The John / Jim Dowling Correction


April 2023, and a Facebook post pops up while doing my morning scroll.

The name jumps out, as too does the photo, with the post actually coming from the Australian Football site.

Dowling; a name that immediately makes me think of VFA football, the 1930’s, and the Preston and Brunswick Football Clubs.

And the photo?

I’ve seen it before.

It’s Jim Dowling, a former player of Brunswick, and brother of Frank ‘Dick / Dickie’ Dowling, who played for Preston through the 1930’s.

Both, from the bits I’d found, quite possibly considered legends of their respective clubs.

But there’s something that doesn’t seem quite right with this post.

Firstly, Jim is ‘John’.  While I hadn’t done a heap of research on him, with it more being about seeing mentions of him while mostly searching Preston players, I don’t remember ever seeing him called John.

Secondly, the post states he played League football, for both North Melbourne and Footscray.

Again, I don’t ever remember seeing that.

I now have a problem.

Have I missed something I should have been aware of?

Is the guy I ‘know’ as Jim, actually John?

Or are there actually three Dowlings?

As in Jim, Frank and John?

If Jim is John, then The VFA Project, of which I’ve spent a fair bit of time on, is rather wrong on ‘our’ Jim Dowling.

But if Jim and John are two separate people, then Wikipedia, along with sites like Australian Football, are wrong.

Which would, from my limited experience, be a huge surprise to me.

And my final problem?

Well, I just need to find out now.  Which I know will not be a quick and simple exercise.

So, here we go…..

The John Dowling, according to Wikipedia, is actually William John Dowling, who was born on 8 April, 1909, and died 10 January, 1967.

He was at North Melbourne from 1927 to 1931, playing 49 games, and then spent two years at Footscray, 1932 and 1933, playing 17 games.

Those 66 games in total, resulting in 108 goals, indicates he was a pretty handy footballer.

Wikipedia then states that he finished up with Footscray part way through the 1933 season, and was then, and this is why I now find myself here, apparently picked up by Brunswick in the VFA.

So, it begins.  And there’s really only one way to work this out, and that’s by going back to the start, and following both – or is it all three, Dowlings, on their footballing journeys.

With 1927 being the, supposedly, first year John was at North Melbourne, that’s where we’ll start.


And sure enough, it doesn’t take too long to see where he came from.


From the Sporting Globe, 6 April, 1927.


The Coburg reference is kind of interesting, being not too far from Brunswick, and it puts just a little doubt in my head that there are actually three Dowlings.

A second permit puts even more doubt in my mind, with his previous club now being stated as Brunswick juniors.


A bit of a look back in 1926, and sure enough, several mentions are found of a Dowling being at both Coburg Juniors, as well as the East Brunswick second eighteen.

The East Brunswick references were from June and July, while the Coburg mentions were from August and September.  Taking as gospel the two permits found, the assumption would be that John started 1926 at East Brunswick, before then moving across to Coburg for the second half of the season.

So, with W. J. ‘John’ Dowling now at North Melbourne, the next job was to find some of his games.  And that didn’t take too long, with him playing his first league game in Round 8 against Carlton, on Saturday 18 June.


Made an impression!


According to AFL Tables, John then went on to play Rounds 9, 10, 11 and 15, to round out the 1927 season, and a number of mentions were found on Trove to substantiate that claim.

While John was doing his thing at North Melbourne, there was a Dowling running around for Preston in the VJFA, which is Preston’s second eighteen.

Several mentions were found, including this one from 8 June.


Several weeks later, the Dowling from Preston was again mentioned in the below 31 August article, which would have been for a game played on 27 August.


While there’s no initial, as was the custom back then unfortunately, my suspicion, which is more belief than suspicion because of what was found in 1928, is that it’s Jim.

So, by the end of 1927, it looks like we definitely have two Dowlings, with both seemingly known by ‘first names’ beginning with the letter ‘J’.


Onto 1928, and AFL Tables has John Dowling playing for North Melbourne in Rounds 15, 16, 17 and 18, which spans 4 August to 1 September.  Trove articles found throughout August of that year, tend to confirm that.

Meanwhile, a J. Dowling, who is described as a ‘district junior’, is announced as a new player at Preston, on 16 April.


Preston’s J. Dowling appears to play his first senior game for Preston on 5 May, which The VFA Project also records.

He looks to have then played a further four games for Preston, including the Round 16 game against Northcote, on 4 August, 1928.


Over at North Melbourne, John Dowling also just happens to play on 4 August, in the Round 15 game against South Melbourne, which now confirms the belief of the existence of two Dowlings.



John Dowling was back at North Melbourne in early April, 1929, but by early May, he was actually training at Brunswick, awaiting a clearance.


The clearance was obviously not forthcoming, as by the end of the month he was selected in North Melbourne’s senior side, for the Round 6 game on 1 June, against Collingwood.


AFL Tables states that Dowling then played every game from then on, through to Round 18, to finish the season.

Judging by the number of mentions found on Trove, I have no reason to doubt that.

Back at Preston, a Dowling is listed in early April as being an old player, having returned to the club.  A few weeks later, on 27 April, he was called into the senior team due to a late withdrawal, in the Round 2 game against Coburg.  There’s no record on The VFA Project of Dowling being at Preston in 1929, and as such, he’s obviously not credited with this game.


The assumption is that it was likely a one off game, as on 16 May, a J. L. Dowling was granted a clearance from Preston, to play with Fairfield in the Sub-District league.


While not a lot of extra information was found, it is nice to at least have an extra initial.

There were several mentions of Dowling at Fairfield throughout the rest of the season, and while that was happening, there was also a Dowling running around back at Preston seconds.

They were both mentioned as having played for their respective clubs in a game on 29 June, and then again on 27 July, when they were both named in the best players.


Dowling at Fairfield.


Dowling at Preston seconds.

So, the wash up by the end of the 1929 season, is that we now have three Dowlings at three different clubs.  And while there are no initials for the Dowling at Preston seconds, the thinking at this stage is that it’s quite likely Frank.


1930 saw John Dowling back at North Melbourne, where it appears he played eleven games, and plenty of mentions were found on Trove throughout the year.

Including this excerpt from a 14 June 1930 article, under the title, ‘They Will Come Home to Roost’, says John Dowling.


A bit hard to read, but he certainly doesn’t seem to lack much in the way of confidence.

At Fairfield, our J. Dowling was once again on the move, with a clearance granted in April to go to Northcote.

Two mentions were found, one being J. Dowling, Fairfield to Northcote, while the other, slightly annoyingly, was J. B. Dowling, Preston to Northcote.

It will, in my mind, be the same person, with the ‘B’ likely a typo.


It looks like he played a couple of seconds games with Northcote, before being named as an emergency for the game on 10 May, 1930.

The following week, however, he played his first senior game, in a match against Yarraville.


Northcote debut!

This game is also confirmed on The VFA Project site, with it actually being his one and only game for Northcote, as he moves back to Fairfield before the month is out.

Several mentions of him playing at Fairfield were then found throughout the remainder of the 1930 season, including this one regarding a game played on 26 July.


While John was at North Melbourne, and J. / J. L. / J. B. was at Fairfield, there was also still a Dowling at Preston seconds.  There were several mentions found throughout the season, including this one from 13 June.  He is listed as R. Dowling, which was done more than once during his playing days, and as he seems to have been known more by his nickname of Dick, or Dickie, rather than Frank, my belief on the ‘R’ is that reporters assumed that Dick was short for Richard.


And, just to add to the confusion, while chasing Dowlings around three different football clubs, a fourth one began popping up.  This one was being mentioned as a player with the Railways team, which played in the Wednesday League.

No initial, of course, and so far, no ‘outside’ club mentioned.  It may be a fourth Dowling, and therefore no connection to this little exercise, but it could easily be one of the three I’m looking at.

Oh well, just another little challenge that may or may not be relevant.


John, J, or Frank / Dickie Dowling? Or someone else?


In 1931, John Dowling was back at North Melbourne, where he played the vast majority of the season, missing only the first two rounds.

At Preston pre-season training in late March, it was reported that Dowling, from last year’s seconds, was training with the senior side, along with Dowling from Fairfield.


The Preston connection, however, didn’t last long, as a few weeks later the J. Dowling from Fairfield received a clearance from Northcote to Brunswick.


Off to Brunswick.

According to The VFA Project, it was a good move, as he played every game of the season, and there were many mentions found of him throughout 1931.

Including one weekend; Saturday 23 May; where all three Dowlings were reported as having played for their respective clubs.

25 May, (game 23 May) Dowling NM playing –

23 May, Dowling playing for Preston –

22 May, Dowling selected for Brunswick –

The extra proof that there were three Dowlings was good, but the confirmation on 6 June of Brunswick’s Dowling’s first name, along with a photo, was far better.


Nice to have a first name!

It meant we now had John at North Melbourne, Jim at Brunswick, and ‘Dick’ at Preston.

And then the brother confirmation, two months later on 1 August, just helped that little bit more with the whole jigsaw puzzle.



1932 saw John Dowling on the move, but not just in football terms.  An article from 19 March mentioned that Jack, yes, just another ‘name’ to throw in the mix, had been transferred to Numurkah with the Railways.  This, however, also gave hope that the Dowling that had been found previously playing for the Railways, was in fact North Melbourne’s John.


Less than two months later, instead of returning to North Melbourne, a clearance to Carlton was granted.


North Melbourne days over.

No games could were found of him actually playing with Carlton, and then on 30 June, it was announced that he’d been cleared from Carlton seconds, to Footscray.


He made his Footscray debut, in the seconds, two days later on 2 July, before making his senior debut the following month, on 6 August.  With the interrupted start to his season, he managed just four senior games for 1932.

The hope that our Railways player was in fact John, seems to have been confirmed with the below article, following his move to Footscray.


Confirmation! Incidentally, Lowenthal would later play at Preston.

Over in the VFA, on 23 July, Preston hosted Brunswick, in a Round 14 game, with the Dowling brothers playing for their respective teams.  Fortunately, not only did the journalist at the time use initials to make reporting the game less confusing, but he also used the ‘correct’ initial of ‘F’, when it came to Preston’s Dowling.


Preston vs Brunswick, F. Dowling vs J. Dowling.


1933, and John Dowling was back at Footscray, playing Rounds 1 through to 8, and then 14 to 18, to finish off the season.  There were lots of mentions found, including this one when he was called as a witness in a tribunal hearing against Footscray’s vice captain, Stan Penberthy.

Despite Dowling’s evidence, along with a couple of spectators, two plain clothed police officers, and a Footscray trainer, Penberthy still received a rather substantial suspension of six matches.


The Railway football connection continued with a couple of mentions found, including this from 11 August, when he played for Railways in an Allied Services Charity League game against the Police, to raise funds for St Vincent’s Hospital.



Over in the VFA, Frank Dowling was back at Preston, and despite Preston asking Brunswick if it could interview his brother Jim, with the view of a transfer, Jim ended up back at Brunswick.

He would likely have been a handy pick up, as the season he had was good enough to see him finish eighth in the Association Best and Fairest medal.

Both Jim and Frank only missed a small handful of games during the season, and while Jim obviously had a good season, it appears Frank also went alright.


Could have been a handy pick up for Preston.


In 1934, John Dowling’s days at Footscray came to an end, when a clearance to Sandringham was granted in late April.


The VFA Project have John, although he is known as ‘Jack’, playing 15 games out of 18 during 1934, and there were many mentions found on Trove.

Including this one from Saturday 19 May, when Sandringham took on Brunswick at Sandringham, with both John and Jim kicking goals for their respective teams, as well as both being named in the best players.


While at Sandringham, there was still the occasional game for the Railways, with another charity match being played in August.


While the pre-season of 1934 saw Fitzroy showing an interest in both Frank and Jim, they both remained at their VFA clubs.

That interest also threw up yet another nickname into the mix, this time for Jim.



Jim ‘Snowy’ Dowling.

Like 1933, 1934 again saw the brothers only miss a small handful of games, with Jim playing every game, and Frank missing just three.

Unfortunately, Jim’s games tally of 1934 is credited to W. J. ‘John’ Dowling, on The VFA Project, so assuming that that year’s tally is correct, there should be another 18 games to be credited to Jim.

A lot of mentions of Jim were found on Trove throughout the season, including this article which states that Jim won the Association Medal for being the best and fairest.


As well as the Association medal, it was reported that he had also won The Recorder Cup, which again, is a best and fairest award.  However due to a voting issue, Jim had not actually won the award, and instead, it was announced that Danny Warr of Preston, was the actual winner. (second link)


What turned out to be a rather premature, and awkward, announcement.


Having only missed three games in 1934, there were lots of mentions of Frank throughout the year, including this write up from Wednesday 6 June, which just happened to offer up a date of birth, with the article implying it was 7 June, 1912.


As an aside, a Francis John Dowling had previously been found on the National Archives Australia website, having served during World War 2, which included a Preston address, as well as a date of birth.  Actually, two dates of birth, with the officially recorded one being 6-6-1911, but also with scans attached of a couple of forms filled out with 7-6-1911.

Unfortunately the newspaper article doesn’t quite correlate with the date of birth for Francis Dowling on the National Archives Australia site, but it is suspiciously close to it.

And with other ages stated at different times throughout the 1930s while searching, seeming to favour the 1911 date, I’m more inclined to believe the NAA site and its official documents, than a date written by a journalist, writing at a time when typos were more common than not.

So, for the time being, I’m happy with the belief that the Francis Dowling on the NAA website is our Frank Dowling.


Prior to the 1935 season, John Dowling applied for a clearance from Sandringham to Hawthorn, which Sandringham refused.


With the clearance denied, he then played in the Round 1 game against Brighton on 20 April, which was Easter Saturday.  Interestingly, the VFA scheduled Round 2 for Easter Monday, just two days later, and John, along with most of his team mates, did it all again.

Unfortunately, The VFA Project has John missing that Round 2 game.

He then went on to play Rounds 3, 5 and 6, and was actually named in the best players in that Round 6 game on 18 May, while also having kicked four goals.


Sadly, it was to be his final game for Sandringham, as it was subsequently reported in the days following that he was injured in that game, with mentions of torn ligaments, and him having his arm in a sling.

By mid to late June an article stated that he had recovered sufficiently, but he was never again selected to play for Sandringham.

There were also no mentions of John playing with the Railways football team either, so the assumption would be that the injury was perhaps more significant than it first appeared.

Jim also returned to Brunswick in 1935, and it appears he once again played every game of the season.  And like 1934, he again managed to take out the Association medal for the best and fairest, this time in a tie with Fred Brooks, of Williamstown.



Frank was also back at Preston in 1935, and played the first eleven games of the season.  But following the Round 11 game on 22 June, it was reported that he had contracted influenza, and would miss a few games.  By the end of July, however, it was announced that he would be standing down for the remainder of the season.



There were no mentions found of John Dowling at Sandringham in 1936, nor any associated with the Railways team.  And with no clearance found, it can only be assumed he had given football away, which at the age of 27, is still pretty young.

Jim Dowling was back at Brunswick, and once again, appears to have played every game of the season, including two finals.  Brunswick actually finished top that year, having lost just two games, but unfortunately were knocked out after losing both finals games.

At Preston, Frank once again returned, playing in a practice match in late March, before then playing in the Round 1 game against Northcote on Easter Monday, 13 April.  A game that also happened to be his 100th for Preston.

However, just a few days later on 17 April, it was announced that he would be retiring from football due to health and medical reasons.


The 100 game milestone!



But the following season, in 1937, Frank Dowling returned to Preston after his year off, and despite missing Round 1 with influenza, it appears he played the majority of the season.

Unfortunately, at present, those games, as well as that solitary 1936 game, aren’t allocated to Frank on The VFA Project site, as Richard ‘Dick’ Dowling is listed as playing.  The confusion is understandable, considering the journalistic tendencies back then with the use of nicknames, along with those proof reading shortcomings.

Anyway, it appears Frank played 13 games in 1937.

Jim also returned to Brunswick, and played all but one game in the first half of the season.  However, after the Round 8 game against Camberwell on 5 June, he retired, having played 116 games with the club.


The retirement, however, didn’t last long, and he was enticed back for the Round 13 game against Northcote, on 10 July.


It was a good call to return to the team, with Brunswick again finishing the season top, and then actually making the Grand Final.  Unfortunately, the fairy tale wasn’t to be, with them going down to Prahran by two points, after having led at every change, and as well as having three more scoring shots.

In regards to W. J. ‘John’ Dowling, sadly, but maybe more frustratingly, there was nothing football related found of him throughout 1937.


Both Jim and Frank were back at their respective clubs in 1938, and many mentions were found on Trove throughout the season.  Which is perhaps not surprising, seeing as it appears both managed to play every game, with Jim also adding a couple of finals matches.

While Preston finished mid table with eight wins and eight losses, Frank, from a personal view point, had a very good year, finishing second in both the Recorder Cup and the VFA Medal.


Jim went alright too, finishing with two votes, while that guy A. Roach (Preston) with one vote, is my Grandfather, Alf!


Back to ‘R’. Dowling, even though it’s from the same paper – The Argus – as above, and just one day later.


Different paper, – The Herald – now Dicky. Probably could have cropped out the Alf Roach bit, but…..

While Jim, on a personal level, obviously also had a pretty good year, Brunswick had an even better one, losing just one game during the season, and again finishing on top of the ladder, three and a half games clear.

Interestingly, their only loss came in the second last round of the year, against Yarraville, who ultimately finished second bottom with just five wins.

At half time, Brunswick were up by 15 points, 9.7.61 to 6.10.46, but Yarraville then went and kicked a remarkable 10 goals 4, to Brunswick’s 2 goals 2, to lead by 35 points at three quarter time.

The last quarter was far more even, but the damage had been done, with Yarraville winning by 38 points, 20.16.136 to 14.14.98.


Big turn around, and big upset!

Having won 14 straight since the previous year’s Grand Final loss, the loss may have been a bit of a wake up call, as they defeated Camberwell, who was in fifth place on the ladder, by 6 goals in the final round.

Two weeks later they then defeated Brighton in the semi final by 42 points, and then two weeks after that met Brighton again in the Grand Final, winning by 33 points, to take out their third premiership.

Fortunately, a successful year meant there were no shortage of articles and photos, which always makes life easier when looking for such things.


Highly regarded!


Training in the lead up to the Grand Final.


C. Boyd, who is Colin Boyd, another 100 game player with Brunswick, would later play with Preston.

In good news for W. J. ‘John’ Dowling, it appears he did manage a football game or two in 1938, with a mention of him playing for Spotswood in the Railways League.



Jim Dowling was back at Brunswick in 1939, but after the Round 3 game against Northcote on 29 April, and a very complimentary write up in The Argus, it was reported that he’d requested a clearance to Preston, which Brunswick ultimately rejected.

Remaining at Brunswick, he played out the rest of the season, missing just three games in late May and early June with concussion, which seems rather significant, considering all the relatively recent talk around concussion these days.



A few weeks after he did return, on 22 July, Jim played his 150th game in the Round 14 game against Northcote.  No announcement of this milestone could be found in the lead up, nor on the day, and it was only really made known the following week, when it was reported that he would play his 151st game, on 29 July, against Prahran.


Interestingly, the week Jim did play his 150th, a trophy known as the J. J. Dowling trophy, was awarded to Brunswick’s best player of the day.

The assumption would be that it’s an award named after Jim, but the initials of J. J. don’t align with the initials found far earlier in clearance announcements.


Named after Jim?

Brunswick finished the season in second place, equal on points with top side Prahran, and only two percentage points behind.  Third and fourth; Northcote and Williamstown; were both one game back, with just 1.3 percent separating them.

With such a tight and even top four, the expectation would probably have been for a close finals series, and if the scores are anything to go by, it certainly lived up to those expectations.

On 16 September, Williamstown defeated Northcote in the first semi final by 6 points, and the following week Brunswick defeated Prahran by just 4 points.

In the preliminary final on 30 September, Williamstown then took on Prahran, booking themselves a Grand Final spot with 7 point win.

The Grand Final, between Brunswick and Williamstown, was played on 7 October at the MCG, in front of 47,000 people.

At half time Brunswick were up by 22 points, but an 8 goal to 3 third quarter saw Williamstown up by 10 points at the last change.

The final quarter was much closer, with Williamstown eventually running out winners by 9 points.

So yes, a tight finals series indeed, with the four games being decided by a total of just 26 points.

Over at Preston, Frank was once again back, playing all but one game throughout the season, including the Round 16 game on 5 August, against Brunswick and his brother.

The clash was obviously worthy of a small write up, and it was nice to see the reporter, almost, get Frank’s name completely correct.


On 9 September, and with them unable to make finals, Preston took on Sandringham at Sandringham, in the last game of the year.  With just one point separating the two teams at half time, and then with scores level at three quarter time, Preston were eventually able to come away with a 10 point win.

A nice way to finish the season, and an even better way to help celebrate Frank’s 150th game.


Great achievement!

And when it came to football mentions, or any other mention for that matter, nothing was found in relation to W. J. ‘John’ Dowling.


In 1940, Jim returned to Brunswick, playing the vast majority of the season, but missing the final three games due to a leg injury.

Over at Preston, Frank also returned, and like his brother, played the majority of the season, missing just one game.

Preston had a pretty good year, finishing fourth, a game clear of Brunswick in fifth spot, but unfortunately went down to Prahran by two goals in a semi final, with Prahran then defeating top placed Williamstown in the Preliminary final.

Port Melbourne then brought Prahran’s winning streak to and end, with a 47 point win in the Grand Final.


Round 7, 1 June 1940, the only time Preston played Brunswick that season, and the last time that Jim and Frank would play against each other.


And like 1939, there was nothing found in relation to W. J. ‘John’ Dowling.


In 1941, Jim Dowling again requested a clearance to Preston, which Brunswick duly refused, just as they had done two years earlier.

Jim then remained at Brunswick, and played the first seven games of the season.


Following the Round 7 game on 24 May against Camberwell, Jim announced his retirement from football, due to health reasons.


The VFA Project has Jim having played a total of 176 Association games, with 170 of them at Brunswick.

Going off the 1939 report of when he was about to play his 151st game, and assuming The VFA Project is accurate in his games following that date, my calculation is 182 games with Brunswick.

The Argus, from 28 May, while not quite getting his brother’s name correct, also agrees, so I’m more than happy to run with, a rather significant, Brunswick game tally of 182.


At Preston, Frank was announced as captain coach, after Alby Morrison, who had been captain coach the previous two years, returned to Footscray.

Frank missed just one game for the year, and helped lead Preston to a second final’s appearance in two years.  Unfortunately, the result was a repeat of 1940, with Preston eliminated in a semi final, this time against Coburg.



When it comes to a games tally for Frank, The VFA Project due to the Frank / Richard confusion, has a total of 160 games.  Going off the above article, with the 173rd game being played on 31 May, and once again assuming the remaining games are accurate, Frank finished with 185 games for Preston.

Again, like Jim, it’s a significant total, as well as also quite remarkable, when you consider two brothers played almost 370 games of football between them, with just two football clubs.

While there’s perhaps some disappointment that Frank and Jim never had the opportunity to play together towards the end of their careers, it’s probably more fitting that they ended up, for the most part, being ‘one club’ players.

And as far as W. J. ‘John’ Dowling goes, there were no more mentions found, with the assumption being that at the age of 32 during the 1941 season, and with the war having started, he’d probably given it all away.

So, after an absolutely ridiculous amount of time spent chasing Dowlings around, mainly, but not exclusively, on Trove, what do we have?

Or, what do I believe we have?

Well, we have three Dowlings.

William John Dowling, known as John, who was born 8 April, 1909, and died 10 January, 1967.

Jim, or Jimmy Dowling, who unfortunately, I have no date of birth, no date of death, and no full name for.

He is likely to be J. L. Dowling, with his likely birth year, going off various Trove mentions, being 1910.

He is also the brother of Frank.

And finally, we have Frank, otherwise known as Dick, or Dickie.

From the National Archives Australia site, I believe he is Francis John Dowling, with his date of birth likely to be 6 June, 1911.

He served in the Army from January 1942 until October 1945, with his age, height, and hair colour at time of enlistment, matching reasonably closely with that which was found on Trove searches.

He married Elva on 12 November, 1939, and they lived on St Georges Road in Preston, a short walk from the Preston City Oval.

A death notice found on the Ryerson Index, for a Francis John ‘Dick’ Dowling, gives a date of death as 9 April, 1991, at the Repatriation Hospital in Heidelberg, which would match with his war service.

All of those things, while not completely confirmed, leads me to think that this is the Frank ‘Dick / Dickie’ Dowling who played for Preston.

So, what’s the timeline on all three of the Dowlings?

Well, let’s start with the one that I’d not heard of.  The one with the write up that both surprised and confused me.

W. J. Dowling, from now on known as John, began his VFL career with North Melbourne in 1927. Prior to North Melbourne it appears that he started the 1926 season at East Brunswick, before moving to Coburg Juniors, who may have been known as Coburg Rovers, from where he was recruited at the beginning of 1927.

He then spent five seasons at North Melbourne, playing 49 games for 79 goals, before being cleared to Carlton seconds for the 1932 season.

No senior games were played with Carlton, and by the end of June 1932, he was cleared to Footscray.  He then played 17 games across the remainder of 1932, as well as the 1933 season, kicking 29 goals.

John was then cleared to Sandringham in the VFA at the start of the 1934 season, and despite requesting a clearance to Hawthorn at the beginning of 1935, returned to Sandringham for the start of the 1935 season.

Unfortunately, it appears he received a rather significant injury in the Round 6 game against Coburg, and did not play another game for Sandringham, or any other VFA or VFL club.

He did however, as he had done during his VFL / VFA career, play at least a couple of games in the Railways League, following his time at Sandringham, which is where it appears his footballing journey came to an end.

The lack of initials used back then made following Jim and Frank Dowling a little difficult, but my belief is this:

Jim Dowling was playing at Preston seconds in 1927, before being promoted to the senior side the following year, playing what appears to be five games.

He was back at Preston in 1929, playing the Round 2 game against Coburg, before being cleared to Fairfield in May, where he remained for the rest of the season.

In June 1929, there were reports of a Dowling playing at Preston seconds, and with a Dowling listed in both the Fairfield team, as well as the Preston seconds team, on the same weekend, the assumption is that the Preston second’s Dowling, is Frank.

The following year, in April, Jim was cleared to Northcote, playing a senior game in Round 4 on 17 May, against Yarraville.

It would be his only senior game at Northcote, and he was back at Fairfield by the end of the month, where he played the remainder of the season.

In 1931, Jim was cleared to Brunswick, where he played for eleven years, eventually retiring part way through the 1941 season, with what looks to be 182 Brunswick games to his name.

Frank Dowling, as mentioned, appears to have arrived at Preston seconds in 1929, before then returning the following year.

It was in 1930 that he started to become known as ‘R’. Dowling, when journalists made the assumption that his nickname of Dick, or Dickie, was short for Richard.

In 1931, Frank made his senior debut at Preston, seemingly playing every game.  He then went on to replicate his brother’s career, by playing every season until the end of 1941, amassing some 185 games.

He could well, and may well, have played on the following year, had the VFA not gone into recess for three years, due to World War 2.

So, with thanks to a Facebook post that left me scratching my head, I now know a lot more about these three Dowlings.

I would have eventually gotten to Frank, due to the Preston connection, and while I likely would have had a bit of a look at Jim, I doubt I would have followed him the whole way through.

And when it came to John, well, without that chance reading of the Facebook post, it’s highly unlikely I would have learnt anything about his journey.

I still don’t have everything I want; yes, I can be rather greedy and stubborn when it comes to certain information on this football research thing; but I have far more than I probably thought I would.

I’m pretty confident about what I have on Frank, with dates of birth and death, as well as his full name, but with Jim though, I’m left a little disappointed.  I think he’s J. L. Dowling, but would love to not only know for sure, but also to have his full name.

I would also dearly love to find his date of birth, and then to close it off, a date that he passed away.

With John, well, that all seems to have previously been done.

Although it would be nice to know a little more about how he finished up with football, seeing as he just sort of disappeared.

I don’t expect to get lucky there, however.

So, I suppose, the last thing to do is the photos, which will finally reveal the real John.

While that will kind of remove Jim, at least now he gets the recognition he deserves.

And I guess, as too his brother, Frank.  Or Dick.

W. J. ‘John’ Dowling –

First 1928 team photo

Second 1928 team photo

1929 team photo

1930 group photo


1928 North Melbourne – W. J. Dowling (named as J. Dowling), front row, second from right.


1929 North Melbourne – W. J. Dowling (named as G. Dowling for some reason), front, far right.


1929 North Melbourne – W. J. Dowling (named as J. W. Dowling, again, for some reason), front, far left.


June 1930, W. J. Dowling (named as J. Dowling), centre.

Jim Dowling –


The photo of Jim Dowling shown on the FB post about John Dowling.

It’s a W.D. and H.O. Wills cigarette trade card from 1933, and can be found on the Australian Sports Museum site.


Brunswick team photo from State Library Victoria. Circa mid to late 1930s, with Jim Dowling, second front row, third from left.


Brunswick Team Photo from State Library Victoria, likely a little earlier than the above photo, with Jim Dowling, middle row, first player on the left.

Frank ‘Dick’ / ‘Dickie’ Dowling –

When it comes to Frank, well, apart from the photos found on Trove above, he is in every Preston team photo I’ve managed to come across, while he was at Preston between 1931 and 1941.

A couple of those will suffice for identification purposes.

1933 Preston team photo_Brian Membrey(copy)

1933 Preston Team Photo, Frank Dowling, front row, third from left (with mascot in front of him).

1939 Preston blog photo (boyles) copy

1939 Preston Team Photo, Frank Dowling, front row, third from right.

And Alf Roach, my Grandfather, back row, third from left.



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