Dane Swan playing for Collingwood's then-VFL affiliate Williamstown against the Murray Kangaroos as an 18-year-old in 2002.
Each year, Collingwood awards the Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy to its best and fairest player at reserve grade or VFL level.
Several players who went on to become stars at the highest level have taken out the award in recent times, including Dane Swan, Heath Scotland and Alan Richardson.
The award was originally received by the player who was adjudged to have been the most improved on the list during the season, but this was altered in the late 1990s and the award is now dedicated to the best performer in the club’s VFL team.
Joseph Wren was the son of the famous John Wren, and a benefactor of the Collingwood Football Club between the 1940s and 1960s. He was a key figure behind the scenes at Victoria Park and his name lives on with the Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy.
His father, John, was a legendary Australian businessman who was very influential in Victoria during the early decades of the 1900s. He was an influential patron of the Collingwood Football Club in the 1920s, and was a major part of every day life in the town, as surmised by Lou Richards in In Those Days
“To me, Collingwood will always be the potholes in Gipps St, boot factories and grimy terraces, dancing at the Town Hall, the cable trams, John Wren, Jock McHale and the great players”.
John Wren passed away a month after suffering a heart attack during Collingwood’s narrow victory over Geelong in the 1953 Grand Final.
Those to have won Collingwood’s Reserves (and now VFL) Best and Fairest have gone on to achieve different levels of success at league level.
Several, such as Rupert Betheras, Chris Curran, Brent Macaffer, Swan, Richardson and Scotland have received the award during the formative stages of their careers, while others, including Shane Watson, Jason Wild and Jason Croall, were in the twilight of their time at Victoria Park.
Swan is undoubtedly the most successful player to have received the John Wren Memorial Trophy in its guise as a second tier Best and Fairest.
At the age of 19, Swan received the award after he finished higher than any other Collingwood player in Williamstown’s Best and Fairest (fourth) during their premiership year of 2003.
It is fascinating to read early reviews of Swan, who arrived at Collingwood as a 17-year-old at the end of 2001.
In the In Black and White Magazine
season review, Williamstown coach Brad Gotch surmised Swan’s 2003 season as follows:
“Finished fourth in our best and fairest, playing 17 out of the 21 games and if he had played every match he nearly would have won it. He just needs to work on the execution of his kicking as he can be a little bit sloppy at times, but he wins a lot of the football. He is quite a confident kid so he won’t be intimidated. Played against Richmond early in the year and did quite well, but players returning to the seniors and a hand injury saw him struggle to get back”.
Five years later, then-VFL coach Gavin Brown had the following to say about Brent Macaffer after he tied for the Wren Memorial Trophy with Justin Crow:
“He wouldn’t have played the main forward role (if we were still with Williamstown). This year he does and he was kicking bags of seven and eight goals at times so it was just fantastic for his confidence and belief”.
At the other end of the spectrum comes Shane Watson. The 141-game Magpie ended his career at the club with only eight senior matches in 2000, but his consistency and leadership were noted at VFL level by his three coaches Michael Broadbridge, Dean Laidley and Brad Gotch.
“Congratulations must go to Shane Watson for winning the Best and Fairest award. Shane’s attitude and commitment to the club during his nine years’ service was first class and his infectious character around the club will be missed. We wish Shane well for his future”.
List of Collingwood Reserves/VFL Best and Fairest Winners
(Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy since 2000)
Mark Beers, Paul Rizonico
Brent Macaffer and Justin Crow
1987 Reserves Best and Fairest - Alan Richardson
1991 Reserves Best and Fairest - Andrew Tarpey
1994 Reserves Best and Fairest - Chris Curran
1996 Reserves Best and Fairest - Robert Pyman
1998 Reserves Best and Fairest - Rupert Betheras
1999 Reserves Best and Fairest - Jason Wild
2000 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Shane Watson
2001 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Heath Scotland
2002 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Andrew Dimattina
2003 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Dane Swan
2005 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Jason Cloke
2006 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Adam Iacobucci
2007 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Ben Davies
2008 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Justin Crow and Brent Macaffer
2009 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Ryan Cook
2010 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Tom Young
2011 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Tom Sundberg
2012 Joseph Wren Memorial Trophy (Reserves Best and Fairest) - Kris Pendlebury