Wartime competition 1942-1944
Norwood-North games: 15
Norwood-North goals: 5
Johnny Bell played fifteen games for Norwood-North in the wartime competition and sixteen games in Jack Oatey’s first year as playing coach for Norwood in 1945. In the following premiership winning season he played all nineteen games, one of only five to do so and was recognized in the club awards for “meritorious service”.
He again played all nineteen games in the 1947 season in which the Norwood team were runners-up and was again recognized in the club awards for “services rendered” as was also the case in the 1948 season in which he won State selection.
Unfortunately for Johnny he did not take part in the 1948 premiership winning campaign as he fell ill during the season and did not recover in time. He was still on the sick list at the start of the 1949 season. In fact his match against Sturt in August 1948 proved to be his last league game.
A dashing and lively utility man he played for most of his career on the half-forward flank and on a few occasions on the wing and the half-back flank. In his book Men of Norwood Mike Coward recounts a story about Johnny losing a tooth 'during the heat of battle at Glenelg Oval'. “For God’s sake get up and don’t worry about it. Kick five or six goals and I’ll give you a gold tooth, Oatey bellowed". Subsequently the Norwood committee was stunned to be presented with a sizable account for a gold tooth from a North Terrace dentist. It would seem that Johnny had done as his coach had asked.
Bell was also a very good electric light cricketer regularly making centuries for the Holden team in the top grade. A fellow team member was a Port Adelaide footballer, Don Fletcher, who left a Port Adelaide match early (after the game was safe) to be the best man at Johnny’s wedding. Things were done differently in those days – and not for the worse.
G Williams March 2016