Fothergill in the late 1930s
|Full name||Desmond Hugh Fothergill|
|Date of birth||15 July 1920|
|Place of birth||Northcote, Victoria, Australia|
|Date of death||16 March 1996(aged 75)|
|Place of death||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Original team(s)||Collingwood Tech|
|1937-1940, 1945-1947||Collingwood||111 (337)|
|Representative team honours|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1947.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
From Collingwood Tech, Fothergill was a gifted sportsman who made his VFL debut aged 16, for the Collingwood Football Club in 1937. Fothergill was a small midfielder/half-forward who seemed too small at the start, at 172 cm and 73 kg, but his brilliance as a footballer was something that over-shadowed his liabilities. Fothergill made an impact straight away as he played brilliant football, winning a Copeland Trophy as Collingwood's best and fairest in his debut season, and kicking 56 goals being the club's leading goalkicker.
In 1938, Fothergill was once again a dominant member of the side, winning his second consecutive Copeland Trophy at the age of 18, and two years later, in 1940, Fothergill won win his third Copeland Trophy. Also in 1940, Fothergill and South Melbourne player Herbie Matthews tied for first place in Brownlow Medal voting as best and fairest in the VFL, with a then-record 32 votes; at the time, neither player won the Brownlow Medal itself, as their records could not be separated on countback and there was no provision for a shared medal, but both men were awarded Brownlow Medals in 1989 when the VFL decided to retrospectively eliminate the countback from the award.
In 1941, Fothergill went to Victorian Football Association (VFA) club Williamstown without receiving a clearance from the VFL, as many other high-profile League players had done during the VFA's throw-pass era. In his sole season with Williamstown, he won the Recorder Cup and VFA Medal as best and fairest in the VFA, polling a record 62 votes and winning by a huge margin of 29 votes. He had signed with Williamstown until the end of 1944, but when VFA competition was suspended from 1942 until 1944 due to World War II, his career at Williamstown came to an end. He joined the army in 1942, and was forced to move on after a knee injury when in Darwin, Northern Territory.
In 1945, Fothergill returned to the VFL - back at Collingwood, having never formally been cleared from the club. He dominated at half-forward for the club again, despite being slower and having injury problems. He kicked 62 goals in 45 games after the war, and he was the VFL's leading goalkicker in the 1946 home-and-home season, although he ultimately finished second for the League's Leading Goalkicker Medal after his total was passed in the finals by Essendon's Bill Brittingham. He was forced to retire in 1947 due to a leg injury. Fothergill was named in the Collingwood Team of the Century, and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2000. The award for the best young player in the modern Victorian Football League (which is the successor to the former VFA) is named the Fothergill-Round Medal in honour of Fothergill and Barry Round.
Fothergill was also an accomplished cricketer, playing cricket in the summer throughout his football career. He played 27 first-class cricket matches for Victoria, making 1404 runs at 39.00 with one century. He made his hundred against South Australia in 1947 and once made 99 against the Australian Services XI. He played district cricket for Northcote, appearing in 149 matches between 1935-36 and 1952-53 with strong all-round performances, averaging 41.05 with the bat and taking 122 wickets at 27.35 with the ball. After retiring from football, Fothergill moved to England and played for the Enfield Cricket Club in the Lancashire League in 1949 and 1950.