69. Don Gale

Player Inductee

Wynyard/Hobart/Burnie, Back Pocket, 1953-62

Around 120 games for Wynyard, 1953-55, 1958-60
Around 20 games for Hobart, 1957
Around 40 games for Burnie, 1961-62
Wynyard captain-coach, 1960
Burnie captain-coach, 1961-62
Burnie NWFU premiership, 1962
Tasmanian National Carnival representative, Melbourne 1958 (named All-Australian)
10 representative matches for Tasmania, 1958-61
20 representative matches for NWFU

The first footballer from the NWFU to receive national recognition, Don Gale was a champion defender and a member of the great Gale dynasty from Tasmania’s north-west coast.

Born in 1935, Don Gale was the son of former Yeoman/Wynyard footballer Jack Gale, who had also played three games with Richmond in the VFL in 1924. After showing great promise as a schoolboy footballer, Don joined his father’s old club Wynyard and made his senior debut as an 18-year-old in 1953. He immediately impressed and was courted from across Bass Strait by VFL club South Melbourne. But while Gale was eager to take the opportunity to play VFL football, the TFL refused to clear him. After two more seasons with Wynyard in 1954-55, Gale again sought a clearance to play in Victoria, even going so far as to physically relocate to the mainland; again, however, the TFL refused to allow the transfer. Gale defiantly remained in Victoria during 1956, satisfying himself by playing amateur grade football in Melbourne before relenting and returning to Tasmania in 1957.

Upon his return, Gale headed to the south of the state and joined TANFL club Hobart. His stint in the south would only last one season however, and in 1958 he headed home to Wynyard, where he would spend a further three seasons, including a stint as captain-coach in 1960. It was during this period that Gale’s talent was recognised beyond the borders of his own state, following his selection for Tasmania at the 1958 National Carnival in Melbourne. As a part of the strongest Carnival team Tasmania has ever produced, Gale’s sensational performances in a back pocket earned him All-Australian honours, one of three Tasmanians to receive such recognition along with Stuart Spencer and Jim Ross. Gale was the only player from the NWFU to have achieved this honour, and would remain so until Darrel Baldock emulated the feat. Two years later, Gale would be a member of the legendary Tasmanian combination that shocked the might of the VFL at York Park, and would end that day being named one of the best two players on the ground along with Jim Ross.

After 120 games for Wynyard Gale departed the club for the final time at the end of 1960, moving down the coast to take up the captain-coach role with Burnie. It was here that Gale would finally achieve the one success that had eluded him during his distinguished career: a senior premiership. After being pipped by fierce rivals Cooee by five points in the NWFU grand final in Gale’s first season, Burnie went one better in 1962, defeating Devonport by 10 points, although they were unable to get over North Hobart in the state final a week later.

Don Gale sensationally retired from senior football after Burnie’s 1962 premiership triumph aged just 27 and already a member of the NWFU ‘200 Club’, thanks to his 200 plus senior matches, including 20 for the NWFU itself. He eventually settled in Penguin, and in later years his sons Michael and Brendon both forged long and successful VFL/AFL careers, playing a combined 440 games for Fitzroy and Richmond and both joining their father in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.