40. Vern Rae

Player Inductee

Lefroy/North Hobart, Ruckman/Forward, 1935-50

110 games for Lefroy, 1935-40
Around 60 games for North Hobart, 1946-48, 1950
North Hobart captain-coach, 1950
Woodbridge Football Club captain-coach (Kingborough FA), 1949
Lefroy TANFL premiership, 1937
North Hobart TANFL premiership, 1947
Tasmanian National Carnival representative, 1947 (Hobart), 1950 (captain, Brisbane)
Regular TANFL representative, 1936-40

Known as “the Gentleman of southern football”, Vern Rae was a fair but highly skilled ruckman/forward who enjoyed premiership success on either side of the Second World War, despite battling great adversity.

Rae first played football with Bagdad in the Richmond Football Association before joining Lefroy in the TANFL in 1935 at the age of 20. He would play more than 100 games for Lefroy in six seasons before the Second World War, enjoying some great ruck battles against North Hobart champion and future teammate Len ‘Apples’ Pye. During this period Rae enjoyed great success with the Blues, playing in three consecutive grand finals from 1936-38, although only 1937 produced a premiership – Lefroy’s last. He was also a regular TANFL intrastate representative, having first been selected in his second season at Lefroy, and would appear in every intrastate fixture the TANFL contested between 1936 and 1940.

Rae enlisted for war service in 1940 and was posted to the 4th Australian Anti-Tank Regiment. The regiment saw action in Southeast Asia soon after the entry of Japan into the war, and Rae was captured by the Japanese in early 1942 in Malaysia. He would spend the next three and a half years as a prisoner of war in Borneo; as in all Japanese POW camps conditions were harsh, and by the time the war ended and the camp was liberated, Rae’s weight had dropped to an alarming 44 kilograms. This severely affected his health in the years following the war, as was shown on his return to football in 1946, this time with North Hobart.

In his first season back Rae suffered a number of muscle-related injuries, and later in the season also broke his wrist. Not to be deterred however, Rae was back to almost full health by 1947, and was playing well enough to be included in the Tasmanian squad for the first post-war Australian Football carnival, held in Hobart. 1947 also saw Rae feature in his second TANFL premiership, 10 years after his first with Lefroy, courtesy of North Hobart’s 16-point victory over Hobart. After a season as coach of Woodbridge in the Kingborough Football Association in 1949, Rae returned to North Hobart for one final season in 1950, this time as captain-coach of the Demons. He would not taste premiership success, but the year would still be a memorable one for the veteran ruckman, as he was awarded the honour of captaining his state at the National Carnival in Brisbane.

After his on-field career was over, Rae maintained a strong connection to the game through the media. He was a prominent writer for The Mercury for a number of years but is probably best remembered as part of a commentary team alongside Harold ‘Nunky’ Ayers and Trevor Leo, all of whom became household names thanks to their legendary commentary over more than 20 years.