MY ANZAC DAY – 2012

My earliest recollections of Anzac Day aren’t of attending a solemn dawn service, rather they revolve around my dearly loved and long departed grandmother, still a feisty woman 82 years of age when she passed away in July 1980. On April 25 each year she would sit and watch television coverage of the annual procession as the diggers made their way toward the Shrine of Remembrance. “Nan”, like so many other parents of her generation, lost a child, her only son, Gordon in combat in PNG in 1942. You hear tales of parents, husbands, wives and relatives that lost loved ones during wartime and how they never recovered from the loss. I can’t imagine how excruciatingly painful her memories would have been whenever that “One day of the year” rolled around.

A crowd in excess of 80,000 is expected to attend the now traditional Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I’m yet to attend what has become the most hyped home and away game on the Melbourne footy calendar since it became a permanent fixture of the AFL schedule in 1995. Rather than venture into the concrete coliseum on the outskirts of the CBD, I’m heading down Ballarat Road to take in a game of local footy just a few kilometres from home.

Earlier this year the Braybrook Sporting Club announced that in conjunction with the Western Region Football League (WRFL) and the Sunshine branch of the Returned Serviceman’s League, it would host an inaugural Anzac Day game against it’s nearest (geographical) rival, West Footscray. Anyone perusing the 81 year history of the WRFL (nee FDFL – Footscray District Football League) couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that a more appropriate Anzac Day match up would be difficult to fixture. As WW2 played out across the globe these two behemoths of Australian Rules football in Melbourne’s Western suburbs met each other in five of the six FDFL Grand Finals played between 1942 and 1947. Braybrook saluted in the first four finales, taking out the 1942, 1944, 1945 & 1946 premierships, a dominance made even more galling for the Roosters as Braybrook’s winning margins in the 44 & 46 showdowns were less than a goal. West did manage to turn the tables on the Brookers by grabbing the 1947 title.

Undoubtedly the most famous clash between today’s combatants was fought out on a soggy September afternoon in 1975 when for the first, and to date only, time the FDFL/WRFL Division 1 Grand Final ended in a draw. With only seconds remaining Braybrook trailed the Roosters by a goal. Shane Kilpatrick, who’d come off the bench during the dramatic last quarter, marked 50 metres from goal, then proceeded to coolly slot the heavy sodden ball through the big sticks to level the scores; West Footscray 15.7-97 – Braybrook 14.13-97.  The siren sounded shortly after allowing Braybrook, the pre-match favourite, the chance of redemption a week later. John Lloyd’s boys made the most of their near death experience and completed a hat trick of Division 1 Premierships winning the rematch at Sunshine’s Skinner Reserve by 12 points 10.16-76 to West’s 9.10-64 the following Saturday.

Braybrook managed to snag another pennant during its Sensational Seventies reign, when prodigal son “Wee” Georgie Bissett coached the ‘Brook to a nail biting one point win over St Albans in 1979. Unfortunately the Brook have never managed to replicate the feats of that golden run, the club last figuring in Division 1 finals in 2002 having spent the majority of the last decade in the competitions second tier. Likewise West has experienced some brutally hard times in recent seasons, the 1982 title it procured under the coaching of Robert McGhie was the last of its five First Division premierships. Just as todays hosts have struggled since the dawn of the new millennium, West has wallowed in the competitions Second Division in recent times.

Braybrook went into the Round 4 clash sporting a 1-2 record. Any momentum generated from its opening round win at Laverton quickly dissipated when two bad losses to Yarraville/Seddon and Caroline Springs followed. West Footscray took two of its opening three contests of season 2012; a severe beating from Coburg Districts two weeks ago was bookended with wins against Caroline Springs (Round 1) and North Sunshine (Round 3).

Following the reserves clash (West Footscray 16.13 def Braybrook 2.4) the senior and reserves teams formed a guard of honour outside the Pennell Street pavilion. Sunshine RSL president David Twidle thanked the crowd for their attendance and was followed by Braybrook president Paul May.  A bugler played the Last Post as the Australian flag was raised. Vietnam veteran Gary Russell, an ordained minister, offered a prayer to both the memory of those who lost their lives serving the nation and those who continue to do so.

Terry Sinclair, acting Braybrook captain due to the absence of injured skipper Jake Whelan, won the toss and despite the wind favouring the Quang Minh Buddhist Temple end of the reserve, Sinclair opted to kick to the Ballarat Road end. Unfortunately Sinclair’s tactic backfired somewhat as West started the better of the two teams and continued to pepper the goals throughout the first quarter. Linton Harris, coming off a big day out against North Sunshine last weekend (he kicked 11 of West’s 54 goals), got a couple of early goals, Aaron Batty was busy and at the first break West’s lead was a handy 44 points (6.9 to 0.1).

Five minutes into the second term and the ‘Brook brought up its first major when Jake Marks kicked truly, but West responded with two goals of their own and the margin had slipped out to more than fifty points. Braybrook ruckman Dave Burnside was winning most of the hit outs at the stoppages and whilst the home side was getting plenty of the ball West rebounded well from its back half. Cameron Browne and Matt Nolton were providing plenty of drive for the Roosters and despite looking a lot better Braybrook trailed West by 39 points at the long break (8.11 to 3.2).

At half time I wandered into the pavilion for a little respite from the wintry conditions. When I scanned the photos and honour boards that adorn the walls of the Pennell Reserve clubrooms I found it hard to think of any junior club that could claim to have given as many legendary footballers their start in the game. Champions such as Whitten, Hawkins, Bissett, Wilson and Donald all progressed to the highest level of football in the land after starting their playing careers here. I recommend anyone who has a soft spot for the Red, White and Blue to call in on a WRFL match day in the not too distant future and spend some time perusing the history of this amazing club. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the trip down memory lane.

If the home side harboured any hopes of a second half revival they were snuffed out early in the in the third period, with Roosters forward Harris turning on a one man show for the hardy souls braving the mid Autumn chill. The bearded Harris, a man who wouldn’t look out of place playing fiddle in the Charlie Daniels Band, added five goals for the quarter, all the result of strong marks. The eight goals to one third quarter effort from the Roosters saw them hold a commanding 85 point lead (16.15 to 4.2) at the final break.

With nothing but pride to play for the ‘Brook fought out the last half hour of the game outscoring West by a little over a goal in the process. Harris didn’t add to his three quarter time tally of seven goals in what was a solid afternoons work. When the final siren rang West Footscray had ran out convincing winners 20.16-136 to Braybrook 9.6-60. Matt Nolton, Brenton Turner and Matt Thomas were judged best for the Roosters, Alex Barbari, Chris Whelan and Michael Berecz likewise for Braybrook.

With the MCG clash yet to reach its conclusion most of the larger than usual crowd retired to the club rooms to catch the end of the big game, the atmosphere convivial and upbeat despite the home side being well beaten on the day. These two sides may not be the giants of the competition that they once were. But in the true spirit of the day, spirits are high and neither team show signs of a flatlining heartbeat. Long may the mighty Brookers and Roosters battle it out for April 25 supremacy.

 

Many thanks to Sue Isherwood from the Braybrook Sporting Club for her assistance in preparing this piece. 

Comments

  1. Goodness Michael, a local derby. Georgie Bissett was a superb player for you blokes @ Footscray. I recall him going to Vic Park, taking advantage of the 10 year rule to get a chance to play in an VFL premiership side. That first year 1973 was his best chance, but the Pies bowed out in straight sets. Did he finsh after 1974, or was it 1975? In his time at Vic Park he finally played in VFL finals, though he never claimed the coveted premiership. Very fine rover, and goal kicker in the tricolors.

    Glen!

  2. Hello Glen.

    George averaged better than one and a half goals a game during his 10 years at Footscray. He was selected as the Forward Pocket in the Dogs team of the century. Led the goalkicking in 3 seasons outright and tied on another two occasions. Won B&F in ’69, the year he was runner up to Kevin Murray in the Brownlow. He was reported for striking Ian Robertson which probaly cost him 3 votes as he named BoG in a number of newspapers for his 5 goal effort that day. I reckon Thorpie (13 votes) pinched too many votes off him. The Dogs went 6-14 that year so the team wasn’t gonna get many votes

    Most people forget it wasn’t just the trio that went to Arden St (Davis,Rantall & Wade) who took advantage of the 10 year rule in 72/73, Ditterich (StK to Melb), Gallagher (Carlton to Dogs) and of course “Wee” Georgie (Footscray to C’wood) being the other three. ’73 was his best chance at snagging a flag at Victoria Park. The Pies went 19-3 – one of those losses to NM at VFL Park was a goal on the siren to Doug Wade. Went out in straight sets.I think he returned to the FDFL with St Albans in 1975 – I’ll get that checked out.

    MCR

  3. Thanks for this, Mic.
    Great initiative by the WRFL and the clubs involved.

    Although I must say that the WRFL really does have
    some big issues confronting it, the most pressing of
    which is the lopsided nature of many of the results
    across the two senior divisions.

  4. Mic Rees says:

    Thank you Smokie.

    Yes, kudos to Braybrook, Sunshine RSL & WRFL for their efforts. Superb job by all concerned.

    Can’t see anyone getting near Spotswood in Div 1, appears to be a race for the silver between Altona & Deer Park.

    For many clubs it’s all about survival (financial struggles, no juniors) at the moment. If they manage to be competitive on the field it’s a bonus. I’d better get down to my local club(s) and purchase a membership or two.

    MCR

  5. Great article Mic.
    Loved to the reference to the “Quang Minh Buddhist Temple” end. Doubt VERY much if that would have got a run in the “West” in 1975! Hopefully both Wests and the Brookers can keep going though it may be a tough road ahead.

  6. colin o'donnell says:

    was very uplifting, to read a piece, that was well researched and uplifting!!!, i can speak only of the brookers history, and believe me it is unbelievable, as r the many participants of the club ihave been lucky enough to meet, from players as far back as the 1920’s to the current group, i for one would love to b able to fund a history of the braybrook sporting club, and if i ever win lotto, i will do so!! GO THE BROOKERS!!!

  7. Shano – Yeah, might’ve struggled. 1975 was a big year, wasn’t it – drawn FDFL GF, No96 explosion (same weekend as the Drawn GF), Inaugural World Cup,Colour TV,Gough copping it in the neck and Nashville, the greatest movie ever made, was released. Thanks for your kind words.

    Colin – Braybrook Football Club has a glourious history. Would be great to see them along with West and Parkside return to the top tier. If you’re keen to explore a history on the Brook drop me a line, I’d love to assist. You might want to have a crack at the 50 million in tomorrow nights Oz Lotto – you might be able to start the project on Wednesday morning.

    Many thanks.

    MCR

  8. Cow Shed end says:

    Gold Mic,being an old West boy brings tears to my eyes,brings back wonderful memories of games against the ‘Brookers’,a time when the FDL was the place of very small grounds and very large violent men………..”the perfect storm!”

  9. Mic

    Your reference to the Number 96 explosion is a gem. Great characters such as Norma & Les Whittaker, Alf Sutcliffe, Aldo & Roma Gadolfous, Arnold Feather, Dudley Butterfield, Vera Collins and my all time favourite Miss Hemingway (whose main claim to fame was that she had an aversion to wearing any clothes and was completely nude in every scene) are certainly not on the TV these days – more’s the pity.

    As for Gough getting in the neck – seems that the rubbish going on in Canberra (Dr No and the right wing media being completely feral) at the moment has all the hallmarks of 1975 – funny the more things change the more they stay the same.

  10. CSE – Very little push & shove in last weeks game. Still would’ve been too tough for me. Thanks.

    Shano – “96” turned 40 recently. Not sure if it’s an urban myth but I was told by an old timer at North Port Oval that many years ago Norman Yemm (Vera’s husband in No96 I do believe) was on the list at Port Melbourne at one stage. Hope it’s true.

    MCR

  11. Mic,
    I can’t confirm your information about Norm Yemm’s association with Port, but it’s plausible. He was a competitive runner in the professional ranks around the turn of the 1970s. In those days, a lot of VFL/VFA players went running in the summer. I seem to recall Len Thompson acknowledging that John Toleman encouraged him to join the pro runners in the summer before he won his Brownlow, as a means of increasing his mobility and improving his football.

    Shano,
    You reflect my political prejudices about what passes for media analysis/reporting/commentary on current national politics.

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