My favourite footy jumper

My favourite football jumper is about 60 years old. It’s blue and gold, warm and woollen.

It belonged to Mum and Dad’s mate Bill. He played for West Geelong. Back in the 1950s, I guess. Bill played for the blue and gold West Geelong that still plays in the local district league, not the red and white Geelong West that played in the old Victorian Football Association.

Bill was a green-grocer, with a corner shop in Shannon Avenue, only a few hundred yards from Bakers Oval, West Geelong’s old home ground.

I never saw Bill play – it was before my time – but I imagine Bill might have been a tough defender. Years later he was a trainer, the hands that carried sacks of potatoes and onions and oranges working their magic on another generation of players wearing the blue and gold stripes, players who sucked on oranges that came from the corner shop.

Bill ran that shop with Rita, a woman who loves her sport. She was still playing golf at Winchelsea until a few years ago. ‘Got too hard on my back,’ she told me. ‘And after your dad died, well, it wasn’t the same.’

Now closing in on her ninth decade, Rita’s a keen lawn bowler. And she keeps her eye on the Cats, on the telly.

Rita has given me her blessing to wear Bill’s old football jumper, which I found amongst my dad’s clothes in Easter of 2009, nearly ten years after he died.

The jumper had been a gift from Rita to my dad some time after Bill died, way too young, about 25 years ago. I can imagine my Dad wearing it through the winters, walking along the Moggs Creek beach, or through the bush tracks. Remembering Bill, remembering Mum, thinking about his children. Thinking about that duffed five-iron on the seventh hole at Winchelsea. Wondering which horses might get up in the daily double.

Dad probably wore the jumper while fishing, too, under his old brown jacket or his old red tracksuit top. Standing on the shoreline, rugged up, waiting, hoping for a tug on the line, feeling the blue and gold wool protecting him from the cold, from the wind and the rain, from the spray of the surf, from widowhood.

I reckon Bill’s jumper was Dad’s favourite footy jumper too. Not that Dad ever played footy, save for a game between city and country TAB staff in about 1970. Dad lined up in a pocket at the Bacchus March Oval, back or forward I can’t remember.

He lasted about ten minutes, wearing the country team’s colours of green and gold stripes. He came off with a broken finger, though he might have come off for a beer as well.

That was the extent of my father’s football career.

So I was a little puzzled to find a footy jumper amongst his old clothes. And excited too – excited by the nostalgia of the fibre, the stitching, the long blue sleeves, the yellow collar, even the two buttons. And excited by the jumper being the same colours, though not the same strip, as my local team Williamstown.

The jumper has weathered the years well. Rita must have looked after it back in the 1950s. In the middle stripe at the front of the jumper is some repair work – about ten neat stitches. The number on the back, 31, is torn in two places, revealing a second number underneath, four. (Did Bill have to relinquish the lower number to someone, or did West Geelong regard him as the club’s Barassi?) There are no sponsors’ or league logos, though a tag on the collar, hanging by the proverbial thread, reveals the jumper was made by Jason Knitting Mills.

It took me a few weeks to figure out the origins of the jumper. My siblings didn’t know but an old mate of mine who grew up near Bakers Oval figured it out.

Pete recognised the jumper’s colours immediately. For him it brought back memories of his childhood, of the green-grocer corner shop, of West Geelong footy club, of Bill saying to him some Saturday afternoons, ‘Pete, young fella, can you pop down to the shop and ask Rita for some more oranges. The boys are going to be thirsty today.’

But I didn’t know any of that when I found the jumper in Dad’s wardrobe. All I knew was that I wanted to wear it. I had no hesitation in pulling on the jumper that Easter Saturday, the first round of the 2009 season, and asking my teenage son – who sometimes wears his grandfather’s brown jacket or the red tracksuit top – for a short kick-to-kick session on the gravel road outside the beach-house, outside what had been my parents’ retirement home, outside the place where they died, seven years apart, from failing hearts.

It had been about 35 years since I’d worn a football jumper (a red cotton jersey for the under 13 Boomers) and flushed with pride I managed to land a few drop punts and even some drop-kicks on my son’s chest.

I pull on Bill and Dad’s jumper every Sunday morning for kick-to-kick and circle work with half-a-dozen mates. I wear a t-shirt underneath because the wool’s pretty scratchy.

We play on Fearon Reserve, where the local amateur team wears blue and gold too, but blue with a gold sash, like Williamstown. Many, many years ago, 100 or more, Williamstown played on this ground too.

The Sunday morning sessions last about 45 minutes but I peel off the West Geelong jumper after about ten minutes because I get so warm.

My favourite football jumper has not worn thin yet, and it won’t for a long time, a long, long time.

Vin Maskell

1 September 2010

About Vin Maskell

Founder and editor of Stereo Stories, a partner site of The Footy Almanac. Likes a gentle kick of the footy on a Sunday morning, when his back’s not playing up. Been known to take a more than keen interest in scoreboards – the older the better.

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    The old footy jumpers are true treasures. I love the design, feel and smell of them. Love the colours of this one Vin. Nothing beats plain old stripes. I detest the modern spilt paint catastrophes.

    When dad wore his old footy jumpers on the farm we always asked him to tell us a footy story.

    I still wear dad’s 50 year old footy socks in winter. They have a couple of holes, but they’re still comfy and warm

  2. Buttons on footy jumpers. Who would have thought…What goes around comes around Vinnie. In time we will probably see jumpers with fake buttons and collars printed on em. BTW loved that story you did about the guy who made footies by hand.

  3. Peter Haby says:

    A great story … I still have my Barwon guernsey from 1957/59 that I wore when trying to play footy … we played agaimst Blue West as they were known locally on their small ground just of Shannon Avenue … alsways like the Blue West colours …

  4. Great jumper and love the history behind it!!…I remember coming out to Australia from the Solomon Islands in 1978 as a 13 year old and straight away loved the aussie rules football. I played for ANBY (Altona North Brooklyn Youth) and we wore Richmond jumpers as our club colours. I was one of the few in the club who wore a lace up jumper. At that time, I was considered unfortunate by my team mates and myself to have to wear something that looked ancient. After 8 long years at the club, the jumper was now a tight fit but I grew to love playing in it. Today, when I bump into my old team mates, they would ask if I still kept the old lace up jumper or whether I had given it back to the club. Luckily my father had put it away safely after the club let me keep it and now my nephew, who is a Richmond tigers fan wears it to their games. When he comes to return it, he always has a story of some tigers fan wanting to buy it off his back!!…..

    You mention that your jumper was made by Jason Knitting Mills, they were the official jumper suppliers to the VFL till the late 1980’s. I have a Collingwood jumper worn by Geoff Raines in 1985 and it has the Jason knitting Mill tag on it and at the bottom of the tag it reads ‘ official supplier to the VFL’

    Thanks for your story…enjoyed it very much.

  5. Mike Dixon says:

    Great story Vin :)

    Joe … I have a huge collection of jumpers (state, league etc) and know the history of the manufacturers.

    It was Brandella (thru Adidas) who held the contracts for the manufacture of (then) VFL jumpers and they commenced that around 1982 … I might be a year out on that as it could have been ’81…. and I know they produced official jumpers for Carlton ( I Ihave four of them) South, North, Melbourne, Fitzroy, Richmond, Essendon, Geelong, Hawthorn, St Kilda and VFL state. I’m sure they did Collingwood as well but that is one jumper I don’t have as I preferred the south australian lace up version I got from Vic Hill (he made lace ups for a heap of clubs) way back ithen along with other lace ups from the SANFL.

    But you are right … Jason knitting mills had the contract prior to that so the Raines “Jason” jumper must have been a spare Collingwood had available.

    I can share a secret I haven’t told anbody before as it was strictly confidential at the time, but Adidas made a pitch to the VFL in 1983 to produce jumpers with EVERY one of them having the famous three strips running down both sides of the jumper … that is from the underarm down to the hips. I know as I had a good contact inside Adidas (that’s why I was able to collect these treasures and ALL of them were different from those sold in retail stores) and she showed me final versions of the guernseys … alll I can say it thank God they never saw the light of day as they were horrible.

    There is a rich history attached to the game, and jumpers are part of that tapestry. No wonder they sell for a fortune. I knew Ted Whitten when he worked as manager for Adidas and he OKd me getting one of the Sun All Stars jumpers that was used by that team in the 1983 bushfire appeal match out at VFL park in 1983.

    Cheers

    Mike

  6. djlitsa says:

    Love the story Vin and what a cracking jumper with a great person history behind it. Does anyone make reproductions of old footy jumpers?

  7. craig dodson says:

    Great Story Vin.. every jumper has a story.
    My pride an joy is my old u19s Mangoplah Goannas jumper, circa 1996. The last of the wool / acrilic type before they went to silk. I love the idea of my son wearing it in future years ..

    After spending 9 months trying to track down and old Swans jumper there are not many old foot jumpers around.

    DJlitsa the clubs are now doing ‘replica’ old style jerseys – see https://swanshop.onesporttechnology.com/2014-vintage-woven-guernsey-sleeveless
    They don’t really cut the mustard for me though..

  8. djlitsa says:

    Thanks Craig – I’ll check it out

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    Lovely story Vin. Love that jumper. I’ve been trying to research the history of the long defunct Pomborneit Football Club (they existed from the early 1900’s to late 1930’s) and it seems they wore a very similar jumper with the same colours. Don’t like my chances of tracking one of them down.
    What do West Geelong wear now?

  10. Skip of Skipton says:

    Geelong West Cricket and Football Club was their original name. Now known as Geelong West Sports Club or something or other, but everyone knows them as ‘Blue West’.

    Same colours and back to the design on Vin’s old jumper in recent times I reckon. Back in the 80s they had the Port Adelaide ‘prison bar’ design I reckon, then a poxy stylised job in the 90s/00s like alot of others did.

    Not to be confused with ‘Red West’, the former VFA outfit who merged with St.Peters and are known as GWSP. They play in the GFL, Blue West play in the GDFL.

    Blue West play at Red West’s ground thesedays though. The old West Oval in Church St/Ballarat Rd.

  11. Luke Reynolds says:

    Thanks Skip. Good to see another club go back to their original design.

  12. Ah, footy jumpers! I still have mine.Its old, has many tears and has seen ups and downs, but, I love it. I wear it always with pride, or defiance, depending on this week’s result. Royal blue, with a small white kangaroo. I really love that jumper!

  13. Peter Fuller says:

    Skip,
    I’m grateful for your clarification in distinguishing Blue West and Red West. I knew Vin’s account of the history would be correct, but I was trying to reconcile the Blue and Gold stripes with my different memory.
    I played against Geelong West in VFA under 19s, with the concrete bike track a few yards (in pure metric times) outside the boundary. However, prior to their admission to the VFA, my recollection is that (Red West) played in the Ballarat League, certainly in the 1950s.. I don’t know what colours they wore in that period.

  14. G.A.Thompson says:

    I dearly wish I still had my most memorable footy jumper
    In the 70’s we took to going to watch Ringwood games at the ground under the shadow of the ominous Cadbury’s Chocolate factory. A friend of Dad had two sons running around in the seniors. Ross and David Fitzgerald

    So Mum made my brother and I footy jumpers to wear. Melbourne style but Red with a Green yoke. Number 9 on mine, 7 on my brothers.

    Nothing too outrageous so far, but this is the kicker….

    They were crocheted!!
    Great jumpers. and without doubt one (two) of a kind.

  15. david Prigent says:

    Would anyone know where I could get a old w Torrens lace up jacket made? Would be great full David.

  16. david Prigent says:

    Yes the old football jumpers and lace up jackets, more likely harder to make now, replaced by the cheaper artificial immitation polyester type material, all down to money.

  17. Kaniel Outis says:

    Jason Knitting Mills were the official supplier to the VFL. I recently purchased an official Jason Knitting Mills sleeveless North Melbourne jersey circa 1975, from an op shop for $12. It has the pin stripes on either side of the stripes, and the white panel on the back with a black number 2 machine sewed onto it (Doug Wade’s number). The label on the collar says official supplier to the VFL. This jersey is before the VFL logo was designed, so the jersey has no logo or sponsor patch. Courage started their sponsorship of North in 1977.

    When I was a kid I went into the Carlton rooms after a game and saw the jerseys on the property steward’s table. They were most definitely manufactured by Jason, not Brandella. The Brandella Carlton jerseys, were sold at Kmart and they were nothing like the ones the players wore. The Jason jersey had the embroidered VFL symbol on the patch, and the overlapping C.F.C, while the Brandella jersey had a non embroidered VFL symbol on the patch, and a C.F,C that did not overlap. Carlton players did not wear jerseys like the Brandella ones in the 1970’s and 1980’s, they wore Jason ones. North, Collingwood, St Kilda, and Hawthorn all wore Jason, as they had pin stripes. Brandella jerseys did not have a pin stripe designs. St Kilda and Hawthorn changed to a Brandella jumper in 1982, but North and Collingwood remained with Jason. North and Collingwood still had the pin stripes, while Hawthorn and St Kilda no longer did. Richmond wore Brandella jerseys.

    Jason Knitting Mills jerseys always looked better than the Brandella jerseys. When I was a kid, I had the cheap knock offs made by Premiers, Polworth, and Brandella. I always wanted a Jason jersey, which were only sold at selected sports stores, as opposed to stores like K mart. Some kids at school had Jason jerseys and they looked exactly like the players jerseys, with the embroidered VFL patch, whereas the Brandella ones looked cheap. The kid’s Carlton jersey made by Jason did not have the correct monogram though, but it still looked much better than the Brandella one that looked purple in the sun, because of the cheaper wool/ acrylic fabric it was made with. The Jason one looked Navy in all light. If you look at old footage of Carlton players, their jerseys never had the purple tinge that the cheap Brandella jerseys did. Jezza may have advertised on behalf of Brandella but he certainly did not play in a Brandella jersey at Carlton.

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