As a footballer, Charlie Gwynne knew both triumph and tears. He also realised the dream of anyone who ever played the game – winning a premiership with a goal after the final bell.
Success came early to Charlie, who was born at Parkside on 9 January 1901 to William Gwynne and his wife Emily, née Brown. Playing for Gawler Central, he was noted for his brilliant work as his his team swept to the premiership with a 12.11 to 6.11 victory over the minor premier, Willaston, in the challenge final of the Gawler Football Association in 1919.
In his league debut in 1921, Norwood crushed Glenelg by 100 points. Charlie must have thought it was easy. With just five games under his belt, he held his spot in the team as Norwood entered the grand final with bright prospects of ending a 14-year premiership drought. In a low-scoring match before an Adelaide Oval crowd of 34,000, Port Adelaide was leading by two goals with 10 minutes to go. Charlie put ‘Cool Alec’ Bent in possession and the champion kicked his third goal. Port, however, added two behinds for a 4.8 to 3.6 victory. Norwood was runner-up for the second year in a row.
Charlie had learnt a hard lesson. Writing in The Journal, ‘Left Wing’ said: “Lack of experience no doubt accounted to a large extent for Gwynne’s mediocre display. He put in gamely, but he was no match for his clever and well-seasoned opponents.” Charlie was not there when Norwood finally broke through in 1922. His great moment was yet to come.
Charlie was captain of Willunga in the Southern Football Association in 1923. Former Sturt and state player Arthur Heinrichs was captain of Hillsides. Both leaders were followers resting in defence, and each was the best player for his team, when Willunga won the play-off final 8.11 to 4.6 at Aldinga Oval on 1 September.
Noarlunga, as minor premier, challenged Willunga for the premiership at Aldinga Oval on 8 September. A goal four minutes from the end brought Willunga within three points. Willunga went forward again and Charlie marked seconds before the final bell. With a kick of more than 60 yards, he coolly slotted a goal for Willunga to take the honours, 6.6 to 5.9. Mrs H. E. Webb tendered a complimentary dinner at the Alma Hotel, where the premiership team was presented with the Vignerons’ Shield and Charlie , as best player in the final, received a gold wristlet watch.
Two years later, Charlie was playing for Sturt Bs. A clerk, he married Elva Foreman at St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, Prospect, in 1929. He died at Fullarton on 6 August 1976 and is buried at Centennial Park
P Robins, D Cox May 2020
* We thank the Willunga FC secretary Serge Minot and club historian Gerry Loots for their picture