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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lee, Walter Henry (Dick) (1889–1968)

by R. Stremski

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Walter Henry (Dick) Lee (1889-1968), footballer, was born on 19 March 1889 at Collingwood, Melbourne, son of Walter Henry (Wal) Lee, labourer, and his wife Isabella, née Turnbull, both Collingwood born. Wal Lee played Australian Rules football for Britannia (precursor of the Collingwood Football Club) in 1882-88 and was the club's trainer in 1889-91. After helping to found the Collingwood Football Club in 1892 he served as head-trainer until 1942; his exceptional service was rewarded by appointment as a life governor of the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital in 1920.

In order to distinguish him from his well-known father, the younger Lee was called Dick or Richard—most people never realized that Richard was not his true name. After completing his primary schooling at Gold Street State School he became a boot-clicker with a local boot manufacturer, Pitman & Son, and followed his father into football.

Between 1906 and 1922, during what was then a Victorian Football League record seventeen consecutive seasons, Lee played 230 V.F.L. games for Collingwood and kicked 713 goals. He headed the V.F.L. goal-kicking ladder eight times (1907-10, 1914, 1916-17, 1919) and tied for the lead twice (1915, 1921)—a record which has not been challenged. Lee was players' representative for nine years (1909-12, 1915-19), vice-captain twice (1910-11) and captain twice (1920-21). He played in three premiership teams (1910, 1917, 1919) and after retirement as a player served Collingwood for an additional sixteen years as vice-president (1923-34, 1950-53). Injuries seriously hindered his playing career.

Lee twice (1910, 1915) won the greatest distinction bestowed on footballers in his day, Champion Player of the Colony. He could star in defence or on the ball as well as at full-forward and he was one of the truly great high marks, arguably the equal of Roy Cazaly. Lee's marking has been described as 'freakish' and photographs of him taking the ball high over other players have been reproduced countless times. He was also a great kick, extremely adept with drop-kick or punt but especially proficient in the place-kick. According to Harry Collier (captain of Collingwood 1935-39) Lee could place-kick a goal from the boundary line without seeing daylight between the goalposts—even at a rival ground with kids throwing oranges trying to knock the ball over!

Lee was 6 feet (183 cm) tall with a muscular physique and wavy black hair. After a lengthy courtship he married Zella Dixon on 2 March 1927 with Baptist forms at Fitzroy; they had no children. Outside football, Lee worked as a carrier until his death on 11 September 1968 at his Northcote home. Survived by his wife, he was buried in Coburg cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Taylor, Collingwood Football Club 1892-1948 (Melb, 1950?)
  • G. Atkinson, Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Australian Rules Football (Melb, 1982)
  • S. Rodgers (compiler), Toohey's Guide to Every Game Ever Played (Melb, 1983)
  • Collingwood Football Club, Annual Report, 1892, 1906-34, 1942, 1950-53
  • Collingwood Football Club, Newsletter, Feb 1965, Oct 1968
  • Age (Melbourne), 12 Sept 1968.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. Stremski, 'Lee, Walter Henry (Dick) (1889–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 1 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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