John Herbert Devine (SPC 1952-55, PY1957)

February 14, 2023

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of SPC Legend and AFL great John Herbert Devine (SPC 1952-55, PY1957) on 29 January 2023.

The SPC and AFL community are in mourning following the loss of the Geelong great and Tasmanian Hall of Famer, a fearless defender and a SPC First XVIII footballer, who has been described as an inspiration to an entire generation of budding AFL stars.
John passed away at the age of 82 years after struggling with dementia and Parkinson’s disease in recent years.

John with his family.

John is survived by his wife of 60 years, Marie and their children Donna, Mark, Anna, Todd, Aaron and Justin and families, including 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A Funeral service was held at St Mary’s Cathedral in Hobart on 4 February, 2023.
John’s sporting prowess was clearly evident during his time at SPC as a full-time boarder from Swan Marsh (via Colac), starting in first year through to intermediate.
John was involved in the junior football sides and was a notable member of the Under 15 XVIII Football Champions side in 1954 and again in the SPC First XVIII Football Champions team in 1955 (where he was regularly listed in the best throughout the year).
John was also part of the First XI Cricket BPS runners-up side and Second XI Co-Premiers.

His athleticism was also evident as a member of the SPC Athletics Team, where John excelled across various sports including running, hurdles, high jump and broad jump, scooping the SPC Athletics’ Under 16 Cup in his intermediate year.

John Devine, pictured in the First XVIII BPS Champions team photograph, in the 1955 College Annual.

Post SPC, John became most well known for his work as a coach of Geelong FC and a premiership player. The tough and fearless defender was also vice-captain of the Cats from 1961-66.  He debuted in 1960 and enjoyed a stunning season, coming runner-up in the Cats’ best and fairest.  Recruited from his hometown of Colac at the age of 20, John was given the nickname ‘Colac’ and went on to play 118 VFL/AFL games for Geelong.

He was a key part of the legendary 1963 premiership team and was runner-up in Geelong’s best and fairest in 1965.

John returned to Geelong in the 1980s, becoming a highly respected senior coach.

He as runner up in the club’s best-and-fairest twice (1960 and 1965), was non-playing coach from 1986-88 and was awarded life membership in 1993.

In 2002, John was inducted into the Geelong FC Hall of Fame.

He was later inducted as a SPC Legend in 2014 for his achievements and work with the footballing community.

In a statement, Geelong Football Club said “Devine will be remembered as a fearless player and a passionate Geelong man, loved by all of his teammates, and will be sadly missed”.

Former Geelong teammate John Sharrock said “in my time and watching the game since I haven’t seen a tougher player, some as tough maybe, but none tougher. But he was fair, just as he was in life”.

John has been remembered as a tough defender, a prolific high mark who was capable of playing any position on the ground, and whose teammates stood a little taller when he was on the ground.

After seven years at the Cats in the then-VFL, John moved to Tasmania and became captain-coach of North Hobart, taking the club from last to grand final glory.

John’s impact on Tasmanian Football was profound, with some arguing that he had a great impact than any other player in the modern era.  Former Adelaide coach Robert Shaw also paid tribute, describing John as “one of the great people and players that inspired a generation of kids growing up in the late 60s. Loved his state football”.

John had a profound impact on Tasmanian football during his tenure.

Under John’s leadership, North Hobart won three premierships – in 1967, 1969 and again in 1974.  John was elevated to Legend status in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame in 2014, after representing Tasmania as a player, captain or coach seven times. He is also captain of Tasmania’ interstate team, North Hobart’s Team of the Century and life member.  The North Hobart Football Club on John’s passing said, “JD arguably had the most profoundly positive influence on North Hobart as anyone in the club’s 150-year history and embodied the club’s famous ‘Never Say Die’ ethos”.

John was also a highly successful businessman in the Hospitality sector and also a Tasmanian Politician.  John was also elected to the Tasmanian parliament and increased his vote in three elections and served as the member for Denison during which time he was Deputy speaker and Chairman of Committees.  His integrity came to the fore when he retired early from Parliament before his term ended as he felt he was no longer making a difference, denying himself a very generous lifetime parliamentary pension.

At a funeral mass held at a full St Mary’s Cathedral in Hobart held on Saturday 4 February 2023, he was remembered as

  • An amazing mentor and supporter to so many in the community.
  • A leader and innovator in the hospitality industry in Tasmania
  • A loyal and compassionate friend to many
  • A devoted husband to his wife, Marie
  • An amazing Son, uncle, brother, dad and grand father

Thank you also to John’s family for their assistance in preparing this tribute. 

John, pictured in his intermediate class photograph in the 1955 College Annual.

John Devine, pictured in the Under 15 XVIII Football Champions side in 1954.

John’s sporting talents also extended to the Athletics Team during his time at SPC, this photograph published in the 1955 College Annual.

John Devine, pictured in his Second XI Cricket Co-Premiers team photograph, in the 1954 College Annual.

John was also part of the SPC Cadet unit, as pictured in the 1955 College Annual.