AFL world in mourning over devastating double tragedy for Collingwood

Billy Picken, pictured here in action for Collingwood.
The AFL world is mourning the deaths of Collingwood greats Billy Picken (far left and right) and Con Britt (not pictured). Images: Twitter

The AFL world is mourning the tragic deaths of Collingwood greats Billy Picken and Con Britt in a devastating 24 hours for the club.

Picken, part of Collingwood's team of the century, died on Saturday aged 66.

The Magpies great played 212 matches for the club after debuting in 1974 and was a two-time EW Copeland Trophy winner and All-Australian in 1983.

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Renowned for his high-marking, the defender's career spanned 11 seasons.

News of Picken's death was doubly sad for the Magpies, with the AFL club also mourning the death of another ex-player in Britt.

Recruited from the Ballarat Football League before debuting in 1966, Britt played 110 games for the Magpies before he was forced into retirement at just 26 by a knee injury in 1973.

He was 73.

Billy Picken, pictured here signing a contract with the Sydney Swans in 1984.
Billy Picken signs a contract with the Sydney Swans in 1984. (Photo by John Patrick O'Gready/Fairfax Media via Getty Images). (Fairfax Media Archives via Getty Images)

"Billy was a spectacular player, a dashing defender who could take a big grab and a player who performed extraordinarily in finals matches," Collingwood president Jeff Browne said in a statement on Saturday.

"Soon after making his debut, Billy became a fan favourite with many Collingwood supporters wearing the number 25 on the back of their Black and White jumpers and duffle coats.

"He will be remembered as one of the best-ever players to represent the Collingwood Football Club and one of the greatest centre half backs of his generation.

"Con Britt was a skilful player who spent most of his career across the half forward line and along the wing. He was fast and strong with his attack on the football impressing Collingwood supporters."

The Magpies will wear black armbands in honour of both players in their match against Essendon at the MCG on Sunday.

AFL world in mourning over double tragedy

Tributes have been flooding in on social media for both players.

Former Collingwood player and coach Tony Shaw tweeted: "Sad news with the passing of two Collingwood greats Bill Picken and Con Britt. Condolences to both families."

Sports presenter Stephen Quartermain wrote: “What a sad day for CollingwoodFC with the passing of Billy Picken. A gun player.”

Carlton historian Tony De Bolfo tweeted: “So sorry to learn of Bill Picken’s untimely passing. A fierce competitor (those head-to-head contests with Mark Maclure were legendary) and an authentic character in an era when the game was full of them. They broke the mould when they made Billy. Vale.”

Comedian and Collingwood diehard Peter Helliar wrote: “Vale Billy Picken. Possibly my first favourite Magpie."

Glenn McFarlane of the Herald Sun added: “So saddened with the news my childhood hero Billy Picken has passed away, aged 66. Like so many, I had No. 25 on my duffle coat as a kid before making it Peter Daicos’ No. 35 when Billy left. One of footy’s great characters. Great finals player. What an absolute legend. Vale Billy.”

with AAP

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