George Kirby was promoted from the Norwood second team, the Rovers, late in the 1891 season and soon made his mark as an auxiliary goalsneak. Commenting on the last match of the season, in which Norwood defeated Port Adelaide to clinch the premiership, The Evening Journal said: "Young Kirby was remarkably smart forward. He was very clever, and the Ports are now most likely regretting that he was not more looked after by their back men, as he was very quick in chasing the ball." Kirby kicked Norwood's first goal and then played a vital role in the last quarter. With the scores level, he was given a contentious free for being tripped and passed to Jack Holbrook, who goaled. Kirby then kicked a goal off the ground to clinch a two-goal win.
Against lowly Medindie a week earlier, Kirby kicked the first and fifth goals of the match and then, according to The Advertiser, "further distinguished himself with a beautiful goal", his third and Norwood's seventh as it ran out the winner 10.18 to 0.3. He finished the season with seven goals.
At start of the 1892 season, The Register reported that Kirby was "uncertain of remaining in the metropolis" but in the event he had a productive year, his tricky play as a forward pocket, half-forward flanker and centre half-forward yielding 21 goals from his own boot and helping the veteran champion Charley Woods to a total of 46.
At Adelaide Oval on 20 June, Norwood missed many chances and Kirby hit the post as Port Adelaide won 3.4 to 2.11 (only goals scoring). There was a demonstration at the end when the umpire took a mark from Kirby near the goal-line which, if allowed, would probably have equalised the match.
Kirby began the 1893 season brightly when he and Woods each kicked four goals in the 21.14 to 1.2 defeat of North Adelaide. That appears to have been Kirby's last game in SA. Norwood lacked his services in going down to Port Adelaide the following week. Leading the new forward regime was 'Bos' Daly with 88 goals for the season, followed by Percy Stuart 21 and Woods 15.
He may well have been the Kirby who played three games for Rovers in WA in 1894. The Daily News said he made a splendid debut against West Perth on 30 June but muffed chances three weeks later because he was "much too fond of drop-kicking".
George Kirby was born in Adelaide on 22 April 1871 and educated at St Peter's College. After his stint at Norwood, he was an early arrival at the Coolgardie goldfields and became WA's leading amateur horse rider. When Os Bertram died tragically in Perth in 1896, Kirby was a pallbearer at the funeral along with his former team-mates Tom Coombe, Jack Cullen and Charlie Atkins.
Kirby was the proprietor of Tattersall's Horse Bazaar and a racehorse owner in Perth. He moved to Sydney and was exporting horses to India in 1921. For his racehorse-owning Adelaide friend Jack Richmond, the milliner aka J. W. Johnstone, he found steeplechase winners such as Jurisprudence (1928 Adelaide Grand National) and Laurelmond (1929 Oakbank Great Eastern).
George Kirby was 78 when he died at Waverley, NSW, on 23 August 1949. He was survived by his daughter Lola.
P Robins April 2017