For Willie Gibbons, 1903 began with a bang and ended in a whimper. He kicked it off with the biggest purse of his professional athletics career and then briefly turned out with Norwood, paving the way for his younger brothers Tom and Vin.
A Mannum boy, Willie showed his athletic potential at Christian Brothers' College, Adelaide, where he won the championship medal in 1898. At Maryborough, Victoria, on New Year's Day 1903 he raced to victory in the 130-yard Highland Sheffield off a handicap of 12 yards in 12 seconds. His prize of £55 was a fortune in those days.
Willie began well with Norwood, being named second best to Bill Trembath in the 4.14 to 3.5 defeat of West Torrens at The Parade on 2 May. A week later on the same ground he took part in the 15.18 to 1.1 humiliation of a weak West Adelaide team. He took a spectacular mark in his third match, but a disjointed Norwood was overrun by South Adelaide in the last quarter, going down 7.7 to 3.6 at Adelaide Oval. Willie's place was taken by his talented brother Tom, who, just 18, was nearly five years his junior. Tom became a Norwood champion and famously kicked a late goal to snatch the 1904 premiership from Port Adelaide. Tom played from 1903-1908 and Vin from 1914-15.
Willie, who was born at Palmer on 4 June 1880, made his senior football debut with West Adelaide in 1901 and was cleared to South Adelaide in 1902, though he does not appear to have played senior football there. After his stint with Norwood, he was a member of the junior team East Torrens before being picked up by North Adelaide, where he played six games in 1906 and 1907. The Weekly Times (Victoria) in July 1906 described him as a "spendidly proportioned athlete" - just over six feet in his boots and more than 12 stone.
Willie was playing electorate cricket for East Adelaide in 1903 and 1904. The Sport paper reported in 1928 that he had a good position in Sydney. Willie, Tom and Vin Gibbons were sons of Eugene and Kate (née Keane), who were well known at Mannum, Salisbury and Port Augusta
P Robins Nov 2018
* Picture kindly supplied by Barry Dolman, Chairman of the North Adelaide Football Club History Committee.