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Best Finals Players: Kevin Rose

Kevin Rose (left) with his brothers Bob, Colin and Bill in 1955 - Collingwood Magpies
Kevin Rose (left) with his brothers Bob, Colin and Bill in 1955

When you play your first full game in the cauldron of a preliminary final, you learn pretty quickly what finals footy is all about.

And maybe that's why Kevin Rose came to be such a highly regarded finals player: having been thrown in at the deep end to start with, he simply knew no other way.

Kevin made his full senior debut in the 1958 preliminary final. He'd started on the bench three times previously, the last of those having come the week before when the Magpies were smashed by Norm Smith's all conquering Demons in the second semi-final.

Collingwood selectors reacted savagely to that mauling. There were changes to every single line in the team as the selectors turned the line-up inside out in a desperate bid to find a winning formula. In an era where players mostly played in the positions in which they were named, these positional changes were big news.

But there were ins and outs too: Ron Kingston and Brian Dorman were injured, Neville Waller dropped and Ken Smale relegated to the bench. Rose was brought in for his first full game at half-back, Brian Gray to the wing, Brian Beers to half-forward and giant Graeme Fellowes from the bench to first ruck.

The changes worked. The Magpies were too good for North Melbourne in the preliminary final, and the following week would go on to cause the boilover of the century by defeating the seemingly invincible Demons to claim the premiership.

And Kevin Rose was a key to both wins.

Against North he settled in on the half-back flank unobtrusively, but well, going about his work in the tough, uncompromising, businesslike manner that would become his trademark. But in the grand final he was even better, part of a defensive unit that heroically held out the rampaging Demons time and time again.

Those two first-up performances set the scene for what would become one of the defining characteristics of Rose's career – the ability to play at his best in big games and finals.

He seemed to save his best for the MCG in September. In his next finals series, 1960, he again played well in what was a losing cause. Indeed he was one of only two or three players not disgraced on grand final day that year when the Pies were held to a meagre two goals for the game.

In 1964, Collingwood's next September action, he went even better, being named as the club's best finals player for three weeks of excellent football, capped off by a stellar performance in the grand final.

Rose was by now playing as a ruck-rover, and he took on and thrashed the great Ron Barassi that day, eclipsing him so completely that Barassi had to be shifted away. Many scribes — and Barassi himself—voted Rose the best player on the ground that day, despite the Pies losing narrowly.

Rose's game, built on graft, grunt and clean hands, really came to the fore in September action. He hated to be beaten – especially so in finals. When the contest was at its fiercest, you just knew that Kevin would be right in the think of it.

He was remarkably consistent in the 1960s, not missing a game from round four of 1962 (when he started as ruck-rover) until he retired at the end of 1967. Fittingly though, his last League game, his 112th in succession, was one of his best — and again it was in a final, this time the first semi against Geelong.

Kevin would go on to coach Prahran to two VFA premierships, and would later spend three years in charge of Fitzroy before returning to the Magpies as President between 1996-98, staying on the Board until 2006.

He wasn't a star as a footballer: he wasn't quick, or overly skilled, but he gave everything of himself, every time he went onto the field. He was never the type likely to win a Copeland, or top the goalkicking. But if he was going to win one trophy in his time at Collingwood, it's a fair bet he would love that it was the one that ended up being named after his beloved brother Bob.