|Date of birth||3 July 1933|
|Place of birth||Perth, Western Australia|
|Date of death||18 July 2000(aged 67)|
|Place of death||Osborne Park, Western Australia|
|Original team(s)||Mt Hawthorn, Metropolitan Junior Football Association (Perth)|
|Height / weight||193 cm / 111 kg|
|1961||West Perth||18 (?)|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1966.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Raymond Thomas "Ray" Gabelich (3 July 1933 – 18 July 2000) was an Australian rules footballer, "at his peak, he was a superb athlete … deceptively quick and athletic for a man of his massive dimensions", who played with Collingwood in the Victorian Football League (VFL).
Prevented by East Perth from playing for West Perth on supposed residential grounds, Gabelich was unable to play first grade football in Perth. Frustrated, he continued to play top-level, under-20s, amateur football for the Mt Hawthorn Amateur Football Club in Perth's Metropolitan Junior Football Association competition (he was the team's capatin in 1953), until all of his avenues of appeal to the Western Australian National Football League were exhausted: see ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; and .
Gabelich, aged 18, first came to Collingwood’s attention when he was one of the best players afield for the Mt. Hawthorn team that beat South Fremantle Ex-Scholars team (each were premiers in their respective amateur competitions that year) in match that was a curtain-raiser to the end-of-season match between Collingwood and South Fremantle, at the Fremantle Oval, on 20 October 1951, which Collingwood lost 22.9 (141) to 15.12 (102).
He came to Collingwood from Western Australia as a centre half-forward in 1954 too late to be listed; and, so, he continued to play amateur football, playing with Parkside Amateurs, a team that was coached by ex-Preston (VFA) rover Les Ross, in the Victorian Amateur Football Association, for the remainder of the 1954: a season in which Parkside were C Grade premiers, unbeaten throughout the entire season. Gabelich played at centre half-back in the Grand Final where Parkside 15.19 (109) defeated Old Xaverians 8.12 (60).
The team also won the VAFA Lightning Premiership conducted on the Queens Birthday weekend as a prelude to the Interstate match between the Victorian and South Australian Amateur representative teams.
The only loss the team experienced in 1954 — in fact the team had won 29 matches consecutively over two (1953/1954) seasons — was when it was defeated, 10.6 (66) to 4.11 (35), by the 1954 Canberra Australian National Football League premiers, Queanbeyan-Acton, in a post-Grand Final match in Canberra on 19 September 1954. Gabelich, at centre half-back was one of Parkside's best players.
When working as a fitter and turner in Melbourne, he lost the top of his middle finger in an industrial accident in 1955, before he had played his first game for Collingwood.
Debut for Collingwood
Gabelich made his debut for Collingwood in the 30 April 1955 (round three) match against St Kilda — one commentator's view of his performance: "Gabelich: Nice mark and kick. Promising, except for ground play" — he replaced an injured Murray Weideman at centre half-forward in the selected team; he scored 1.4 (10) (playing against Neil Roberts). Gabelich also played (in the ruck) for Collingwood in its end-of-season match against Perth Football Club, who had won the 1955 West Australian Football League premiership team on the previous Saturday, in Perth, on 15 October 1955.
Gabelich only played seven games in 1957. In the third quarter of the (round 6) match against North Melbourne on 25 May 1957, Gabelich was kicked in the lower leg and sustained a broken fibula. Rejecting the offer of a stretcher, Gabelich "walked unaided more than half the length of the ground" to the dressing room, where "[having been] asked in the dressing room how he knew the leg was broken Gabelich shocked the club doctor by inviting him to listen to the bones grate".
Gabelich's first post-injury appearance was for Collingwood's Second XVIII, playing against North Melbourne on 17 August 1957, where "until his condition gave out, [he] did well and was not troubled by his leg". He was selected in the First XVIII for the important (round 18) last match of the season against St Kilda on 24 August 1957, and was one of Collingwood's best players in a losing team.
In his eleven season, 160 game career with Collingwood, he played in 17 final matches, including 5 Grand Finals. In 1958, when Collingwood won the Grand Final, defeating Melbourne 12.10 (82) to 9.10 (64) — and, in the process, preventing Melbourne from matching Collingwood's record of winning four premierships in a row (viz., 1927, 1928, 1920, and 1930) — Gabelich played a strong robust game as a back-pocket ruckman and, "with his terrific strength [and taking] control of the packs", Gabelich was instrumental in Collingwood turning a 17-point deficit at quarter-time into a two-point lead at half-time, and a 33 point lead at three-quarter time.
He was runner-up in the 1959 Brownlow to St Kilda's Verdun Howell and South Melbourne's Bob Skilton (who had tied for first), and he won the Copeland Trophy as Collingwood's best and fairest in 1960.
He played as a back-pocket resting ruckman for the combined VFL and VFA team against the VAFA in the demonstration match of Australian rules football, during the Melbourne Olympic Games, on Friday, 7 December 1956.
At the end of the 1959 season, Gabelich, unemployed, and surviving only on his (at the time meagre) football payments from Collingwood, sought a clearance to West Perth—where, in addition to his football payments, he had been promised "a full directorship of an estate agency which would guarantee him a minimum income of ₤4,000 a year"—and had been told, by Collingwood, that no decision could be made until a new, 1960, committee had been elected. A frustrated Gabelich flew to Darwin on Friday, 8 January 1960, played with the Waratah Football Club on the Saturday, and on the following Monday commenced work as a storeman in a hardware store.
On the following Saturday (16 January) morning, Gabelich contacted the Collingwood secretary (Gordon Carlyon) and, having received an assurance from Carlyon that Collingwood would support his request to the VFL to be allowed to play for the Waratah Football Club in the Victorian off-season, he agreed to not play on that Saturday, in the hope that would not further prejudice his request. After a discussion that concluded that "follower Ray Gabelich has not broken any A.N.F.C.regulation, or incurred automatic disqualification by playing in Darwin", Collingwood decided to refer the matter to the VFL for guidance, before making a final decision.
Despite Collingwood's argument that Gabelich's actions did not warrant automatic disqualification, because (a) "Darwin was not a State", and (b) "Gabelich had played out of [Victorian] season", the VFL — taking the view that Gabelich's decision to play in Darwin was "an embarrassment" — decided to seek advice from the Australian National Football Council before making any decision.
Return to Western Australia
In 1961 he returned to Western Australia where spent the entire season playing with West Perth, during which time he also represented Western Australia at the 1961 Brisbane Australian National Football Council Carnival, playing at centre-half back (and, in the process, he completely nullified South Melbourne's champion centre half-forward Jim Taylor) in the West Australian team that not only (unexpectedly) defeated the Victorian representative team 15.14 (104) to 14.11 (95) in "a fiercely fought match", but also, through that victory, won the ANFC Carnival title.
His outstanding performance for West Australia resulted in his selection, at centre half-back in that year's All-Australian team, but also the award of the Simpson Medal as the best West Australian player at the Brisbane Carnival.
Return to Collingwood
Now aged 28, Gabelich returned to Collingwood in 1962, and he captained the club for the entire 1964 season, and part of 1965.
Although injured and unable to play in the first two matches of the season, Gabelich starred in his first return match on 5 May 1962 (round 3) against South Melbourne, which Collingwood won 15.10 (100) to 7.14(56):
- [The] inclusion of Ray Gabelich to add strength and drive to the rucks, and give aid to high marking around the ground, made a tremendous difference to Collingwood. Other players picked up confidence from Gabelich and the Magpies finished with very few unprofitable spots. Besides picking up in ruck power, the Magpies gained a sharper and more penetrating edge around the packs.
In 1965, an overweight Gabelich's pre-season training was greatly affected by (a) his having undergone a major operation on his nose in early February, (b) his having undergone a minor ear operation in early March, and, also, (c) having an emergency admission to hospital on 16 March. In the early hours of 17 March 1965, he was operated on, and his appendix was removed. The medical advice given to Collingwood at the time was that Gabelich would be unable to begin training (let alone playing) until after round 2, on 24 April.
His robust constitution was such that he played in the Collingwood Second XVIII on 24 April 1965. Although there was some doubt earlier in the week, Gabelich played his first senior game for 1965 against Hawthorn in round 3, on 1 May 1965.
1964 Grand Final
Gabelich is perhaps best known for the goal he scored in the dying minutes of the 1964 Grand Final. With five minutes to go, the ball had been passed to Gabelich by Des Tuddenham. Gabelich, Collingwood's team captain, then ran awkwardly towards the Collingwood goal, struggling to control the ball, and bouncing the ball four times in a run of, at least fifty yards and, then, kicking a goal that put Collingwood in front with a close range kick that almost went out of the ground. However, Gabelich's goal did not win the match. A minute later, Melbourne defender Neil Crompton kicked a goal, putting Melbourne in front by four points. Collingwood were unable to score again.
1966 Grand Final
Gabelich's last match for Collingwood (aged 33) was in the team that lost the 1966 VFL Grand Final to St Kilda by one point. He kicked two goals, one behind, and was one of Collingwood's best players:
- What a useless task it is trying to use brute strength to halt the passage of 17 st. 4 lb. [110kg] Collingwood follower Ray Gabelich. Three St. Kilda players realised this early in the second quarter when they tried to drag "Gabbo" down in the goal square as he moved towards goal. Gabelich shrugged them off and calmly snapped the ball through for full points. It was his second goal.
Gabelich was reported twice in his 160 game, 13 season career with Collingwood.
The first was in a "fiery match" against South Melbourne on 20 August 1960 (round 17), when he was charged with striking South Melbourne’s Ken Boyd in the face with a closed fist during a contest for the ball at a ball-up during the third quarter.
Defended by barrister, ex-Collingwood footballer, and Collingwood committeeman Frank Galbally, Gabelich produced five witnesses: (a) Gabelich himself; (b) Collingwood player (Ken Turner), (c) "Mr. L. Smith", a Collingwood supporter, who had served 31 years in the police force, (d) ex-Melbourne footballer and 3AW football commentator Doug Heywood, and (e) Len Herath, "a former football umpire and president of the Umpires Association of Mildura".
The evidence presented to the VFL Tribunal (with Boyd present, displaying a badly injured nose) claimed that (a) the ground surface at rather than throwing the ball in the air, the umpire had chosen to bounce it, (b) the umpire had not bounced the ball well on what was a very muddy surface at Victoria Park (the ball went low and veered to the side), (c) Gabelich had definitely struck directly at the ball and missed (i.e., rather than intentionally punching Boyd), (d) when rucking, Gabelich consistently punched the ball and never palmed it (thus, his use of a fist did not suggest any intention of punching Boyd).
While the tribunal concluded that "the only thing we can be certain of is that Boyd was struck on the nose", it also declared that "we cannot be satisfied that Gabelich deliberately struck Boyd"; and, as a consequence, dismissed the charge against Gabelich.
Although it seems transparently clear from the evidence given to the tribunal that Gabelich was retaliating to an assault by Harvey, none of the officials in control of the game had seen any such activity from Harvey. Given that fact, and from the evidence presented from the field umpire (Jim Brewer), it was obvious that regardless of whatever it was had preceded the incident, Gabelich had, indeed, struck Harvey. The tribunal took just three minutes to find Gabelich guilty and suspended him for two matches.
Although, with Gabelich missing, and only winning one out of every three ruck contests, Collingwood won its next match without Gabelich: (round 10) (Collingwood 14.16 (100) to Richmond 13.10 (88).
Collingwood, still without Gabelich, and despite being five points ahead at three-quarter time, faded in the last quarter and lost the strongly contested next match, (round 11) against Essendon, the eventual 1962 premiers (Collingwood 11.11 (77) to Essendon 13.16 (94)). In the view of many, Collingwood may well have won the match had Gabelich been playing in support of his regular Collingwood team-mate, ruckman Neville Withers:
- [In this afternoon's match] Essendon should initiate more moves from the rucks than Collingwood. [With Gabelich missing from their lineup] the Magpies have no one to clamp down on Geoff Leek, who has the support of Hugh Mitchell, Don McKenzie, and Ken Timms. Their work [in the ruck] should be topped off by [rover] Jack Clarke, one of the most effective players in the game. (Percy Beames, The Age, Saturday, 7 July 1962).
- Collingwood great Ray Gabelich dies, AFANA News, (24 July 2000).
- Kevin Rose, quoted in Niall, J., "Magpies mourn the giant they knew as Gabbo", The Age, 20 July 2000.
- "Born in Australia but taken back to Yugoslavia as a baby and raised there … [and only returning] to Australia as a young man" (), he was the son of Peter (1869-1928) and Perina Gabelich (1871-1949) (Deaths: GABELICH Perina, The West Australian, (Tuesday, 3 January 1950), p.12.
- She was the daughter of Antonio (1857-1927) (Deaths: RERECICH Antonio, The West Australian, (Monday 16 May 1927), p.1), and Antonia Nina Rerecich (1880-1952) (Deaths: RERECICH Antonia, The West Australian, (Friday 25 July 1952), p.20).
- "Football", The West Austrlian, (Wednesday (9 March 1921), p.9.
- And, in fact, due to a set of confusing changes in the League's residential criteria in 1953, the League decided that Gabelich was not eligible to play with either East Perth or West Perth, anyway.
- "Good Junior Material", The West Australian, (Friday, 19 October 1951), p.12; "Class Teams at Fremantle: Novel Ceremony", The West Australian, (Saturday, 20 October 1951), p.10; "Mt. Hawthorn's Success", The West Australian, (Monday, 22 October 1951), p.11.
- "Collingwood Go Under To South", The (Perth) Mirror, (Saturday, 20 October 1951), p.14; Sweet, J,. "South's Break a 50-Year Hoodoo", (Perth) Sunday Times, (Sunday 21 October 1951), p.24; 'Follower', "Fast Teamwork Winning Factor", The West Australian, (Monday 22 October 1951), p.11.
- "Rovers for Preston", The Age, (Wednesday, 1 June 1938), p.8.
- de Lacy, H., "Chirping starts in Magpie Nest", The Sporting Globe, (Wednesday, 3 November 1954), p.5.
- Victoria Amateur Football Association: Parkside Football Club: Winning Premiership Teams: C Section 1954.
- The sixteen teams involved were (a) Alphington Football Club, Hampton Rovers Football Club, Melbourne High School Old Boys (M.H.S.O.B.), Old Melburnians, and Ormond Amateur Football Club from A Section; (b) Brunswick Amateurs Football Club, Caulfield Grammarians Football Club, Coburg Amateurs Football Club, Collegians Football Club, and Ivanhoe Amateur Football Club from B Section; (c) Balwyn Football Club, East Malvern Football Club, and Parkside Football Club from C Section; Parkdale Football Club from D Section; and South Melbourne City Football Club, and Preston Amateurs Football Club from E Section (de Lacy, H., "Amateurs knock-out title on two grounds", The Sporting Globe, (Wednesday, 2 June 1954), p.18).
- "Late burst saves State amateurs", The Argus, (Tuesday, 15 June 1954), p.13.
- In 1952, the two A.C.T. Australian Rules clubs previously known as Acton and Queanbeyan merged to form Queanbeyan-Acton (see "Combined Team, Queenbeyan-Acton, For A-Grade", The Canberra Times, (Thursday, 13 March 1952), p.6). The merger was abandoned before the 1957 season commenced, and the Acton and Queanbeyan clubs competed, once again, as separate entities (see "Queanbeyan And Acton Football Clubs Separate", The Canberra Times, (Friday, 9 November February 1956), p.16, "Queanbeyan Football Club Re-forms", The Canberra Times, (Friday, 15 February 1957), p.16, and "Decision On Combine Footballers Likely", The Canberra Times, (Wednesday, 3 April 1957), p.12).
- "Victorian Amateur Premier side to Play at Canberra", The Canberra Times, (Wednesday, 15 September 1954), p.8; "Premiership Team to Play Parkside", The Canberra Times, (Friday, 17 September 1954), p.7; "Combine beats Undefeated Victorian Champions", The Canberra Times, (Monday, 20 September 1954), p.6.
- Banfield, P., "Magpies' Hope Hurt: Out 6 Weeks", The Argus, (Thursday, 17 March 1955), p.1.
- "How they went last week", The Argus, (Friday, 6 May, 1955), p.22.
- "The League Scoreboard", The Argus, (Monday, 2 May 1955), p.21.
- Richardson, J., "Magpies on Top", The Age, (Monday, 2 May 1955), p.18.
- "Collingwood Hold On In Final Term", The (Perth) Mirror, Saturday, 15 October 1955), p.13; "Magpies Beat Premier Team", The Age, (Monday, 17 October 1955), p.19.
- Beames, P., "Gabelich Had Broken Leg, But Refused Help", The Age, (Monday, 27 May 1957), p.16.
- "Marquis in Hospital and Adams is Doubtful", The Age, (Monday, 19 August 1957), p.18.
- "V.F.L. Statistics: V.F.L. Seconds, The Age, (Monday, 19 August 1957), p.18.
- If Collingwood had won the match (rather than St Kilda), and if Essendon had lost to Carlton (Essendon beat Carlton by 10 goals), Collingwood would have gone on to play in the First Semi-Final on the following Saturday.
- Taylor, G., "Saints Finish on Triumphant Note", (Monday, 26 August 1957), p.16.
- "Grand Final Teams", The Age, (Friday, 19 September 1958), p.36.
- "Barassi Bites the Mud", The Age, (Monday, 22 September 1958), p.18..
- Beames, P., "Magpies End Long Melbourne Reign: Great Comeback Wins 1958 Premiership", The Age, (Monday, 22 September 1958), p.20.
- AFL Tables: 1959 Brownlow Medal.
- Mcfarlane, G., "Collingwood's connection with the Olympic Games", Collingwood Football Club, 1 August 2012.
- According to the RBA's Pre-Decimal Inflation Calculator, approximately the equivalent of $AUS115,000.00 per annum in 2017.
- "Gabelich Shocks Perth Officials", The Age, (Tuesday, 12 January 1960), p.24.
- Beames, P., "Gabelich Seeks V.F.L. Approval", The Age, (Monday, 18 January 1960), p.24.
- "Gabelich is Within Rules Says Club", The Age, (Wednesday, 20 January 1960), p.26.
- Beames, P., "Gabelich Case for A.N.F.C.", (Saturday, 23 January 1960), p.16.
- Although there are no precise records available on the exact number of games he played, Barfoot & Lee (1995), p.98, are certain that he played more than one game: "Ray Gabelich played a couple of games for Waratahs in 1961/62" (Barfoot, Michael & Lee, David, History of the NTFL, (Darwin), 1955 ISBN 0-646-26754-X )
- "Gabelich Settles Magpie Doubts About His Future", The Age, (Tuesday, 1 march 1960), p.22.
- "New Magpies Disappointing", The Age, (Monday, 21 March 1960), p.22.
- "VFL Teams Chosen (For Round One)", The Age, (Saturday, 16 April 1960), p.22.
- Carter, R., "W.A. Triumphs Over Victoria: Wins Carnival Title", The Age, (Monday, 24 July 1961), p.20.
- Carter, R., "'All-Australian' Team Surprise",The Age, (Monday, 24 July 1961), p.20.
- West Australian Football League: Simpson Medalists: State game Winners.
- Carter, R., "Silvagni Blues' New Leader: Magpies Appoint Ray Gabelich", The Age, (Monday, 13 April 1964), p.30.
- Beames, P., "Ray Gabelich Back With Magpies", The Age, (Friday, 4 May 1962), p.24.
- "V.F.L. Teams Chosen", The Age, (Friday, 4 May 1962), p.24.
- Balfe, N., "Gabelich Lifts Magpie Machine Into Action", (Monday, 7 May 1962), p.20: scroll to p.20.
- Beames, P., "Melbourne Returns a 'Key' Side: Big Progress", (Monday, 7 May 1962), p.20.
- Hobbs, M., "Magpies down to business", The Age, (Tuesday, 9 February 1965), p.26.
- Carter, R, "Gabelich likely to Miss Six Games: Operation Blow", The Age (Thursday, 18 March 1965), p.28.
- "League Reserves", The Age, (Friday, 23 April 1965), p.26.
- Beames, P., "Captain Ready", The Age, (Monday, 26 April 1965), p.22.
- Carter, R., "Selectors May Leave Out Gabelich", The Age, (Thursday 29 April 1965), p.28.
- Beames, P., "Ray Gabelich Picked to Bolster Ruck", The Age, (Friday, 30 April 1965), p.28.
- "League Teams Chosen: Collingwood v. Hawthorn", The Age, (Friday, 30 April 1965), p.30.
- "Tense finish sees flag to Demons", The Canberra Times, (Monday, 21 September 1964), p.15.
- YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Iy6A3uDEYs
- Carter, R., "'Crazy' Moves Gave Demons Win: Ray Gabelich's Dash in Vain", The Age, (Monday, 21 September 1964), p.24.
- "Grand Final was one of Football's Thrillers", The Age, (Monday, 21 September 1964), p.22.
- The Teams, The Canberra Times, Saturday, 24 September 1966), p.28.
- "From the Game", The Age, (Monday, 26 September 1966), p.24.
- Meeking, M., "Magpies on Top in Fiery Match", The Age, (Monday 22 August 1960), p.22.
- "Reported Players", The Age, (Monday 22 August 1960), p.22.
- "He's in the Clear", The Age, (Wednesday, 24 August 1960), p.26.
- "Gabelich, Taylor Found Not Guilty: Striking Charges are Dismissed", The Age, (Wednesday, 24 August 1960), p.26.
- "Reported Players", The Age, (Monday, 25 June 1962), p.18.
- "Gabelich and Gahan Suspended for Two Weeks", The Age, (Wednesday, 27 June 1962), p.18.
- Balfe, N., "Magpie Strength Tells at Finish", The Age, (Monday, 2 July 1962), p16..
- "V.F.L. Teams Chosen: Essendon v. Collingwood", The Age, (Friday, 6 July 1962), p22.
- Ross, J., "Don's Skill Tells Over The Age, (Monday, 9 July 1962), p.16.
- Beames, P., "Magpies' Chance to Show Strength, The Age, (Saturday, 7 July 1962), p.14.
- 'Follower', "Change of Residence Brings Complications", The West Australian, (Wednesday, 15 April 1953), p.16.
- "Recruits in the Limelight", The West Australian, (Wednesday, 15 April 1953), p.16.
- 'Follower', "Gabelich Trains at Leederville", The West Australian, (Friday, 15 April 1953), p.17.
- 'Follower', "Gabelich Wavers", The West Australian, (Tuesday, 21 April 1953), p.20.
- 'Follower', "Gabelich Now Leads Team", The West Australian, (Friday, 15 May 1953), p.29.
- 'Follower', "Junior Side Will Visit Melbourne", The West Australian, (Tuesday, 30 June 1953), p.11.
- "East Perth Still Wants Gabelich", The West Australian, (Tuesday, 15 December 1953), p.24.
- "Second Bid for Permit", The West Australian, (Tuesday, 18 March 1954), p.26.
- 'Follower', "Gabelich Fails Again in Bid for Permit", The West Australian, (Thursday, 1 April 1954), p.25.
- 'Follower', "West Perth Takes Stand In Gabelich Case", The West Australian, (Tuesday, 6 April 1954), p.21.
- 'Follower', "Gabelich 'Disgusted', To Leave Tonight", The West Australian, (Friday, 30 April 1954), p.17.
- "Gabelich Will Train With Collingwood", The West Australian, (Wednesday, 5 May 1954), p.30.
- "Gabelich Gains Selection In Side To Play South Fremantle", The West Australian, (Tuesday, 27 July 1954), p.19.
- de Lacy, H., "Chirping starts in Magpie Nest", The Sporting Globe, (Wednesday, 3 November 1954), p.5.
- "Collingwood Has Plans For Gabelich", The West Australian, (Saturday, 20 November 1954), p.23.
- "Magpies Say He's No.1 Recruit", The Argus, (Wednesday, 9 March 1955), p.34: Note that this report is before he lost the tip of his finger.
- Banfield, P., "Magpies' Hope Hurt: Out 6 Weeks", The Argus, (Thursday, 17 March 1955), p.1.
- Banfield, P., "League Rejects Ban on Transfers", The Argus, (Thursday, 17 March 1955), p.20.
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