1 September 2001
Some footballers remind you of that 1973 Dr John song 'Right Place, Wrong Time'. Blokes that give their all. Great clubmen. Turn up to all the functions. Sell raffle tickets. But on the field it's as if they're on a crowded train. Quality players get the comfy velour sets. The strugglers can't even get a strap to hang on to. They are thrown back and forth with the carriage rocking all over the place.
One man typifies full on enthusiasm without securing a regular senior game. A fellow that stood in the doorway of the League footy red rattler. Tony Leonard.
Anthony as he was then known earned a reputation as a disciplined and hard working back pocket player with Seddon in the Western Region Football League. Even as an 18 year old he had a generous physique. 173 centimetres and 110 kilograms. While the youngster may have lacked endurance he had surprising pace over 5 metres. Also a talent for positioning himself between his opponent and the ball. He could find the boundary line like it was an extra sense. Furthermore the Big Kev of Aussie rules got excited by mud heap conditions.
It stuck out like green slime in 'The Exorcist' that Anthony would transfer to a League club. In 1964 Alan Killigrew and Keith McKenzie visited the Leonard family home in the western suburbs. Both men impressed the parents. The League legends promised the strongly built boy an FC Holden from Ron Thompson approved cars plus a years subscription to the Yarraville mouth organ band if he signed a form 8 with North Melbourne. Usually it was a form 4 but Anthony was a hefty kid.
Anthony became Tony when he arrived at Arden Street in '64. In those days there was a sand dog track around the outside of the arena. This may have been the genesis of Leonard's passion for racing. Also near the North ground stood the gasometer and Bowen and Pomeroy's timber yard. The Shinboners gave their large import the number 47 jumper. The implication was to work up to a single digit.
Mr T had his first season in the North reserves. Played his natural game on the last line of defence. Not the gold jewellery and after shave type. Just a Franklins no frills brand of football. Tony was involved in a revolutionary change when North shifted its home games to Coburg for the 1965 season. Leonard produced some heavyweight form early in the season. But in the ones competition for back half spots was hot as old English mustard. There were stars like Peter Steward and Ken Dean and Mick Delanty and Daryl O'Brien. But when Steward busted his knee double doors opened for Leonard.
The heavyset defender made his senior debut in 1965 round 11 coincidentally against Footscray at the Western Oval. In bucketing rain he kept to 12 possessions former Seddon teammate Kevin Jackman who won the Gardiner Medal that season. The Dogs home by 4 points. The following week at Coburg Leonard did a neat and tidy job on Essendon first year rover Don Gross. Kept him goalless. But the Roos lost by 7 goals to the side that would win the 1965 flag. Leonard himself copped a knee injury in that game. Also for several months he had experienced a breathing difficulty that was later diagnosed as asthma. Performing with that problem showed the guts of the man.
Tony returned from injury via the reserves. And unfortunately stayed there. When Brian Dixon became North coach in 1971 he called the substantial defender in for a chat. Dixon said number 47 didn't fit into his plans.
Leonard left the Roos in 1971. Right place wrong time. Coach Norm Smith invited Tony to train at South but TL's heart wasn't in it. The massive backman returned to Seddon where he became a club legend. In fact the Seddon reserves best and fairest is named the Leonard medal.
Over the last four or five years Denis Pagan has been anxious for Tony to join the match committee at Arden Street. The Leonard reply is that he needs to be in the right place at the right time.
The Coodabeen Champions Pharaohs of Fate