DOB: 28 June 1924
Died: 17 October 1990
From: Melbourne Grammar/University Blacks
Premiership Player - 1948, 1955, 1956
Grand Final team - 1954
Captain - 1951 - 1953
Best and Fairest - 1950, 1954
Victorian state player - 1949, 1951, 1952, 1955
Team of the Century - Ruckman
MFC Hall of Fame - 2001
Life Member - 1955
150 Heroes selection
Statistical categories led
Most games in jumper 1
George Dennis Pruen Cordner, the brother of Don, John and Ted, began his career in 1943. He had been persuaded to try out with the reserves while on leave from the Navy and impressed enough to earn a senior game. He was dropped cynically by Jack Dyer just before the first bounce, and Captain Blood later apologised, saying he thought he was hitting older brother Don.
Cordner played a creditable debut but it was his last weekend of leave so he returned to the Navy, and a career with University Blacks. After three Section A flags in a row with Cordner as Ruckman, Melbourne recalled Cordner drawn 1948 Grand Final after five years in the wilderness, shortly after he'd won the VAFA A-Grade best and fairest award. Two weeks earlier he'd refused an invitation to train with the team, but with Alan McGowan suspended secretary Alex Gray made a final appeal to Cordner to fill the vacancy and he agreed.
Cordner had played a game with the seconds in 1945 while on leave, but it was as captain/coach of the Blacks that he had made his name. In fact he had won his third premiership with them just a week before the Grand Final.
He played at centre-half back that day, a position alien to him, and watched Essendon boot themselves out of the match with 7.27 for the day. He was prominent in the replay a week later earned a premiership in his third game. Amazingly it wasn't the fastest rise to a flag in family history, Don had done it in two games in 1941.
A permanent member of the side in 1949, Denis became known as one of the best wet weather ruckmen in the competition while also playing cameo roles in the backline. That year he was runner-up to Len Dockett in the Best and Fairest. In 1949 a Brownlow Medal vote was received that failed to distinguish between Denis and Donald Cordner, so neither player got the votes.
Appointed captain in 1951, he earned 14 Brownlow Medal votes and finished equal fifth despite playing in just one victory for the seasons. The Demons were lucky to have his services that year, he'd been offered a position in a post-graduate engineering course at Cambridge University but turned it down. The next year, in an improved side, he finished in the top ten again.
1953 saw the side crash back to 11th on the ladder, but Cordner still managed nine votes in the medal and played 18 games.
Handing over the captaincy to the returning RAAF hero Geoff Collins in 1954, Cordner was one of the major reasons that the side bounced back from the bottom of the ladder all the way to a Grand Final. Despite a six weeks where he was in Adelaide for work and had to travel back on Saturdays to play without training alongside his teammates, Cordner won his second Best and Fairest.
There were suggestions that his work schedule would force him to retire at the end of that year, but he stayed and played in the Grand Final triumph over Collingwood.
Cordner was elected as Centre Half Back in the 1952 Sporting Life "Team of the Year", and Ruck/Rover in the 1955.
The pressure of running a business and trying to play a league career eventually caused Cordner to retire after the 1956 Grand Final. He had missed just one match with injury in his nine year career. He had played his entire glorious career as an amateur and that year captained a combined VFA/VFL Amateur team against the VAFA in an exhibition match for the Melbourne Olympics. He was also elected to the MCC committee that season.
After several years living in New Zealand and England Cordner returned to Melbourne in the early 80's. He retired from his business committments in 1982, and was appointed Australian Consul-General in New York.
Cordner later became chairman of John Holland Construction and Australian Motor Industries as well as a director of BP and Plessey Pacific.