 at just 17 years of age, but his playing career was cut short by a serious knee injury. He then became only the second coach to guide three WAFL clubs (East Fremantle, South Fremantle and Swan Districts) to premierships, and led fledgling Australian Football League club West Coast to its first finals appearance in 1988. He is one of only four coaches in the major Australian football leagues to have coached over 700 senior games, and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame for his coaching achievements.

Playing career

Todd first came to notice when he scored 7 goals in South Fremantle's reserve grade WAFL premiership. He made his senior debut the following year aged 16 years and 336 days, one of the youngest[1] and played in every league game, winning both the Sandover Medal and South's best and fairest award. Aged 17 and 4 months when he beat Graham Farmer by 4 votes in the 1955 Sandover Medal count, he was the youngest ever winner in open-age competition (Laurie Bowen was younger when he won the award in 1942, one of the seasons which were restricted to under age during World War II).[2]

Five games into Todd's second season, shortly after he turned 18, a pack of players collapsed on his left leg during a match. Todd suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament[3] that was unable to be repaired with the medical techniques of the time.[4] Wearing a special leg brace he was able to continue playing but only had two more seasons in his career that were not affected by injury. He won the South Fremantle best and fairest award in each of these years, 1958 and 1961 and also was selected in the All-Australian Team following Western Australia's successful 1961 Brisbane Carnival performance.[4] Todd played a total of thirteen state games for Western Australia between 1955 and 1962, kicking 25 goals.[5]

He was appointed the playing captain-coach of South Fremantle in 1959 but relinquished the position in 1960. He retired from playing in 1964 and was reappointed coach in 1966. He made a comeback to the playing field in June 1966 in the Foundation Day Derby but retired again soon after, finishing with 132 games.

Coaching career

Todd first coached his old club South Fremantle as a captain-coach in 1959, then after his retirement as a player, from 1966 to 1968, after which he wrote for The West Australian during the 1970 season. He then coached East Fremantle from 1973 until 1976, including winning the 1974 premiership. In 1977 he moved to Swan Districts, where he coached for eleven seasons winning a hat-trick of premierships between 1982 and 1984.

While at Swans in 1982, Todd caused controversy by sending a team of reserves and colts to Melbourne to compete in the Escort Cup quarter-final against VFL club Richmond. Todd's actions were in protest to a change of the quarter final schedule, which he felt would be detrimental to his senior team's performance in the WAFL.[6][7] The inexperienced team lost by 186 points, and Swan Districts was banned from the Escort Cup for two years.[8]

In October 1987, Todd was due to fly to Adelaide to sign with SANFL club Woodville. But the management of the fledgling West Coast managed to get hold of him first and secure his signature as coach for the 1988 VFL season after they had just sacked Ron Alexander.[9]

One of Todd's first moves as coach of West Coast was to field almost two different teams: one to play at home in Perth and one to play interstate.[10] While there would be a nucleus of key players for all the matches, Todd declared that he would pick his teams for interstate matches based on who could cope best with the different conditions.[10] The idea seemed reasonable, based on the previous season's results; in their first year of VFL football, of the 11 games the Eagles had won, only two of them were away from home. Todd also perceived that the players had treated the interstate trips as holidays, and so he organized travel arrangements to be as short as possible, with players departing Perth late on Friday and then returning home after the game.[10]

He was the first coach to take West Coast into the finals in 1988, losing the Elimination Final to Melbourne by two points. After a mediocre year in 1989 he was succeeded by Mick Malthouse.

Todd returned to Swan Districts, taking the team to a premiership in his first year back in 1990, before moving back to his original team, South Fremantle in 1995. He coached them to the 1997 premiership before leaving again after the 1998 season, taking a year off from coaching. In 2000 he made his final move, back to Swan Districts, before finally retiring at the end of 2002. In August 2001 he became the first West Australian and the fourth Australian to coach 700 senior games. The Parliament of Western Australia suspended its standing orders to pass a motion of congratulation to Todd for his contribution to Australian rules football.[11]

In addition to his 721 league games as coach, Todd also coached Western Australia for 14 games, to take his total to 735 games. He also coached six International Rules tests for Australia.

In all, Todd coached in seven Grand Finals, winning six of them. He felt though that the one defeat was with the best team he had coached - the 1980 Swan Districts team, which won their first 13 games during the home-and-away season but lost to South Fremantle in the Grand Final.[12]

Todd was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2003 as a coach[13] and is a legend of the West Australian Football Hall of Fame.[14]


  1. Oldest and youngest WAFL players
  2. East (2006) p193
  3. Collins, 2006, p. 345
  4. East (2006) p196
  5. WA State Representatives
  6. Simunovich, Peter (20 May 1982). "WA club's cup anger". The Sun News-Pictorial (Final ed.). p. 70.
  7. Davis, Michael (23 June 1982). "A night farce!". The Sun News-Pictorial (Final ed.). p. 76.
  8. Prior, Tom (22 July 1982). "Banished... to the West". The Sun News-Pictorial (Final ed.). p. 63.
  9. "SPORT DIGEST - Eagles replace coach". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 October 1987.
  10. Smithers, Patrick (29 March 1988). "Two-team tactic fires Todd bid for the five". The Age.
  11. John Todd, Contribution to Australian rules football (2 August 2001)
  12. Collins, 2006, p. 349
  13. "AFL Hall of Fame - Coaches". Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  14. Townsend, John (11 March 2009). "Legend Heal joins WA footy's Hall of Fame". The West Australian. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009.


  • East, Alan; Pike, Chris; Lewis, Tracey; Stocks, Gary; Waddell, Joel (September 2006). Alan East (ed.). The Sandover Medal Men. Alan East. pp. 193–198. ISBN 0-9775813-0-6.
  • Collins, Ben (2006). The Champions: Conversations With Great Players and Coaches of Australian Football. Docklands: Geoff Slattery Publishing. ISBN 0 9757964 4 5.
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