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Sensational Seventies: Derek Shaw

Derek Shaw during his playing days with Collingwood - Collingwood Magpies
Derek Shaw during his playing days with Collingwood

It was the decade where football took its first faint steps towards professionalism.

Players chased a greater financial return, Waverley rose from the paddocks, colour television beamed into our living rooms for the first time and the game endured through a turbulent decade.

The ‘Sensational Seventies, as they would become known, proved a tantalising, yet ultimately unfulfilled period for Collingwood.

It was bookended by heartbreaking Grand Final losses to Carlton. The first came when the Magpies lost from what had previously been considered an unlosable situation; the second when Collingwood almost pinched the premiership in the dying moments of a dour struggle.

Through it all, the goings on at Collingwood – and at Victoria Park - was like a soap opera you couldn’t switch off, and the audience was spellbound.

For those who lived through it, it was a period they will never forget and it produced heroes and characters alike forever etched into our consciousness.

For those who didn’t,Collingwood Forever will transport you back in time each week this season for a blast from the ‘70s past, profiling a player who made an impact for one reason or another.

Derek Shaw was one of five Shaws to represent Collingwood at senior level through the late 1970s and early '80s, though he was different from the rest.

For a start, he wasn't a part of the Shaw dynasty, even though he hailed from the Magpie-mad northern suburbs. He wasn't related to Tony, Ray and Neville Shaw who wore the black and white during his time at Victoria Park and formed one of the club's famous families.

He also had no connection to Collingwood's high-priced recruit Gary Shaw, whose pathway stemmed from Queensland and Western Australia.

Physically, Derek was in stark contrast to the other Shaws, standing at 194cm - 24cm taller than Tony, and around 20cm taller than Ray, Neville and Gary.

While there shouldn't have been any confusion between the Magpie Shaws, given the height difference, there was an amusing mistake in the 1978 Football Record for Collingwood's qualifying final clash with Hawthorn. The production error saw Derek's face used for Tony's profile, prompting some mirth within the club.

But, as a key forward and ruckman, Derek would go on to play 47 games and kick 32 goals for the Magpies across six seasons - punctuated by a one-season switch to South Fremantle. He represented the club in a VFL Grand Final in his second senior season, albeit failing to have an influence in the game, and his last game came as a 25-year-old in a preliminary final.

Shaw had been recruited from Bundoora in the Diamond Valley, where he had shown considerable promise as a centre half forward, a position he had played since he was 10.

He came to Victoria Park as a 17-year-old in 1976, wearing the blue and white hoops of Bundoora to one of his early training sessions with the Magpies, evidenced by a photo in The Sun at the time.

Shaw played nine games in the Collingwood under 19s after leaving Bundoora under 16s before graduating to the reserves.

Size was always his asset, which had been the case since his junior days.

The departure of Murrie Batt on lease to Port Adelaide in the SANFL during the middle of the 1978 season brought about an opportunity and a positional change for Shaw, who was grasped it with both hands. Thanks to Batt's exit, he started to spend more time in the ruck.

While he still played forward on occasions, it gave him a greater flexibility from which to be judged on.

As The Sun detailed ahead of his VFL debut - in Round 11, 1978 - Shaw "took over (Batt's) role as ruckman in the reserves ... (and) just two games later Shaw will play his first senior match for Collingwood against Melbourne today."

"But before Batt's departure he played at centre half-forward ... (Shaw) is physically suited to be a ruckman."

Len Thompson (11 hit outs) shared the ruck role with then forward Peter Moore (10 hit outs) in that game at Victoria Park, but Shaw still managed two hit outs and 12 disposals, as well as scoring a behind in attack in the Magpies' inaccurate 17.25 (127) to 10.7 (67) win over the Demons.

He wore the No.44 jumper to start with. His best performance from nine games in the 1978 season came in his second when he had 18 disposals and kicked a goal in a Round 12 loss to Geelong.

He was overlooked for the club's 1978 finals series, though the Football Record photo blunder meant he did make an appearance of sorts.

There was no mistaking him the following year as he secured his spot in a highly-competitive Magpies' team. Having moved to the No.4 jumper, he played 15 games for the season, predominantly as a forward and ruck back-up to eventual Brownlow Medallist Peter Moore, kicking 21 goals for the season.

Nineteen of those goals came in the first 11 rounds, with 4.2 against Carlton in Round 10 - the day Stan Magro knocked out Alex Jesaulenko - being his best performance in terms of majors kicked.

In his 13th game - in a history-making Round 4 clash with St Kilda - he had a career-best 23 disposals and kicked three majors as one of 11 goal kickers in Collingwood's biggest win, by 178 points.

For a short-time, the club's scoreline that day - 31.21 (207) to 3.11 (29) - was the greatest winning margin of any team and the Magpies' highest game tally before the first was overtaken by Fitzroy later in the year and the second was surpassed by four points against the poor old Saints the following year.

There was plenty of celebrating from the Magpies that night, even if only two St Kilda players - one of them Trevor Barker – used some of the 50 tickets on offer to the Saints for after-match festivities.

But as the season progressed Shaw's form began to taper off a little.

He kicked one goal in each of his first two finals - the semi-final and preliminary final wins over Fitzroy and North Melbourne. In that later game, the Football Record described him as "(a) promising ruckman ... (who) takes a strong mark and is capable of goals either from centre half-forward or the pocket."

The same publication said of his clash with the Kangaroos that he "performed well ... setting up attacking moves for his team."

But on a wet and wild day that didn't suit him on the last Saturday in September in 1979, Shaw had a day he would prefer to forget. As Collingwood went down to Carlton by five points in controversial circumstances, he failed to have a possession.

He had one hit out and gave away two free kicks in what the Herald Sun's Jon Anderson would term "a game he's unfairly remembered for."

The Magpies figured the 20-year-old would come back stronger the next year for his experiences, but he wouldn’t be back at all in 1980.

During the preseason he told the club he was "sick of football" and, as the Canberra Times detailed, "a big question mark hangs over the forward pocket player."

In April 1980, as the Magpies embarked on another season, Shaw was locked in a legal battle against Collingwood in an effort to join South Fremantle.

As one newspaper reported at the time, "A Supreme Court judge granted an interim injunction against the National Football League, the Western Australian Football League and the Collingwood Football Club ... to prevent the league and the club using their rules to stop 21-year-old professional footballer Derek Maxwell Shaw from playing for South Fremantle Football Club."

Shaw was living in Kenwick, a Perth suburb, at the time, and training with South Fremantle.

The writ was served against "three Collingwood Football Club trustees ... John Hickey, Kenneth Harvey Billing and Peter Hedley Lucas" and detailed how Shaw had agreed to join South Fremantle a month earlier, but the Magpies had failed to grant him a clearance.

He claimed "the rules of the NFL, the WAFL and the Collingwood club are void and to no effect and in restraint of trade."

Shaw ended up winning a release to South Fremantle and would go on to play in the WAFL club's 1980 premiership side, playing as a forward and back-up ruckman to one of the game's best big men, Stephen Michael. He kicked two goals in the Grand Final win.

Coached by Mal Brown, the South Fremantle side also contained future Norm Smith Medal winner Maurice Rioli and future Brownlow Medallist Brad Hardie.

But just as Shaw seemed lost to Collingwood, he changed his mind and wanted to return to Victoria Park for the following season.

A return to Victoria for a family wedding led to a meeting with Collingwood president John Hickey and chairman of selectors Thorold Merrett which sealed his desire to return.

"We made him what could be termed an attractive offer," Hickey said at the time.

Exactly a year after his injunction, Shaw was back in the legal arena, with South Fremantle issuing a Supreme Court writ to keep him.

Shaw sought a clearance to return to the Magpies, to which the WAFL side objected, claiming he "agreed orally and in writing to exercise his option to renew his contract” with the club for 1981.

By mid-April he had been granted his wish to don the black and white again. Justice Kennedy dismissed South Fremantle's request for a temporary order and paved the way for the footballer to start playing for Collingwood again.

The Herald's Mike Sheahan said Shaw return would "boost Collingwood's marking power in an attack which lacked height throughout the 1980 season."

Shaw returned to the senior side for the club's Round 4, 1981 game against Geelong - now wearing No.43 - but it would be his only senior game for the season as injuries and inconsistent form counted against him. Only three games followed in 1982.

However his form in the preseason of 1983 saw new coach John Cahill select Shaw as the No.1 ruckman for the Round 1 Melbourne contest, pitted against his former teammates Peter Moore, who had joined the Demons.

Shaw more than held his own in the Magpies' win, having 19 disposals and 23 hit outs, compared to Moore's 11 possessions and 29 hit outs.

He played the first six games of the season, including kicking two goals to help sink North Melbourne in Round 6, but they were his only senior games of the season.

Shaw was selected in 11 of the first 14 games of the 1984 season, but was overlooked in the rundown to the finals series.

Then, out of nowhere, a broken thumb to David Cloke saw Shaw selected for the first semi-final against Carlton, off the back of a seven-goal reserves performance against Fitzroy. The Sun said: "Shaw's versatility got him the nod (over Glenn McLean)."

The paper also noted his previous VFL final had resulted in him failing to win a possession, but while he was beaten in the hit outs by Justin Madden and 'Wow' Jones, he still had 16 disposals and took eight marks in the 25-point win.

It was enough to see him retain his spot the week after against Essendon in the 1984 preliminary final. It would prove his 47th and final game with the Magpies.

Collingwood had brought Wes Fellowes into the ruck, but he and Shaw were no match for Simon Madden, who had 33 hit outs.

The Magpies ended up losing the game by 133 points.

The following season Shaw was leased to West Adelaide as part of a deal that saw Dale Woodhall and Ron Andrews also join the SANFL club which allowed Tony Burgess to join the Magpies.

That was the end of Shaw's 47-game, 32-goal career with Collingwood, but thankfully not his time in the game.

He would go on to a long and distinguished career at local level, joining Greensborough in 1987 (where he would win two best and fairests) and later Macleod, as well as coaching several teams in Diamond Valley Football League and neighbouring leagues.

His links to Greensborough and Macleod - where he was later club president and where his son, Kane, became a star - led to the clubs playing for the Derek Shaw Cup.

Fittingly, the first two times the clubs played for it, they were drawn matches.