“Our coach Frank Dixon convinced us we could beat Victoria”
South Sydney Rabbitoh, South Sydney premiership captain-coach, NSW player, captain and coach, Rat of Tobruk, Senior-Vice President NSW ANFL, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney
Frank Dixon did it all in a remarkable career in sporting and civic life stretching from the late 1920s until he stepped down as Deputy Lord Mayor in 1962, declining the opportunity to succeed Harry Jensen as Lord Mayor of Sydney.
“He was a charismatic leader. A great motivator. We respected him enormously” Jack Dean told me in an interview in 2008. “We trained for weeks in advance of the game with the aim of beating Victoria”.
NSW lost that game after a tight first half with the VFL only seventeen points up at half-time but with stars Bob Davis, Bobby Rose, Les Foote and 1946 Brownlow medalist Don Cordner firing the Vics ran away to record a resounding 68 point win.
Frank Dixon was born in Waterloo and grew up in the South Sydney district which was to remain central to his life in football and politics. He initially played footy for the Daceyville Junior Waratahs club and won the competition best and fairest in 1926.
However, like so many young men in the Souths district, Frank Dixon wanted to play rugby league for the Rabbitohs making the first grade team for regular games in 1928 and 1929.
In 1930 he returned to football and thus began his long and rewarding association with the South Sydney Australian National Football Club as a player, captain, and coach in the club’s most successful era.
Frank took on the role of captain-coach in 1934 and led Souths to its first premiership since 1914. The pen pic of Frank Dixon in the Football Record for the 1935 grand final read:
“Frank Dixon is an inspiring captain and has the whole-hearted confidence of his team-mates. He has outstanding knowledge of the game and should be able to keep command of the game in the position of follower and half forward”.
He was to lead Souths to another premiership in 1935 and to runner-up in 1936 and 1937.
Frank Dixon captained NSW for the first time in 1935 when he led the Sky Blues against the Victorian Amateur representative team at the SCG. As skipper he led NSW to home-and-away victories over fierce rivals Queensland later that season.
He became captain-coach of the State team the following season and led NSW at the national amateur carnival in Adelaide where the Sky Blues beat South Australia and Tasmania.
The profile in the match day program for the carnival said of the NSW captain-coach:
“….possesses football personality on and off the field, and has the ability to bring the best from his men.”
Frank enlisted in the AIF in May 1940. He served in the 9th Division of the AIF in the western desert and New Guinea until 1945. After surviving the Siege at Tobruk he was badly wounded at El Alamein and was evacuated to Australia but recovered to serve in the Pacific theatre.
After the war Frank settled back into civilian life and resumed work for the Sydney City Council. But the call to re-join football was strong and he was invited to join the state ruling body, the NSW ANFL, as senior vice president in 1947 as well as coach and selector of the NSW State team.
He took charge of the State team for the 1947 ANFC Carnival in Hobart as well as the 1950 carnival in Brisbane.
He finished his tenure as coach at the end of the 1952 season. Altogether as a player and coach he was involved in twenty-seven representative fixtures for NSW.
After finishing with football, Frank Dixon turned his attention to local government. A long time ALP member and party official he was elected to the Sydney City Council as an alderman in 1956 and served as Deputy Lord Mayor in 1960-61.
The Sydney City Council named the grandstand at Trumper Park in his honour.