Len Chamberlain was a member of an outstanding, sporting family. He, along with his two brothers Jack and Con, played league football for Norwood and district cricket for East Torrens. He was a man of remarkable, diverse talents and as well as his sporting ability, he gained a fine reputation as an actor and singer.
Norwood recruited him from Christian Brothers College where he had captained the first eighteen. He made his league debut as an 18 year old against North Adelaide.
So began an amazing first season. Although he played as a key forward, he was lightly built but this report from a game against Sturt in The Register (29/5/1907) illustrated the quality of his play. “The pick of the forwards was Len Chamberlain who won enthusiastic encomiums for artistic and highly effective football. In the most strenuous moments he remained as cool as the proverbial cucumber and dodged and twisted like a hare.”
He kicked 17 goals in his first seven games and was chosen for the State side against Victoria. Unfortunately, a loss resulted. Norwood made the Grand Final in September and with Len kicking a goal, had a resounding victory over Port Adelaide.
A week later, Norwood played against Carlton for the Australian Championship. Norwood won and Len had an outstanding game, kicking five goals.
Chamberlain was the club’s leading goalkicker . All these achievements as an 18 year old in his first season.
Prior to this as a 17 year old he had made his district cricket debut with East Torrens. In an innings against Sturt he made 91, including 16 fours and a six and he was described in the Express and Telegraph (26/1/1907) as, “One of the most promising young batsmen in the State.”
Although never quite reaching these heights again, there were other highlights in a career with Norwood that ended when he was just 24. He played in two more Grand Finals which were unfortunately lost on both occasions to West Adelaide. This included the infamous 1908 Grand Final when Norwood were accused of administering oxygen to its players before and during the match. For months after this game Len and his teammates were labelled by the Press as the, “Oxygents.”
He didn’t play in the 1913 season. Instead he undertook an overseas trip to Europe and America.
He returned for the 1914 season but only played until July when he took up an employment position in Sydney.
In 1913 prior to Len leaving on his trip The Critic (26/3/1907) summarised the contribution a young Len Chamberlain had made to his State. “Mr. Leonard W. Chamberlain who is leaving tomorrow is an all-round athlete. He has played with the Norwood Football Club and East Torrens Cricket Club since he was 17 years of age –he is just now 23.- and has taken part in several interstate and international contests. Mr Chamberlain is also an excellent amateur actor and he took leading parts in plays staged by the Appendreena Club and the Adelaide Literary Theatre. He also has an excellent baritone voice which has been heard frequently at the Lyric Club evenings. He will be greatly missed in both athletic and histrionic circles.”
Leonard Chamberlain was born on the 15th January, 1889 and died on the 21st March, 1956, aged 67
B Ridge March 2018