Vic Belcher

Victor George Belcher (24 August 1888 3 January 1977) was an Australian rules footballer, coach and umpire in the (then) Victorian Football League.

Vic Belcher
Personal information
Full name Victor George Belcher
Date of birth (1888-08-24)24 August 1888
Place of birth Lebrina, near Launceston
Date of death 3 January 1977(1977-01-03) (aged 88)
Place of death Brunswick
Original team(s) Brunswick
Height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 80 kg (176 lb)
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1907–1920 South Melbourne 226 (62)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
1919 Victoria 2
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
1914–1917 South Melbourne 53 (30–21–1)
1922–1924 Fitzroy 57 (37–19–1)
1926–1927 Fitzroy 36 (12–23–1)
Total 146 (80–63–3)
Umpiring career
Years League Role Games
Boundary umpire
Boundary umpire
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1920.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 1927.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables,

Early life and family

Belcher was born at Hall's Track (now known as Lebrina)[1] north east of Launceston to William (a labourer) and Isabella Mary Belcher (nee Mitchell). The family moved around Tasmania at the time, there having been two elder brothers born at New Norfolk, Allan (b 1884), and Albert Victor (b & d 1887) and in 1890 another brother Gabriel Lawrence was born at Formby (now Devonport). The family then moved to Victoria and in 1893 the birth of another brother Ernest Staley was registered in the Brunswick area of Melbourne.[2]

Playing career

By the time Vic was seventeen years old he was still in the Brunswick area where he played for both All Stars and Coburg (VJFA) before joining his brother, Allan, at Brunswick Football Club in August 1905.[3]

Immediately successful as a defender, Belcher was selected in the back-pocket to represent the VFA in 1906 when they played the Bendigo and Northern District Association.[4] That year he shared club's the best defender trophy.[5] He was recruited by South Melbourne secretary Bert Howson and debuted for them in round 1, 1907.[6] Despite residing in Brunswick, Belcher chose South because he supported them as a youth and cycled to the Lake Oval to train and play.[7]

South made the 1907 grand final but lost to Carlton. Belcher began in defence but was moved to the ruck in the second quarter where he performed creditably.[8] This match was an early indicator of Belcher's career. He was a tireless ruckman who could also play in a key position. South were premiers in 1909 and Belcher rucked the whole match.

In 1913 Belcher was elected South's captain, a position he would hold until 1917 and again in 1920. He had been stand-in captain in the 1912 semi-final against his brother's Essendon side and as a result they became the first brother's to not only captain opposing sides, but to also play on each other during the match. Essendon were victors.[9] Two weeks later they met again in the grand final but not as captains as Charlie Ricketts had returned from injury. South lost again and not until 2013, did brothers face each other in a grand final.[10]

Belcher was appointed South Melbourne captain-coach from 1914–15 and 1917, losing the 1914 grand final and finishing fifth and seventh in the other seasons. South had withdrawn from the VFL in 1916 at the height of the First World War.

As vice-captain in 1918 Belcher won his second premiership with South and enhanced his reputation as a good finals player. Collingwood led by 12 points at the final break of the grand final but South switched Belcher from defence to the ruck and he was instrumental in a comeback that saw South win by five points.[11] Until 2012 he was the only person in VFL/AFL history to win two premierships with the South Melbourne Swans.

Belcher represented Victoria against South Australia twice in 1919, both times he was elected captain.[12][13]

Upon his retirement at the end of the 1920 season Jack Worrall assessed his career:

When he began playing senior football, Belcher was a ruckman, being as fine a performer in that position as any man playing. In his latter years he has been a noted defender, his coolness, judgement, fine marking qualities and dash making him an ideal back man and captain. Like the vast majority of champions Belcher has been fairness personified. He possesses fine spring and determination, was a hard man to beat and was a manly opponent[14]

In 1996 Belcher was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and in 2003 was named in the Sydney Swans Team of the Century. He was the last survivor of the 1909 Premiership team.

Belcher is one of only five dual South Melbourne/Sydney Swans premiership players, the other four being Jude Bolton, Adam Goodes, Ryan O'Keefe and Lewis Roberts-Thomson.[15]

Coaching career

As a playing-coach Belcher guided South Melbourne in 53 matches. After a single season as an umpire in 1921 he was appointed coach of Fitzroy Football Club in 1922 and lead them to that season's premiership. He continued in 1923-24 finishing second and third respectively.

Having received a playing clearance from South Melbourne he was recruited by City Football Club in the Launceston-based NTFA competition for the 1925 season.[16] Belcher played regularly until a groin injury in a representative match ended his on-field season. City finished third for the season.[17]

Belcher returned to Melbourne as non-playing coach of Fitzroy from 1926-27 then moved to a junior team, East Brunswick, as playing coach in 1928.[18]

After a year on the committee Belcher was appointed non-playing coach at Brunswick in 1932.

Umpiring career

Belcher had two stints as an umpire with the VFL and a single season with the VFA.

In 1921 he applied for a position as an umpire with the VFL. He was accepted and made his debut as a boundary umpire in round two's Melbourne versus Collingwood match earning Heritage Number 134. Belcher umpired 16 VFL matches during the season, all on the boundary, and was appointed to the 1921 VFL Grand Final. He returned to coaching the following season.

In 1928 Belcher trialled as a boundary umpire for the VFL but was unsuccessful and instead field umpired in the VFA seconds for the season.[19] He trialled again in 1930 and was placed on the VFL list as a field umpire. As a country field umpire he officiated in 14 matches for the season. He was appointed to the Benalla-Mulwala association grand final which became a particularly violent match. It degenerated to a series of melees in the second half, although no blame was attached to Belcher.[20]

During this period the VFL appointed one field umpire to senior matches as a boundary umpire in case of emergency. In this capacity Belcher officiated in his final senior match in round 5, 1930 - Geelong versus Carlton.

After being elected to a committee position with the Brunswick Football Club in January 1931 Belcher umpired only a single country match that season before retiring from umpiring for the final time.[21][22]


  1. "Lebrina". The Colonist. III, (XLIX). Tasmania, Australia. 6 December 1890. p. 12. Retrieved 26 August 2018 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. Victoria BDMs 20106/1893
  3. Fiddian (2009, p. 16)
  4. "Sporting". The Argus. 30 August 1906. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  5. "Brunswick Football Club". Coburg Leader. 16 March 1907. p. 3. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  6. Fiddian (2009, p. 20)
  7. Main (2009, p. 41)
  8. "Carlton premiers". The Argus. 23 September 1907. p. 4. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  9. Browne, Ashley, ed. (2011). Grand finals : the stories behind the premier teams of the Victorian Football League. Volume 1, 1897-1938. Docklands, Vic.: Slattery Media Group. p. 164. ISBN 9781921778322.
  10. Collins, Ben (25 September 2013). "The Belcher brothers: a grand, tragic tale". AFL. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  11. Main (2009, p. 71)
  12. "Interstate football". The Register (Adelaide). 1 August 1919. p. 6. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  13. "Interstate football". The Register (Adelaide). 4 July 1919. p. 8. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  14. Main (2009, p. 76)
  15. "Premiership stars inducted into Hall of Fame". Sydney Swans. 19 February 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  16. "Football". The Examiner (Launceston). 2 April 1925. p. 8. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  17. "Belcher returns to Melbourne". Examniner (Launceston). 11 September 1925. p. 7. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  18. Davie, B.J (21 March 1928). "Victorian football". The referee (Sydney). p. 13. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  19. Davie, B.J. (10 April 1929). "Vic. footballers in form". Referee (Sydney). p. 13. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  20. "Rough football". The Argus. 18 August 1930. p. 9. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  21. "Brunswick nominations". The Argus. 17 January 1931. p. 15. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  22. Flegg, David. Records. Accessed 1 January 2014. Microsoft Access database.
  • Fiddian, Marc (2009). Moulded from clay : a history of the Brunswick Football Club / . Forest Hill, Victoria: Racoon Tail Books. ISBN 9780980561814.
  • Main, Jim (2009). In the blood : celebrating the red & white 1874 - 2009. Seaford, Vic.: Bas Publishing. ISBN 9781921496011.
  • Ross, John (1999). The Australian Football Hall of Fame. Australia: HarperCollinsPublishers. p. 39. ISBN 0-7322-6426-X.
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