Alfred “Topsy” Waldron
(1879 - 1898)
Alfred ‘Topsy’ Waldron is Norwood’s longest serving on-field leader. Between 1881 and 1898, he was captain for 10 seasons, six of those as premiership captain whilst three other premierships were collected as a player. Also known as “the prince of dodgers”, Topsy led South Australia before he led Norwood. He is arguably not only Norwood’s greatest player, but also Norwood’s greatest clubman.
As a young boy, 'Topsy' was a nickname given to him by one of his brothers, and it stuck throughout his life. He grew up in Victoria the son of Thomas and Ada, and had four brothers and two sisters. Frank Waldron played for Melbourne and Hotham (a forerunner to North Melbourne). Ern Waldron played for Carlton and Collingwood. Herb Waldron played for Carlton too.
Topsy is believed to have played junior football at a club called ‘Rainbow’, before going on to play for Albert Park (1875) and Carlton Imperial (1876). His big move was crossing to Carlton in 1877. It was the first year for the new Victorian Football Association – the forerunner to the Victorian Football League. Carlton won the premiership in 1877. Topsy played for Carlton again in 1878, and in those two years he ran out alongside and against some of the greatest names of colonial era Victorian football.
In early 1879, Topsy was at a crossroads. His last game for Carlton (playing on the M.C.G. alongside his younger brother Ern), saw Topsy leave the ground mid-game after an apparent dispute on the field with some senior team mates. Off the field, Topsy’s father was in some financial strife. Although lured to play for a team in Sydney, Topsy was swayed by his former Carlton team mate Alf McMichael to come across to South Australia and play for Norwood in 1879.
Topsy was not a man of great financial means but his three great loves were football, family and cricket.
It had been thought that Topsy played for Norwood from 1879-1892. However, it has been recently discovered that Topsy played another game in 1896, and two more games in 1898, by which time he was 41 years of age. It is likely that Topsy played a total of about 250 games of league football for Carlton, Norwood and South Australia, over a remarkable 22 seasons. Twenty of these seasons were spent at Norwood, making him possibly the longest serving Norwood player ever, and the most successful.
Topsy also umpired league football in South Australia. He is believed to have been Norwood’s first 'coach' in 1898, and was the caretaker at the East Parklands training ground in the same year. He served on the Norwood Board. He provided the goalposts for Norwood Oval when in 1901, it became Norwood’s new home ground. He promoted skill development, being an early pioneer to introduce ‘training and development’ at a football club, if not the first to do so. And Topsy was routinely at games to watch his club on field, right up until his death. He had grown to love Norwood so much that in his later years of life the tears would flow from his eyes after a Redlegs win.
Topsy was also a passionate cricket player – a left-handed batsman who played three first class games for South Australia. In one of those games, he was unable to play on the last day due to the sudden death of his son Reggie, who was only two years of age.
Topsy was no ‘clean sheet’ on or off the field. He was fined for riding his bike without a light; guilty of assault (including the infamous fight at the Imperial Hotel with Port Player Robert Roy, where the origins of the Norwood-Port rivalry began), and was even found and arrested at numerous times in illegal gambling dens.
Topsy always spoke up for what he believed in – a trait that sometimes earned him the ire of others However, this trait was nonetheless respected as Topsy was also a very forgiving person. He was a committed member of the YMCA for many years.
Topsy died in tragic circumstances in 1929. Economic times were tough and aged in his early 70s he was still advertising for work to earn money to survive on. Whilst doing an “odd job” at Magill, he fell from scaffolding. He spent over a week in hospital but never regained consciousness. In death, the Norwood Football Club put together the money to erect a headstone over his grave at the Payneham cemetery. Fittingly, the club went on to win the premiership in the year of Topsy’s death
Topsy lived a life of spotlights and shadows. An exalted player and club man and a respected all-round sportsman, he is a member of the SANFL Hall of Fame and the Norwood Hall of Fame. He is Norwood’s longest serving Captain and likely our longest serving player. His football legacy as a player, umpire, coach and commentator has extended through family lines to include his son Arthur, (four games for Norwood), and four other direct descendants who played at Port Adelaide. His granddaughter Rita married Lancelot Maddern, who played 11 games for Norwood from 1932-34.
Topsy epitomised the club motto, (which was adopted well after his playing career had concluded). “Fortis in Procella” was exactly how Topsy lived his life – and amidst all his adversity and family tragedy (including the deaths of four of his first eight children, and his first wife), he showed enormous strength to be the heart and soul of the Norwood Football Club for fifty years and a beacon of leadership. Above all, he was a football player renowned as one of the very best not just in South Australia, but in Australia.
1881-1885, 1887-1890, 1892
Norwood Player Life Member, SANFL Hall of Fame, Champions of Australia Captain 1888, SA captain 1880, 1881,1890, SA games 6, League Umpire 1882-1891; Carlton Football Club 1877-1878, 42 games, premiership player 1877