One of the greatest players to ever play for Essendon – Coleman burst onto the football scene in 1949. Fans were amazed to see him soar high over packs for spectacular marks, and they flocked to Essendon to see their idol in action. He was an overnight football sensation and one of the greatest goal kickers seen in Australian football.
In his first game in 1949, at the age of 20, he stunned the football world, kicking 12 goals against Hawthorn, to equal Ted Freyer’s opening round record set in 1935. He went from success to success and became the first player to kick 100 goals in his first season. He broke Essendon’s goal kicking record of 70 goals held by Tom Reynolds in 1939.
Coleman also won Essendon’s best and fairest award in 1949 and was selected in the state side in his first year. He was the leading VFL goal kicker again in 1950 with 120 goals and his four goals in the 1949 grand final spearheaded the premiership win. Essendon won the premiership again in 1950.
Coleman topped the VFL goal kickers list again in 1952 with 103 goals and in 1953 with 97 goals – his record was remarkable. He played for Victoria in 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1953 and wore the All-Australian blazer in 1953. Coleman not only won the Dons best and fairest award in 1949 but was also runner-up in 1952. He was vice captain of the team in 1953 and 1954.
Coleman was kept goal-less in only one game – in 1952. In his second last game in 1954, he booted 14 goals against Fitzroy – the most goals ever kicked by an Essendon player in a single game. He also kicked 13 goals in a game twice in 1952 against Geelong and Hawthorn, 12 goals in a game in 1949 (on debut against Hawthorn), and 11 goals in a game in 1953. He kicked 10 goals in a game on six occasions, nine goals in a game three times and eight goals in a game five times.
With his career ending prematurely due to a knee injury against North Melbourne, he played 98 games for Essendon from 1949 to 1954 and kicked 537 goals. He retired in 1954 and coached the club from 1961 to 1967, winning premierships in 1962 and 1965.
He was a sensational marker, quick, courageous, and a great team player. His influence was so profound, he was one of the 12 original legends in the AFL Hall of Fame, and was named full forward in the AFL Team of the Century ahead of Gordon Coventry (306 games, 1299 goals). The Coleman medal was struck in his name and is awarded to the AFL player who kicks the most goals in a home and away season, it was first awarded to Michael Roach of Richmond in 1981.