Book Review: Cats In Command

Book: Cats In Command

Authors: Bruce Kennedy and Bruce Coe

Publisher: self-published, Melbourne, 2010, $19.95

Reviewer: Michael Rogers

What do you do when the team you barrack for hasn’t won a premiership since the early 1960s and doesn’t look like winning another one? Maybe ever.  If you are two long suffering supporters of that team, in this case Geelong, then you hang on to that last premiership and you cherish and share your memories of it before they’re lost forever.

With just that aim in mind,  Bruce Kennedy and Bruce Coe have self-published, 1963 Cats in Command, a detailed account of both Geelong’s premiership win that year and the football milieu of 1963.

The project was started prior to the ‘drought breaking’ Geelong premiership of 2007, according to the authors, with the idea being, “…to give older Cats fans some joy of past glories before they passed on”. The fact that the game, although video-taped at the time, now exists only as a smattering of disjointed clips, was a further spur to the authors to create a permanent record of both the game and the Cats at that time.

The book begins by tracing the building of what would be a premiership winning squad including the recruitment of champion ruckman, Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, from West Australia, whose use of handball was revolutionary and is now a part of football folk-lore. An account is then given of the build up to a Preliminary Final appearance in 1962, followed by a match by match description of Geelong’s path to the flag in 1963. The narrative of the premiership winning season concludes with an analysis of why that Geelong team did not enjoy further success in subsequent years.

Throughout the book, quotes and anecdotes from players and commentators, as well as insights into, and descriptions of, football and society of the time are used to complement the main narrative. John Sharrock, for example, recalls that he has no memory of the 1963 Grand Final, whatsoever, after being concussed in the game. He goes on to reveal that he then missed the official premiership team photo session, as he was misinformed about when and where it was taking place, with the result that his head was pasted into the final shot at a later date.

Much of this anecdotal information is enlivened by the fact that the authors were there and experienced first hand  standing in the “outer” in all weather conditions, trying to pick up descriptions of  matches on  Geelong’s 3GL radio station in Melbourne (often the only station broadcasting Geelong matches), waiting for  the late editions of now defunct Herald and Sporting Globe to hit the streets and watching Football Inquest on their black and white televisions.

In fact, it is these asides that will be of most interest to non Cats fans.  “How we obtained a footy fix” is a full essay on how football in Victoria was covered by the media at the time. (Who remembers “Sunball”?)  “Recruitment and Training in the 1960s” outlines a very different football world from that of today.  “Coming and Going to and from the Footy” gives a snapshot of football arenas that have not hosted VFL/AFL matches in the lifetimes of  younger supporters or playing careers of most contemporary players.

Appendices also include a contrast of the playing styles and cultures of the other clubs in competition with Geelong in 1963 and their subsequent development, plus profiles of Geelong’s premiership squad.

Like many self published works not availed of a professional editor, “Cats in Command” could do with a little tidying up in regard to sentence structure, but thankfully, seems blessedly free of typos and glaring factual errors.

Although of primary interest to followers of the fortunes of the Geelong Football Club, “Cats in Command” should also be of interest to supporters of other clubs and any who are interested in sports history and Australian Football history in particular.

The book is soft cover, 133 pages, indexed, and features a number of photographs from the period many of which probably haven’t been seen for some time.
As the book is self-published it can currently only be purchased from the authors by e-mailing
footyhistories@yahoo.com

Comments

  1. The photographs are probably a bonus.

    Can think of Geelong supporters in my life who would enjoy Cats in Command.

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