The Great Johnny Leonard Story
Prior to Leonard’s arrival at Claremont Oval in 1938 the Monts had failed to secure a single flag. During his first three seasons there they were indefatigable, managing an overall success rate of 72.6%, and winning every premiership on offer. Admittedly, Claremont had reached the 1936 and 1937 Grand Finals under Leonard’s predecessor Dick Lawn, but there can be little doubt that Leonard’s arrival constituted that final, elusive ingredient necessary to catapult the team across the often insurmountable divide between being a promising challenger and a fully fledged, bona fide champion. In doing so – much as Tom Hafey did at Richmond, or Haydn Bunton junior at Swan Districts, or Fos Williams at Port Adelaide – Leonard effectively heralded a new era for the club, in the process imbuing it with aspects of his own essential character.
John Leonard’s career as a league football coach was comparatively brief – fewer than 200 games spread over just nine seasons – but his strike rate of better than a premiership every other year was outstanding. Moreover, the fact that three of those premierships were attained with a club which had never previously enjoyed such eminent status makes his achievements all the more meritorious, and makes John Leonard arguably Australian football’s ‘greatest Pommy’.