Everyday Obituaries: A tribute to a great Braybrook Doggie
OFF THE LEASH
by Matt Curwood
As Tess Pryor so eloquently wrote in The Doggies Almanac celebrating the breaking of their premiership drought, my grandfather George Cranwell was “…a true tale of the west…”.
A Depression-era Braybrook lad, affectionately known as ‘Doc’ by family and friends alike, he was a Bulldog through and through.
My Pa ensured that I grew up a Doggies fan and that I had no choice in the matter. The Red, White and Blue was slapped on my back after about my first or second feed. Pa always got in early with every addition to the Cranwell Clan and managed a high rate of success to guarantee generations of Doggies fans into the future.
He loved his Doggies, no doubt about it. Bar the interstate games, he was always witnessing their efforts firsthand. Proud to wear the membership medallion on the belt loop of his pants, he would head every Saturday afternoon to cheer on the mighty Dogs. Every week he would drive up from Frankston with his posse consisting of his daughter Melissa, pals Norm and Mark and often a grandchild squeezed into the middle seat. He would go to see the Dogs rain, hail or shine. Mind you, it seemed mostly rain, sometimes hail but rarely ever did it shine both figuratively and literally for his successstarved Dogs as they trundled out onto the Whitten Oval.
After the rain and hail had ceased on the field and the dogs would trudge back off the field, my Pa would tell me to keep my chin up and not to worry as, “our turn will come”. I remember venturing to those games in full footy uniform, boots and all. My footy shorts were held up by braces as they simply didn’t make them small enough to fit. I wore number 3 on my back, Alan Stoneham! I didn’t even know who Alan Stoneham was, but was told it was the most important of all Doggies numbers. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was a nod more so to Mr. Football than to Mr. Stoneham.
We always got there early enough to watch the twos. That way we got our money’s worth and we knew who would be running out for the main event. My Pa would load me up with a hot dog, a bucket of chips swimming in vinegar, a Coke and a Picnic bar. I would be happy as a clam, cheering the Dogs on from the members flank at the scoreboard end.
Upon arrival to the ground, Pa would often run into mates and stop and chat with them, ensuring that he introduced his grandson. He would make me shake their hand and he would introduce me and say things like “I want you to meet Charlie Sutton – we are mates from way back”. He would tell me that Charlie was a “bloody good player and a terrific bloke”.
Often after the games through his footy mates like Charlie, Ray Walker and Georgie Bisset, we would squeeze into the rooms to hear the fellas sing the team song. We never went in there after a loss, so I guess on reflection, we didn’t get to go into the change rooms too often at all. After the siren sounded, we would make our way back to the car by jumping the fence onto the ground. We would manage to have a bit of a kick to kick before collecting some hot chips from the KFC. Then we would sit back and listen to the talkback radio shows until we arrived back in Frankston and just in time for the footy replay and one of Nanna’s roast dinners.
I can still hear the coins in his pocket that he would nervously jingle and jangle in the dying stages of the final quarter. Dougie Hawkins would be leading the charge towards a gallant come from behind win. My Pa loved every single Bulldog, but he had a real soft spot for Dougie. A fellow Braybrook lad, Doug was all class and a little cheek on the field and all cheek and a little class off the field. My Pa loved him for that. He loved the way the game plan for the team was simply – ‘Kick it to Doug’ and Dougie never let them down. Those Braybrook boys stick together and my Pa always stuck by Dougie.
I had the honour of taking my Pa to his final game of footy last year and what a game it was! Pa had mentioned to me a few years back that he was just hanging around so he could see the Dogs win another flag and he was ok to go. He was true to his word. We struggled to get into our seats despite the help of many as they cleared a path for the long-suffering Dog, whose day had finally come. Everyone around us understood and appreciated what this must have meant to him and as the game unfolded strangers were all hugging and celebrating with my Pa. Basking in his glow and the exploits of the team on the field, it sure was a game for the ages. A perfect day. He smirked, chuckled, cheered and held his breath the whole time as he watched our boys give their all. Despite the lack of coins jingling in his pocket during the final term, I could tell he was nervous, anxious for them to hang on. And despite their past history – hang on they did.
In his 93 years, he surely hadn’t witnessed a finer win. To share that experience with him, to stand next to him after the siren, singing, hugging and cheering was just pure bliss. He lapped up all the praise, hugs and congratulatory comments from those all around him. Everyone understood that this Dog had been waiting and wanting this more than anyone else.
He celebrated all night that night and as time moved into the following weeks and months he started to fade. My Pa was tired. Fair enough and why not I say! What a wonderful way to go out!
My Pa means so much to me on so many different levels (other than our love of the dogs). He is a wonderful role model for what it means to be an extraordinary loving, caring husband, father and family patriarch. His utmost loyalty, devotion, pride and unselfishness for his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are a true testament to what he stood for, who he was and for his lasting legacy that every family member feels and has been influenced by.
Constant selfless acts and generosity have left a beautiful legacy for all that know him. In the case of his grandchildren (like myself), he supported and treasured every single one of us. Whether your interest was violin, basketball, ballet, cricket, tennis, painting, netball or footy, he has always made an effort to be there and witness all of your personal achievements. Every grandchild has had that wonderful feeling of knowing that he was there for them. That he came to see me, just me.
In my case, he came to many activities such as cricket, baseball and school plays. But there is one memory that sticks with me and it is him watching a game of footy I sort of, kind of participated in. After the game, he was full of praise and encouragement for not only what he had witnessed but for the ‘obvious footballing career’ for the Dogs that lay ahead. My two-kick effort for a total of seven meters gained that day in the pouring rain for the Warrandyte Under 10s from the back pocket may not have justified the praise he heaped on me, but it certainly made me walk taller. Similarly, each grandchild has their stories as to how he made them walk taller, no matter what our passions were.
Even though he would dismiss the acknowledgement, we all owe him a lot, but most of we owe him the passing of his legacy onto all that will follow us into the world. To enjoy and treasure our loved ones just as he did. All those constant selfless acts and examples of generosity need to be remembered and passed on in a new form.
He leaves us having created a positive dent into the fabric of each and every one of us, family and friends alike. He is finally with our Nanna, his true love that he was so devoted to. With her passing 24 years ago he soldiered on alone carrying her love with him until it was finally his turn to go. Reunited with her, I am sure he just simply couldn’t be happier.
Personally, I’ve got a long, long way to go before I plan on joining my Pa up above. But when it finally is my turn, I might just put the Number 3 jumper back on and have a kick to kick with him on the Dougie Hawkins wing.