Wally Koochew in a 1908 Carlton team photo
|Full name||Walter John Henry Koochew|
|Date of birth||6 June 1887|
|Place of birth||Carlton, Australia|
|Date of death||13 March 1932(aged 44)|
|Place of death||Melbourne, Australia|
|Original team||Macedon, Brunswick|
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 2008 season.
Walter John Henry “Wally” Koochew (6 July 1887 – 13 March 1932) was an Australian rules footballer, who was the first Victorian Football League player of Chinese background, playing four games for Carlton Football Club in 1908.
Born in Carlton, Victoria to James Koochew (also spellt “Kou Chow”, “Kow Chow” or “Ko Chow”) a migrant to the goldfields from Guangzhou, China, and his wife Mary Dalker, Koochew worked as a greengrocer and played football in Macedon and Brunswick before his recruitment by Carlton.
Carlton were premiers in 1906 and 1907 but Koochew was able to made his debut early in 1908. Upon his selection, a Carlton member, also a member of the Ancient Order of Druids, returned his membership, claiming that by including Koochew on the team Carlton was dealing a death blow to the White Australia Policy.
Such issues did not deter Carlton or Koochew and he was listed as one of Carlton’s best players in its Round three win. A rover known for his accurate kicking, Koochew was omitted from the Carlton senior side after four games and two goals. Unable to force his way back into the league team, Koochew returned to Macedon in 1909 to be with his wife Axelina, a New Zealand born woman of Dutch and Danish parentage, with whom he had five sons and a daughter.
Koochew continued to play football in Macedon and surrounds and worked as a greengrocer until health issues forced him to instead run a hot dog stand at North Melbourne Football Club’s Arden Street Oval. He died in Melbourne Hospital, Carlton in 1932 aged 44.
Forgotten for many years, Koochew has recently been recognised by historians for his groundbreaking role in becoming the first VFL/AFL player of Chinese background in the wake of the White Australia Policy, and Australian rules football fans in China are using Koochew as an example to inspire prospective Chinese players.
Koochew’s son Wally Jnr played for Melbourne Football Club reserves before becoming becoming the Victorian Football Association's youngest ever coach with Northcote, while another son, Leslie, was a former VFL umpire and life member of the VFL/AFL Umpires’ Association and his great grandson James Koochew served as a statistician at Carlton in the 1990s.
- De Bolfo, T. (2004) "China Blue': The Wally Koochew Story", Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation Project, Asian Studies Program, La Trobe University. http://www.chaf.lib.latrobe.edu.au/stories/koochew.htm Accessed 25 February 2008.
- Holmesby, R. & Main, J. (2002) The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers, 4th ed. Crown Content, Melbourne. ISBN 1-74095-001-1
- Harms, J., "You're a champ China", The Melbourne Age, 27 June 2006. http://www.theage.com.au/realfooty/news/afl/youre-a-champ-china/2006/06/26/1151174134585.html Accessed 27 February 2008.