Debut : Round 2, 1942 vs South Melbourne, aged 23 years, 40 days
Carlton Player No. 566
Games : 29
Goals : 0
Last Game : Semi Final, 1943 vs Fitzroy, aged 24 years, 151 days
Guernsey No. 12
Height : 183 cm (6 ft. 0 in.)
Weight : 80.5 kg (12 stone, 9 lbs.)
DOB : 6 April, 1919
Best and Fairest : 1943
At the height of World War II in October 1941, the Geelong Football Club announced that it was going into recession, due to manpower shortages and the annexation of Corio Oval by the army. The Cats allowed their players an open clearance to the club of their choice, until such time as Geelong returned to VFL competition. One of four Cats who decided to transfer to Princes Park was George ‘Fibby’ Gniel; an uncompromising, aggressive full-back born in Ouyen, whom Geelong considered a star in the making. In 29 matches for the Blues over the next two seasons, Gniel proved that assessment was spot-on. Tough, durable, with good hands and a powerful kick from the goal square, Gniel won genuine respect from everyone at Carlton with his whole-hearted commitment to his surrogate club, and was sadly missed when he was called back to Sleepy Hollow when Geelong returned to the competition in 1944.
Gniel’s last game for the Blues was the 1943 Semi Final against Fitzroy at Princes Park. Despite playing at home, Carlton went down by 51 points. George’s opponent, Jack Grant, kicked five goals, although Gniel was still adjudged the Blues’ best player. Incidentally, Grant had been a team-mate of Gniel’s at Geelong, and won the 1938 Stawell Gift. His pace on the lead was his party trick, but George was the master one on one.
'Fibby' Gniel signed off at Princes Park as the deserved winner of Carlton’s Best and Fairest Award in 1943, and was farewelled with genuine regret. Back in Geelong’s goal square the following season, he resumed a career that eventually stretched to 114 matches for the Cats. He was honoured with the captaincy of Geelong in 1947, and one can’t help but wonder if there were any regrets at Carlton’s Premiership triumph that year.
The Launceston Examiner October 07 1949 (p11), wrote about George and his career.
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