John 'Paddy' McGrath was a short, thickset, all-day follower who delivered consistent service over a long period and contributed to four premierships. Recruited from the Creswick junior team in 1883 -the last of Norwood's initial string of six premiership years - he was one of the architects of the 1887-88-89 "three-peat".
By 1886, in his third season with the club, he had developed into a skilful goalkicker and one of the really great followers of the era, though with a reputation for vigorous play. In July that year Norwood defeated Adelaide, the eventual premier, in a rough game which The South Australian Register described as "a disgrace to both teams ... McGrath being a special sinner in this respect".
'Paddy' suffered a broken collarbone against South Adelaide soon after and also was fined one guinea for rough play. Barely recovered from his injury, he surprisingly appeared on the field when Paddy Roachock withdrew late from Norwood's last match of the season, also against South.
After three defeats and one draw in matches against South that season, Norwood at last turned the tables with a 7.13 to 1.5 victory.
It then transpired that the Norwood treasurer, Joe Osborn, had forgotten to submit the cheque to the SA Football Association for the payment of McGrath's fine. Osborn was not at the last match, but club chairman Harry Burnet was there to pay the fine.
South, however, protested next day that Norwood had played a man whose fine had not been paid on time, in breach of the rules. The protest was upheld. Norwood was fined five pounds and its win was rescinded. Because of the disqualification, Norwood finished third instead of second in a very even four-team competition. After some argument, the fine was dropped and Norwood donated the five pounds to the Home for Incurables.
In 1888 'Paddy' was a valuable member of the Norwood team which, with its adoption of a new long-kicking style, defeated England at Adelaide Oval and also beat South Melbourne in three matches at Kensington Oval to claim the Championship of Australia.
In 1889 he was suspended for one month for rough play against Adelaide. On his return it was reported that some South players took an unfair advantage in the scrimmages and subjected him to "severe usage".
In 1891 he transferred to Medindie but did not finish the season. He returned to Norwood in 1895 for his last hurrah in a season dominated by his nemesis, South Adelaide.
'Paddy', who mellowed over time, had the unusual habit of chewing a whole lemon sideways during the breaks. 'Old Timer' of The Observer once described him as a "plodding player" but 'Topsy' Waldron rated him among the giants of his day.
Born at Somerton Park on 28 August 1865, 'Paddy' died in the Adelaide Hospital on 24 April 1928, survived by his daughter Nellie and grandchildren.
P Robins May 2017