52. John Leedham

52. John Leedham - ICON 2014ICON – Player Inductee

North Launceston/North Hobart
Ruckman/Forward –1946-2014

Represented Tasmania 13 times, including three Australian Carnivals, 1947, 1953 and 1958
First Tasmanian to win All Australian honours, 1953
Represented NTFA (15 games) and TFL (13 games) in intrastate competition
Commenced senior career at North Launceston, 1946
North Launceston NTFA premierships, 1946-1950
North Launceston state premierships, 1947 and 1949-50
North Hobart TFL premiership, 1957
Coached North Launceston, 1953
Coached North Hobart, 1954-1959
124 senior games with North Launceston and 114 senior games with North Hobart
Vice captain, Tasmania Football Team of the Century
Vice captain, North Hobart Team of the Century
Life member, North Hobart Football Club
Member, North Launceston ‘Best Team 1945 to 1999’

Known to all as ‘the great John L’, John Leedham has been often described as the best Tasmanian player never to have played in the VFL/AFL. His record provides the real proof that he should be ranked alongside the superlative Horrie Gorringe for that apt description of a truly iconic Tasmanian footballer, coach and administrator.

John Leedham always played with his socks down and was known to be a colourful character on the field. He was raised in Campbell Town and started his football career at North Launceston in 1946, aged 17. Playing as a centre half forward on the ball, Leedham was a member of NTFA premiership teams in 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950 as well as three Tasmanian state premiership teams. He was almost coaxed to the VFL by the Melbourne Football Club in 1948, but a knee injury pre-season stopped him from making his debut and he returned to Tasmania. Despite further opportunities to return to Melbourne there were limited financial benefits in doing so and so he played his career out as a captain-coach through the 1950s.

After 124 games with North Launceston, including a stint as captain-coach, John Leedham crossed to TFL club North Hobart. He coached North Hobart from 1954 to 1959 and steered them to a TFL premiership in 1957, but was unable to complete the double, going down to Longford in the state premiership.

John Leedham represented Tasmania in the 1947, 1953 and 1958 Australian National Carnivals, performing very well in Adelaide in 1953 when he was chosen as the sole Tasmanian representative in the first All Australian team. He captain-coached Tasmania to wins over both South Australia and Western Australia at the 1958 Melbourne Carnival and more often than not outplayed his direct opponent whenever Tasmania clashed with the Victorians. Possibly his most famous game against Victoria was in 1957 when many scribes considered he took apart Victorian vice captain Bill Twomey and also North Melbourne captain John Brady while playing centre half forward. His four goals and outstanding marking and ground play were recognised by Victorian captain John Kennedy as being of the type that would have enabled John Leedham to hold his own in the VFL.

While Leedham’s 1947 Carnival was cut short by injury he enjoyed his greatest success in 1953 when he was selected as All Australian and performed well in the Carnival best and fairest award, the Tassie Medal. In the 1958 Australian Carnival in Melbourne, John Leedham led Tasmania as captain-coach and the state achieved two impressive victories against South Australia and West Australia for the only time. John Leedham was not available for selection in the 1956 Carnival due to injury.

John Leedham spent two years away from top flight Tasmanian football when he coached Campbell Town in the Midlands Association in 1951 and 1952 before commencing his senior coaching career at North Launceston in 1953. Following six seasons (1954 to 1959) coaching North Hobart, Leedham spent a further five seasons coaching in country football in Margate and then finishing with Campbell Town where his career had began.
John Leedham has continued to serve Tasmanian football as a leader at the North Hobart Football Club right up to the present day. Amongst his achievements is his status as the longest serving President in the long and proud history of the North Hobart Football Club.

In June 2004 John Leedham was selected as ruck-rover and vice captain in the official Tasmania ‘Team of the Century’ and then in 2005 was an inaugural inductee as a ‘Legend’ in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.