Len Fitzgerald (7 May 1929 – 17 April 2007) was an Australian rules footballer of exceptional talent in the Victorian Football League (VFL) and South Australian National Football League (SANFL). At various time he played in the key positions of centre half-forward, centre half-back and ruck-rover.
|Date of birth||7 May 1929|
|Date of death||17 April 2007 77)(aged|
|Place of death||Adelaide|
|Original team(s)||Collingwood Technical School|
|Height||183 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||86 kg (190 lb)|
|1951–1955, 1959–1962||Sturt||125 (201)|
|Representative team honours|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1962.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 1966.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Fitzgerald started his career at Collingwood at the age of 15, in 1945. By 1950 he was an established key player with arguably the country's most illustrious sporting club.
Move to SANFL
It was thus surprising that in 1951 he was lured to the Sturt Football Club in the South Australian competition.
Fitzgerald was clearly attracted to the offer of better paying employment proferred by Sturt. One source has suggested however that the move was engineered by Collingwood powerbroker John Wren at the behest of a political ally in South Australia.
Arriving at Sturt in 1951, Fitzgerald quickly made an impression, being appointed captain after three games, and took over the coaching role mid-season. In 1952 Fitzgerald dominated the League, winning his first Magarey Medal as the "fairest and most brilliant" player in the League. He was to win two more in 1954 and 1959.
Despite Fitzgerald's brilliance, Sturt was unable to secure a premiership. In 1955 Fitzgerald got Sturt to the preliminary final, but the club failed to honour a promise of a bonus. Fitzgerald took himself to the Ovens and Murray League for the next three seasons, coaching and playing for Benalla.
When Fitzgerald returned to Sturt in 1959, he helped them to make the finals that year, the first time since his departure. Injuries began to take their toll on his playing and Fitzgerald finished his playing career in 1962 after playing 127 games for Sturt, kicking 201 goals and winning the club's best and fairest award three times. He represented his adopted State of South Australia 20 times and was named an All Australian in the 1953 Adelaide Carnival.
Fitzgerald coached Glenelg for three seasons after his retirement as a player, but with little success.