Len Long had a troubled life, leavened by a varied but somewhat unfulfilled career on the football field.
Born to Ormond Long and his wife Florence, née Burchell, in Adelaide on 15 August 1915, Len had 10 sisters and brothers, Gertrude, Ormond, Annie, Edgar, John, Arthur, Harry, Alan, Ellen and Dorothy. One brother spent two months in reform school at the age of four as an uncontrollable child. Another was 12 when charged with larceny and housebreaking at Hackney.
In 1933 Len played played eight league games for South Adelaide in a variety of positions – 19th man, back pocket, centre half-forward, forward pocket, half-forward flank and half-back flank, tasting success just once.
He joined Payneham in 1934 and from there was recruited by Norwood in 1936 as a 188 cm ruckman who marked and kicked well. He enjoyed some success early, kicking seven goals from the forward pocket as Norwood won five of its first seven games. After he bagged four goals against South in his third game, he found himself 19th man the following week when Norwood survived by one point against West Adelaide. He made the best players a fortnight later in a big win over West Torrens. Norwood then lost to Sturt by eight points and although Len kicked two goals, it was not enough to keep him in the league team.
Norwood finished fifth on the league ladder, missing the finals by 0.4 per cent, and Port Adelaide won the premiership in its centenary year. Len spent the second half of the season in the reserves, kicking one goal in seven games. He also kicked three goals against the Stanley Football Association in a high-standard match at Clare in July, Norwood winning 17.28 to 10.12.
Len returned to Payneham in 1937 but had another crack at league football with West Adelaide in 1938. He played in only the opening game, kicking a goal against the tide as South romped home by 79 points. Back at Payneham, he experienced more frustration in 1939 when he was suspended for three matches for striking an Exeter player in the final. Payneham lost by 14 points but as minor premier exercised its right to challenge the winner. Len was a spectator as Exeter scraped home by two points for its maiden premiership.
Len enlisted in the RAAF for World War II service on 14 March 1944. Two years later LAC Long appeared in court after he had deserted from the landing ground at Mount Druitt, NSW. He was described as “250 lbs, fair complexion, light brown hair, flat feet, tattoo on right arm, scars on chin …” He was discharged from service on 10 January 1946.
Len married Lily Marie Lambe in 1930. He died at Kilburn on 31 March 1979 and is buried at Enfield Cemetery
P Robins, D Cox, G Adams Oct 2020