|Kevin Curran played just 85 games for Hawthorn, but his story from recruitment to captaincy was so remarkable and full of incident it could be mistaken for a movie script.
Curran was just a raw 18-year-old playing for Traralgon when chairman of selectors and former great Albert Hyde visited to see another player called Jones. He wasn’t impressed with Jones, but definitely was with Hyde, and asked him to join Hawthorn on the spot.
Kevin was less than enthusiastic. He was happy on his farm hunting rabbits and foxes, and it was only after his local team had a bye and getting permission from his father he travelled to the big smoke to join the Mayblooms.
Hyde asked the selectors to give him plenty of time in the reserves to acclimatise to league football, but his performances were so good he was eventually promoted for the Round 7 match against Fitzroy at Brunswick Street.
However, the vice-president at Hawthorn, Jim McGuire, was unhappy as the player Curran had replaced was one of his employees. Amazingly, McGuire took out his anger on Curran – abusing one of his own players, an 18-year-old making his VFL debut no less, before the ball was even bounced.
Not surprisingly, Curran was overawed and struggled. Hyde quit the selection committee in disgust the following week, and Curran, possibly disillusioned with the treatment, enlisted in the army.
In battle Curran showed courage of the highest order while stationed in Dili. At one stage Japanese forces cut off his unit, and Curran managed to kill five of the enemy with his bayonet as they fought to safety.
Later, he led a small group through a hail of machine-gun fire to blow up a Japanese airstrip, an action that almost saw him killed. An even luckier escape happened soon after. Curran was caught behind enemy lines and had to drop quickly onto burning rocks to hide. In searing heat and with no water, he was forced to lie there all day and then spend two days getting back to his unit – complete with burn marks on his torso from the rocks.
After being honoured for his bravery, Curran returned to the Hawthorn line-up in 1946. He was a man now, standing 6 foot and 96 kilos. Despite his bulk he was surprisingly quick and able to play a roving role. However, he wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around in packs, and his style of play quickly sparked fear into the opposition.
Curran was selected to represent the Big V in 1947 at the National Carnival, the first of nine Victorian appearances. He won the best and fairest in 1948, along with a Simpson Medal and was appointed vice-captain in 1949. However, just when it appeared his career was finally settling down, an even bigger saga came along.
Bob McCaskill replaced Alec Albiston as coach at the start of 1950. However, it appeared a mere formality that Albiston would be appointed captain. But McCaskill wanted a more physical leader, and he decided in war hero and tough man Curran he had just the man. Albiston was stunned by the appointment, clearly believing he had been promised the role.
It would not be understating things to say all hell broke loose. The papers were in uproar, supporters were calling for the selection committee to resign, and Albiston and Col Austen, the reigning Brownlow Medallist, eventually quit the club.
Curran was on the angry pills, and went overboard in just the third match of the season, getting a four-match suspension for attempting to kick Footscray ruckman Tom Miller. His return was against Richmond, Col Austen’s new club.
Austen claimed it was never anything personal against Curran, but he did admit publicly that he didn’t think Kevin was much of a tactician, something of importance given there were no runners in those days.
Curran was still smarting from the jibe, and everyone knew he was out to get Austen that day at Glenferrie Oval. Eventually he lined him up from 40 yards away and hit him late. At the tribunal both players towed the line, claiming they were good friends. But Curran undid all of his work by stating “If I was going to something (to him), I would pick a place – not in the open.” He was suspended for another four matches.
Peter O’Donoghue replaced Curran after just one season as captain. He accepted an offer from Sandhurst at the beginning of 1952 to captain-coach the side and run the Athenaeum Hotel in Bendigo. He was the league’s best and fairest that season.
However, Curran’s role in the history of Hawthorn was not finished yet. He played a crucial role in getting Bendigo boys Graham Arthur, Brendan Edwards and Des Dickson to the club. Indeed, Curran himself signed Edwards.
Two North Melbourne officials made the mistake of asking where Edwards could be located at Curran’s hotel, and were given the bum steer while Curran rushed off and signed the young gun for only a quarter of what North would offer when the officials finally tracked him down.
|Captain - 1950|
|Life Member - 1949|
|Club Champion - 1948|
|Simpson Medal - 1948|