It was not for nothing that Percy Stuart was dubbed 'Boots'. At his peak he could kick five out of six goals from 70 yards. In 1894, he marked and kicked a goal on the bell to draw with South Adelaide, enabling Norwood to go on to clinch the premiership in the nail-biter replay.
'Boots' dazzled fans for four more seasons but that was his only premiership as Norwood reeled from the mass exodus of players to the WA goldfields in 1895. One of the cleverest and cleanest footballers of his day, the immortal 'Boots' also played first-class cricket like his Norwood contemporaries Joe Darling, Alby Green and Ernie Peters.
Born at Goolwa on 7 March 1871, young Percy, who moved around the colony as his publican father, William, changed hotels, kicked 31 goals in the Port Pirie Association in 1889 . He showed promise at Prince Alfred College and honed his kicking skills at his Unley Park home by slotting the ball through the loft door above the stable, under the tutelage of old Norwood stalwart Charlie Chandler.
After he bagged 23 goals in his Norwood debut year, 1893, The Express and Telegraph said: "Stuart promises to be a great forward man next year. He is very quick and tricky, and kicks long and prettily." Percy played as a follower, centreman and centre half-forward. Generally wearing a red stocking cap, he moved at blistering pace with long strides. As he bolted clear one day, his burly South opponent ' Tuss' Morton called out in disgust: "Come back here, 'Boots', and let us have an even start."
When Norwood triumphed over Essendon, 9.8 to 7.12, in Melbourne in May 1895, Stuart, with two goals, was bracketed with Alby Green, Jack Holbrook and Os Bertram as best on ground.
In May 1896, when Norwood came from behind to draw with South, the Quiz and Lantern observer reported that Percy "several times made an exhibition of" the experienced Alf Clift in the centre. In July 1898 his brilliant kicking cheered the crowd even though Norwood lost to Essendon, 6.6. to 3.5, on an Adelaide Oval quagmire. Not that 'Boots' was infallible. In August 1898 The Express and Telegraph said: "Percy Stuart created roars of laughter by missing a goal right in front of the sticks." The genial Percy, who always had a smile on his face, would have seen the funny side.
He was practice captain in 1896 and served on the NFC Committee in 1895 and 1897.
Percy retired from football with the advent of the electorate system. Although adept at tennis and running, he was more noted as a cricketer of perseverance and pluck. He played in George Giffen's Norwood team and then East Torrens. Electorate cricket took him to Sturt, where he was elected captain in 1902. Winning his first toss, he caught Giffen's West Adelaide side on a sticky wicket . Giffen made a duck and his team was all out for 20. Percy played eight matches for SA from 1899 to 1909 with a top score of 38.
In March 1906 he married Maude Hantke, whose brother Ted had played alongside him at Norwood. Their son Don went on to farm at Lucindale. In later years Percy played golf at Seaton three times a week and watched football at Adelaide Oval. He died on 20 August 1956. A grandson, David Stuart, captained the state amateurs. A great-great-grandson, Hugo Mann, was an AFL-listed Sturt under 18 player in 2017.
P Robins Sept 2017