Magpie great relives glory days

Norm Sharp stands in front of the pavilion named in his honour.

ONE of Camperdown Football Club’s greatest sons returned to the picturesque Leura Oval for a trip down memory lane on the weekend and was amazed at what he saw.
With wife Edna (nee Howard) and son and daughter Norm Sharp was bewildered by the quality of the playing surface and the magnitude of the facilities that now grace Leura Oval.
A 1951 premiership player, Norm ‘Bull’ Sharp reacquainted himself with the playing arena on which he once imposed himself as the Magpies’ powerful ruckman.
Born and bred within sight of the clock tower, Norm’s love of football was not much different to most young boys from his era.
He recalled fondly numerous times when he and a few mates would be up at the oval having a kick only to be hunted home by the infamous Lindsay ‘Oigle’ Stratton.
Sharp recalled his early days playing in the Under 18’s after World War II.
At the age of 13 his career commenced under the guidance of coach Rex Broban, who was a school teacher at Gnotuk.
Those were the days when the under 18s would change over at the showgrounds because the tin dressing sheds on the north eastern side of Leura Oval could not accommodate both the senior and junior teams – the reserve grade side often played at the opposing teams home ground in these days.
The turf cricket ground in Thornton Street, now Russell Mockridge Park, was the venue where the under 18s would train.
Whilst in the under 18s Norm played in the 1948/49 grand final sides.
It did not take long for Sharp to make his way into the senior ranks.
With Len White leading the Magpies Norm debuted for Camperdown at the tender age of 16 and soon made an impact.
The side was in the midst of a successful era with many notorious names in the ranks including Luke Thornton, Brian Moran, Ray Russell and Reg, Bernie and Len White.
He was an enormous success in 1951 – a big, strong, mature man and was well coached, his opponents found it impossible to bluff him.
With his under 18 stable mate Bruce Murray, and a little help from veteran Les Begley, he became Camperdown’s number one ruckman.
Developing a dash of pace he was also a dangerous resting ruckman in the forward pocket.
He was the Magpies’ leading vote getter in the Maskell Cup with 12, he played interleague against Western District League, he helped steer the side to a 31 point premiership victory over arch rivals Cobden, was named the best player in the grand final and he shared the senior best and fairest with coach Len White.
When asked whether the rivalry and passion was evident in the 50s when Camperdown met arch rival Cobden, Sharp simply smiled and said “they were our neighbours; and they deserved to lose.”
Sharp played 17 senior matches for Camperdown.
His inclusion in Camperdown’s ’51 team still remains one of the most impressive debuts ever made in Hampden League Football.
Norm’s career took another turn at the end of 1951 as he was approached by the Geelong Football Club.
Recruited to the VFL, he soon made a presence as a powerful 17-year old ruckman, using his weight in the packs.
After playing the first match of the season for Camperdown as agreed, he was cleared to Geelong.
He walked straight into Geelong’s all conquering side to play in the 1952 premiership under Geelong legend Reg Hickey.
Similar to the HFL he blazed his way through the rucks that opposed him in the VFL.
Sharp played in Geelong’s ’53 grand final and won the club’s best and fairest award in 1954.
Norm represented Victoria on three occasions and was one of the youngest ruckmen to gain state selection.
He played in the VFL final series of 1954, ’56 and ’57.
In total he played 88 games at the highest level in which he kicked 29 goals.
Sharp was forced out of the game prematurely as his rugged style saw him sustain a knee injury.
In 1960 Norm Sharp’s career was recognised by the Camperdown Football Club, and the town council, when the new dressing sheds were officially opened on July 16 of that year.
‘The Norman Sharp Pavilion’ was ahead of its time, providing modern, spacious facilities for Camperdown and the opposing team.
Sharp returned to Camperdown in 2000 when he was named as ruckman in the Magpies’ almighty Team of the Century.
Up there with the best, it could be argued that Norm Sharp is one of the greatest footballers to come out of Camperdown.

Comments are closed.