Neil Balme was one of the most feared footballers of his era. Rough and ruthless as a ruckman/forward with Richmond (VFL) he played 159 games and kicked 229 goals from 1969 to 1979.
Balme played his junior football with Wembly Athletic Club after leaving Mount Pleasant Amateurs in WA, before playing four league games for WAFL club Subiaco at 16 years of age.
Transferring to Melbourne with his family in 1969 he played in Richmond Under 19s premiership team in 1970 under famous junior coach Ray Jordon. He played in Richmond’s 1973 & 1974 premiership teams under legendary coach Tom Hafey.
Neil was often used in the forward line because of his strong marking and raw aggression. However, chronic knee injuries saw him retire from VFL football at the age of 27.
The following year he was appointed as coach of Norwood making an immediate impact on the club. Despite his fearsome persona on the field, he became very popular with Norwood members, as well as the media.
In his first season, as a non-playing coach, he propelled the club from seventh after round 17, into the finals and into the Grand Final which was lost to Port Adelaide by 18 points.
1982 was the first of two premierships coached by Balme, defeating Glenelg 20-13 to 9-17 and winning 12 of the final 13 games for that season. In 1984, Norwood became the first club to come from fifth position in the finals to win the premiership, this time defeating Port Adelaide 15-10 to 13-13 and earning the title “History Makers”.
Balme coached Norwood for 11 seasons, making the finals every year and winning two flags. He coached the club in 270 games with 162 wins, 106 losses, 2 draws and a winning ratio of 60%.
In 1991, he was appointed coach of the newly formed Woodville-West Torrens Eagles, then coached Melbourne in the AFL for five seasons from 1993 to 1997.
His calm, rational demeanour found that he was ideally suited to administrative roles. In 1998 he was appointed as football operations manager at the Collingwood Football Club. Surprisingly moved sideways by Collingwood in 2006, he became football operations manager at Geelong in 2007 to the end of 2014. In this time, the Cats won three premierships including 2007 which was their first for 44 years.
Balme accepted the newly created director of coaching role with Collingwood at the end of 2014. In September 2016, he left Collingwood to accept the position of General Manager of Football at Richmond. In his first year, Richmond went on to win the 2017 Premiership after a 37 year drought.
Premiership coach: 1982, 1984
Further honours: SA coach 1985, Norwood Life Member
G Adams Aug 2018