A ruckman from St Peter’s College, Merv Slee showed promise on debut in 1926 but was injured in his second league game and bowed out of the senior scene two weeks later. Merv began well in round eight against Sturt, which would go on to take the premiership. The Mail said he marked brilliantly in the first quarter and “set in motion an onslaught on the two-blues’ citadel”. Norwood finished strongly, winning 10.10 to 9.5. Impressed by the newcomer’s performance, The News said: “It is likely that he will retain his place. Slee should become a useful follower. He is tall and weighty.”
Merv was injured against South Adelaide in the next round. He missed a game but then trained strongly and returned to the team with ‘Tiger’ Potts, also recovered from injury. These two were expected to strengthen the Norwood ruck, but both were out of form and West Torrens stormed home, winning 16.14 to 10.8. Merv went back to the seconds, where he played eight games and kicked one goal.
Born in Broken Hill on 21 March 1906 to Richard Thilthorpe Slee and his wife Emily, née Moyle, Merv had two sisters, Gladys and Valerie. Richard Slee was a highly respected General Manager of BHP, noted for his bravery in fighting outbreaks of fire in underground workings. It was said of him: “He would never ask a man to do a thing he would not do himself.” In 1935, aged 56, he descended into a well in Sulphide Street with three other mine employees to clear a blocked bore pipe and all four died of asphyxiation. In 2007 Richard Slee was inducted into the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame.
After his father’s death, Merv moved from Broken Hill to Adelaide with the rest of the family. He enlisted in the Australian Army for World War II service on 8 June 1940 and was a lieutenant upon discharge on 7 February 1944. Here he was following family tradition. A younger brother of his father, John Thilthorpe Slee, served in the Boer War. Another younger brother, Arthur Thilthorpe Slee, was wounded at Gallipoli in 1915 and killed in action in France in 1916. The youngest brother, Frank Thilthorpe Slee, served on the Western Front in 1917 and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery.
Merv, a wool exporter, married Gwendoline Meleng in 1944 and it is thought they had two children, Peter and Gwendoline. Merv died at Semaphore on 14 July 1957 and is buried at Nailsworth Cemetery.
P Robins, D Cox August 2021