The lynchpin of the Melbourne Football Club's defence in the years preceding the First World War, was a tall, handsome six footer by the name of Arthur Pearce. Known as 'Joe' by his friends, teammates and lovers of the game, Pearce was a deeply religious man and a pillar of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, East Melbourne.
Joe Pearce was a product of 'Muscular Christianity' a Victorian era movement stressing energetic Christian activism and vigorous masculinity. Muscular Christianity promoted physical fitness and sports participation believing these activities not only improved the body but bestowed strong character and moral virtues. Pearce played 152 games for the Redlegs between 1904 and 1913 but always as an amateur, refusing all payment, even out of pocket expenses.
For people like Pearce the division between amatuer and professional sportsmen was not simply a matter of money - rather it represented a set of values which directed an individual's attitude to life. Being paid money to play sport debased it and bought into question the player's commitment to that sport. If a man could not be counted to do the 'right thing' in regards to a mere game would he be duty-bound when called upon to serve his King and Country?
When war was declared Pearce was one of the first to enlist. At a send-off held by the Melbourne Football Club Pearce told his fellows ... I have thought this thing over and I have considered it in every way. I am strong, healthy and athletic and I think I ought to go, and if i don't come back, well, it won't much matter.
Corporal Joe Pearce died on the 25 April 1915. He was shot before his landing boat even hit the beach at Gallipoli.