Sam Birtles a Big V Champion

A World War II prisoner of war, Sam Birtles from Hampton Rovers, was posthumously made a VAFA Big V Champion on Friday.

Birtles’s daughter Ann Vandenberg recalled on Friday how her father was a navigator who crashed in Germany. After the war he returned to the site and by luck a local spotted Birtles trying to find the crash spot.

He invited Birtles back to his home where he had part of the plane’s broken propeller.

After playing in the 1940s and ‘50s Birtles umpired for the VAFA. (In the above photo, Sam is second from the left)

Dave Hughes from Old Scotch and Peter Slattery from Old Xaverians, Big V teammates from the 1960s, were also inducted. It has been a steller year for Hughes, who chairs the VAFA tribunal, as he was made a VAFA life member in April.

Other champions included Ken Jorgenson of the defunct Commonwealth Bank, who played five representative games in the 1970s and then umpired two representative matches, and Brian Goodman, who umpired 17 representative games, the first umpire to be included.

Brad Beitzel
The Sunday Age

From the VAFA Amateur Footballer
One of the great stars in the early post-way years. Shot down and captured in WWII, he returned after the way to win a Woodrow Medal in 1949 and serve his club and state with great distinction. He played for the Big V in 1947, 1949, 1950 & 1952, the last year serving as captain. He was All-Australian in 1950 and 1951. After returing, Sam umpired in the VAFA, and also coached at club and state level. In later life, Sam lost a leg and later the other as a result of diabetes brought on by his time in the POW camp. Despite these setbacks, he continued for some time to play golf at Victoria.

HRAFC Life Member & Hall of Fame Inductee
HRAFC Senior Premiership Player: 1951 A Section
HRAFC Senior Best & Fairest: 1948, 1949, 1953
HRAFC Senior Captain: 1952 & 1953
HRAFC Senior Coach: 1964 & 1965
VAFA Best & Fairest: 1949 A Section
VAFA Leading Goalkicker: 1946 C Section & 1949 A Section


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