The Bounce of the Ball

contributed by Michael Hall

Leo Little arrived in Canberra in the winter of 1913 to take up a position with the Lands Branch of the Department of Home Affairs. He had studied law and was a promising footballer, playing 34 games in two seasons with the University Club in the Victorian Football League during 1912 and 1913 but, like other public servants in the budding capital, he was accommodated in a tent at the Bachelor’s Quarters in Acton.

Little proved to be a leading sportsman in his new home, winning Territory championships in athletics and tennis and becoming a foundation member of the Canberra Rifle Club. He was also secretary of the Canberra Patriotic Sports Carnival in 1914 and 1915 before enlisting in January 1916.

Commissioned as a Lieutenant a year later with the 37th Battalion (part of the 3rd Division), Little was wounded by gas and a gun shot wound to his arm during the Battle of Messines in June 1917, but he recovered in time to take part in the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1917. He was awarded the Miliary Cross for his actions that day in undertaking reconnaissance and organising approach routes, assembly points and carrying parties while under heavy shell fire. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to the Australian Flying Corps but he suffered a serious shoulder injury during a training accident in July 1918. He arrived back in Australia in December 1918 and his commission was terminated the following August.

Little returned to Victoria and attempted to resurrect his VFL career, this time with the Melbourne Football Club (which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2008), but he managed only 12 games during 1919-20 in part due to his war injuries. He then pursued a law career, going on to become Crown Prosecutor for Victoria in the 1940s. Despite his short football career, Leo Little remains a tangible link between Canberra and the Australian game’s oldest club.