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Vale Denis Parham

Vale Denis Parham

6 May 2022


The South Adelaide Football Club is saddened to learn of the passing of former South Adelaide player and coach Denis Parham.


Former club historian John Althorp spoke of Denis Parham’s life-


Talking with Denis in January 2005, I learnt that he had been born in Gawler in 1929; he became involved with Gawler Central Football Club and grade tennis at an early age, where he met and became friends with the late Ken McGregor and Don Candy while playing in a tournament at Memorial Drive in 1947.  Ken and Denis played with West Adelaide Colts that year, at the time Jack Broadstock was planning to take over as Chairman in 1948. However, after his father had spoken with Bruce (Ken’s father), it was decided it would be best if he returned to Gawler Central until all the ‘kerfuffle’ at West Adelaide had settled down.

At this time Denis had just joined the State Savings Bank and after three years working in Gawler he gladly accepted a transfer to the city where he was free to play with the club of his choice which was fortunately South Adelaide. He and Des Panizza always got to training early and Des, who loved training, was a great help in developing Denis’ left side disposal and endurance.

After a distinguished league career and being made a Life Member of SAFC in 1961, Denis decided to try his hand at private enterprise joining his mate Ken McGregor to help him establish a new McGregor & Clements sports store in Port Lincoln. In doing so he signed to continue his playing career with local team Tasman.

His first game in the centre for Tasman was a disaster.  He did not get a free kick all day even after having his jumper ripped off. Locals were abusive to him and his family telling them to “get back to Adelaide”. The umpire was to later call at the club to apologise for what he had done, admitting that he had been caught up in the mood of the crowd.

Although his wife Barbara was heartbroken, they stuck it out for the season before moving back to Adelaide at the end of the 1962 season to become a full partner in the well established McGregor & Clements Sports store on the T&G corner in Adelaide.

Denis had always held the belief that most coaches he had encountered over the years had no real feeling or enthusiasm for the job, and on being appointed South Adelaide Seconds coach in 1963 he was determined to demonstrate his strong passion and enthusiasm for the game, making fitness a priority. He used stress training methods, running his players up and down Montefiore Hill or the Adelaide Oval grand stand steps to develop endurance.

In addition to getting his side into the Grand Final in his first season as coach and providing Neil Kerley with strong back up support during his three years as League coach (including the 1964 premiership), one of his major coaching accomplishments was in the development of Brian Roberts, one of only three players to represent SA, Victoria and WA at State level.

Brian was despondent as a raw recruit in 1964, unable to mark or kick, let alone tap the ball to his rovers. Denis worked closely with Brian using soccer balls to sharpen his skills, coaxing and coaching him to use his height to his and the team’s advantage. After only 14 seconds games in 1964 and 1965 he was eventually selected in the seniors, never to be seen at reserves level again.

These days Denis, who is a member at Riverside, still enjoys a round of golf and a few years ago while helping his son in law Mike Springel, the Kooyoonga pro, he actually beat his own age. Throughout his sporting and business career Denis has always enjoyed the love and total support of Barbara, his wife of 54 years and children Craig, Greg and Helen who have provided them with 10 delightful grandchildren to cherish in their retirement.


Denis Parham

  • Recruited from Gawler
  • Played for SAFC 1952 – 1961
  • 149 league games, 68 goals
  • A real utility player, as defender, full forward, ruck rover
  • Respected for his tenacity, courage and physical fitness
  • Life member of SAFC 1961
  • Coached SAFC seconds 1963 (runners up in grand final), 1964-65-66
  • Took over as coach of league side for remainder of 1963 from Bill Sutherland
  • A popular coach with the players, keen and enthusiastic, and particularly patient with younger players
  • Coach of state Second Eighteen Side in 1964


About the Author:South Adelaide Football Club

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