Len Renfrey and his celebrated younger brother Bert enjoyed lengthy football careers but were team-mates in only two seasons - at Norwood in 1899 and then, briefly, at West Adelaide four years later.
Len was born on the outskirts of Kadina at Newtown on 4 May 1877 to Senior Constable William Renfrey and his wife Mary Jane, née Percy. Bert followed two years and one day later.
Len began with a Norwood feeder team, the Osmonds, and was chairman at that club’s annual general meeting in March 1897 when he and Tom Tyrie were named as co-winners of the trophy for best all-round play and best conducted men on the field in 1896. Both would join Norwood in 1897.
While Len was making his senior debut on 1 May 1897, brother Bert was preparing to display his flair with North Adelaide. Len was given a gentle introduction against weak teams. Norwood beat West Adelaide 4.12 to nil and a week later Len kicked a goal in the 10.12 to nil massacre of West Torrens.
In 1898, on the eve of the full introduction of electorate football, Bert was still with North but Len Shifted to West Adelaide, where he played 12 games, kicked three goals and took over as club secretary later in the year.
In 1899, both brothers came together at Norwood. Bert made the South Australian team that season but moved to Broken Hill the following year. Len stayed at Norwood until 1902 but then had another season with West Adelaide, where his brother joined him for two matches before migrating to Western Australia. Len kicked just one goal in his eight games with West Adelaide in 1903.
While Len made few waves as a player, Bert reached the top levels of Australian football in an extraordinary career that embraced seven senior clubs and four states. He represented SA 11 times and captained the invincible 1911 Carnival team. He helped Len’s old Osmonds captain Bill Plunkett take West Perth to a premiership, played for St Kilda, represented NSW in the Jubilee Australasian Carnival, was captain-coach of Sturt and coached South Adelaide.
Len Renfrey was an accomplished pianist who was well known in the Adelaide concert scene. He was only 35 when he died on 21 May 1919. Before his fatal illness he was a teacher at Herr H. R. Mumme’s School of Music, which, “deprived of the association of our old and highly reputed friend”, declared: “By his kindly disposition and unfailing interest in school work, he won the esteem of all.”
P Robins September 2019