Haydn Austin Bunton was born on 5 April 1937 at Caulfield in Victoria and always had big boots to fill. His father had won three Brownlow and three Sandover medals. Young Haydn, a rover like his dad, overcame a debilitating childhood ailment, Perthes disease, which forced him to wear leg braces and use crutches till he was 10. He later shattered a kneecap in a horrendous car crash. But he overcame these setbacks to leave a unique football legacy – and Norwood played a key role.
Bunton made his league debut at 17 with North Adelaide in 1954 and was just 19 when Norwood controversially appointed him coach to replace Jack Oatey in 1957. Bunton had won All-Australian selection the year before and North refused to clear him as a player, but he nearly pulled off a great upset as a rookie coach when Norwood lost the grand final by just 11 points to Port Adelaide despite first quarter injuries to Eric Butler and Ron Dickson.
As captain-coach in 1958 he suffered domestic pressures and rumours of dissension among some players, prompting him to move to Launceston in 1959. There his courage was manifest when he was badly injured in a car accident. His smashed kneecap replaced with muscle, Bunton embarked on a painful rehabilitation program under Percy Cerutty in the Portsea sandhills. A small, chunky, quick-witted player with great handball skills, Bunton returned to Norwood in 1960 as a member of Alan Killigrew’s team which frustratingly went down to North Adelaide by five points in the grand final.
Bunton had another stint as Norwood captain-coach from 1965-67, but his rewards came in Western Australia with four premierships and a Sandover Medal with Swan Districts and three premierships with Subiaco. He was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2002 as a coach. His son, Haydn Bunton III, played junior football with Norwood.
North Adelaide 1954-56, 54 games, 72 goals, B&F 1956 Launceston 1959, 1 game. Swan Districts 1961-64, 89 games, 112 goals Captain 1961-63. Sandover Medal 1962. Subiaco 1968-70, 59 games 47 goals Captain 1968-70. SA 11 games (12 goals). WA 11 games, 9 goals. Career total 322 games 340 goals
Coaching career: Norwood 1957-58 & 1965-67. Launceston 1959. Swan Districts 1961-64 (premierships 1961-64). Subiaco 1968-72 & 1984-92 (premierships 1986, 1988). South Adelaide 1975-82. Sturt 1993-94.
Other honours: All Australian 1956. SA Hall of Fame 2002. WA Hall of Fame 2004. Australian Football Hall of Fame 2002 (coach).
P Robins Sept 2013