Peter McKenna

Born: 27 Ausgust 1946

191cm, 87kgs
Collingwood 1965 – 1975 (180 games, 838 goals)
Copeland trophy winner 1970
Collingwood Hall of Fame (Inductee 2004)
Leading goal kicker 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974
Coleman medalist (VFL leading goal kicker) 1972, 1973
Record for most goals in a season 143 1970

 

 

 

Widely regarded as the first of the 'Pop Star' footballers, Peter McKenna, with his Beatlesque looks was a supreme showman and dazzled his audience with feats of skill and sublime marksmanship.

 

Peter was born on the same date as his dear friend Len Thompson and was exactly one year Len's senior.  Both joined the Pies in the season of 65 and while Len shot to prominence in the Preliminary final of that year, it would not be until 1967 that Peter would begin his rise to stardom.  He lead the club's goal kicking that season with 47 and would do so for the next 7 seasons straight with his massive haul of 143 goals in 1970 being his best year and still the club's best effort by any player.  Peter followed that up with 134 in 1971 and 130 in 1972.  If Peter had played anywhere near the number of games of Nuts Coventry (301), he would have easily been the league’s most prolific goal scorer and would still hold that honour today.  Peter kicked an average of 4.5 goals per game and only three other players in the entire VFL/AFL history have a greater average goals per game ratio.

Peter's football career was marked with achievements and yet he is one of many Magpies that have never tasted the sweetest of glory.  With good mates Des Tuddenham, Barry Price, Len Thompson, Bob Rose, Jerka Jenkin, Twiggy Dunn they would fall desperately short of the line.  It was not for the want of trying.  Peter booted a magnificent five goals in the first half of the 1970 Grand Final to send the Magpies into the major break with a massive 44 point lead.  Peter would clash with Tuddy midway through the second quarter and even though he managed to play on after receiving lengthy attention from the trainers and kick two more goals, he was never quite right.  The Pies would lose that day by just 11 points.

Peter is without doubt one of Collingwood's greatest sons and a superstar of his time during an era when Full Forwards were the pin-up boys of the league.  However, Peter, like his long serving coach and mentor Bob Rose is also a man of incredible emotional courage and has had to endure what no man should.  Peter has been down the same path that Bob had to walk and he did it with such dignity that we shall also pay tribute to the darkest moments in Peter's life and we will pay tribute the to his wonderful mother, Winnie.

Epilepsy affects millions of people in Australia.  Whether they suffer the terrible symptoms themselves, or they are someone that is charged with caring and protecting that person.  Peter's sister Marie had Epilepsy and was prone to accute seizures.  Peter and Marie were the oldest of five kids and very, very close siblings.  Marie would often serve up a footy lesson to younger Bomber brother Peter and it would always be a Magpie sermon.  Marie went against the family trend by following the Magpies, when Peter followed Essendon and their father Kevin was a Carlton supporter.  Peter ended up playing for the Pies and his first game in 1965 was a highlight for his fanatical older sister.  From the day the letter arrived from Victoria Park inviting the young soccer fanatic to try out for Collingwood, Marie was just so proud of her brother.  Eight days short of Peter's 21st birthday, Peter was getting ready for another game for Collingwood at Victoria Park when suddenly tragedy would strike the McKenna family early in the morning.  Peter's mum, Winnie cried out for help, but it was too late.  At just 23 years old, Marie had suffered another severe epileptic episode and this time it had claimed her life.  Peter was in shock and rang the club to tell them he would not be playing.  Local minister Father Mogg convinced Peter that it would be better if he did play and would most certainly have been the wish of his sister Marie.  She would not want her little brother to miss a game, least of all against arch-rival Carlton.  Peter wept all the way to Victoria Park and contributed little to the game as he was an emotional wreck.


Peter sings in 1971

Within a few more years Winnie and the kids would be morning another loss.  Peter's father Kevin was a diabetic and shortly after he watched his Blues miraculously beat his own son's Magpies in the 1970 Grand Final he suddenly passed away.  The family was again rocked to its very core.  Peter was at the height of his powers on the field after kicking a whopping 147 goals that season and winning the E.W. Copeland Trophy, however, for Peter, the year will forever be marked by the passing of his father.

Peter's younger brother Gerard inherited his father's diabetic condition requiring that he inject insulin every day.  He was having a bath and self injecting, as he always did, when everything went terribly wrong.  Gerard lost consciousness and drowned.  After the still very recent loss of Marie and Kevin, Winnie was past the point of coping.  She frantically rang her son and Peter arrived at the house before the ambulance.  Peter held his brother's lifeless head, grief struck.  Enough was enough.  The idea of losing a child or a sibling is too horrendous to contemplate for any person but now Peter and his mum were left with the impossible task of sorting out what all this means, not to mention the effect this would have on his Winnie's fragile emotional state.  Gerard's loss would push the devoted mother into a place so dark that it makes one question the very existence of a god.

It is incomprehensible the emotional depths the McKenna family plummeted too.  To this day Peter finds it incredibly difficult to speak of the loss of his brother and sister.  Peter thinks about his siblings every day and how unfair it is that they had their lives cut tragically short and these thoughts add meaning and purpose to his own life.  To the day she passed away at 83 years old, Winnie never complained about the terrible things that befell her family.  Peter too has not been able to express the degree of devastation that had gripped the McKenna family.  However, Peter has had the courage to speak openly about Epilepsy and the 18th century style stigma that it carries to this day.  He wants people to know what can be done.  Perhaps a young life could be saved by someone armed with the right knowledge?  

http://www.epinet.org.au



 

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