Why the hoops?

‘WE ARE GEELONG, THE GREATEST TEAM OF ALL…’

 

Now this, for so long the most ‘cringeworthy’ line in any AFL team song, finally rang true at the end of the 2011 Grand Final when we were able to belt it out with gusto and conviction. Beautiful!

Dear Family,

 

In light of this magnificent run of sustained success, I felt the time had come to put our relationship with the Geelong Football Club into a historical perspective, both for us and those that follow.

 

As such I have written three pieces that I hope give insights into the link the Dalton/Peat/Dunstans have with this now great football club.

 

  1. Why the Hoops?

Explains our links and gives some background to who, when and why

 

  1. Purgatory

Written in 1995 at the height of my frustration when we got so close, so often but couldn’t crack it for a GF win and at that point, I felt we never would

  1. From Purgatory to Redemption

How did we manage to achieve this turnaround and how good does it feel? It is written, in part, with supporters of a couple of other clubs in mind who are now where we once were.

 

Separating each story are snippets from my Geelong scrapbook written when I was 10!  I would like to think my writing has improved a little since then.

 

I hope you enjoy this recollection.

 

Happy Christmas,

December, 2011

 

 

Simon

(husband, father, brother, brother in law, uncle, great uncle)

 

WHY THE HOOPS?

 

At around the age of five, Simon Dalton, son of John and Norma, younger brother of Sue and Lisa, was given a football jumper. It had long sleeves and a plastic number ‘5’ stitched on the back. It was the blue and white horizontal stripes or ‘the hoops’. It was the jumper of the Geelong Football Club.

 

Number ‘5’ was worn by Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, arguably one of the finest ruckmen to ever play the game. He was recruited from Western Australia in the early 1960’s. Polly revolutionized handball. It was said he spent hours handballing through the open windows of his car and this accounted for his amazing accuracy. It was also thought that a Polly Farmer handball was as a good as a kick.

 

In those days of the then VFL when all twelve clubs were Victorian, each team had its own ground, usually in or close to the suburb that bore its name. If you grew up in that area you generally supported that team. At the time of the jumper ‘presentation’, the Dalton household was at 17 Atkinson St, Chadstone – so why Geelong?

 

John Dalton was a Geelong boy. He was born there and spent most of his time growing up around various Geelong locations until he was fifteen or sixteen. The big joke was how many different primary schools he attended which seemed to be every second one we passed on our way to and from the footy ground. We never really knew why. He didn’t live in Geelong again after he left to become a cadet journalist in Hamilton. His only sibling, older brother Norman, never left, apart from a three year spell working in Taiwan just prior to his retirement. Norm is a keen Geelong supporter and has reserved seats at Kardinia Park, and has done for as long as anyone can remember.

 

John and Norman’s mother, Muriel Taylor, was a Geelong girl. She grew up and died there – prematurely as it happened, three months after giving birth to John. The Taylors were Geelong people. Most of them are buried there.

 

John’s father, however, was not a Geelong boy. His family moved there a few years after the turn of the last century; Federation time. His name was also John but he was sometimes called Jack (which is kind of ironic because John, father of Sue, Lisa and Simon, was christened ‘Jack’ but later changed his name to John!). John was born in the Wimmera, near a town called Murtoa where he grew up for the first eight years of his life on Longerenong Station. It was owned by a wealthy pastoralist, but managed by his dad William, born in Tipperary, Ireland. His mother, Flora Cameron, who was born in Argyll, Scotland, lies buried in the same cemetery in Geelong as her husband.

 

Wimmera born John had eight siblings. The first two died before he was born, both at eleven months and a sister, Flora, died when she was eighteen.

 

John’s youngest brother was Albert Richard Dalton. This Albert was known briefly to Sue, Lisa and Simon when they were kids as ‘Uncle Ar-dee’. This came from his initials A.R.D. The family story has it that he played for Geelong. The records prove it to be so. ‘Bert’ Dalton played sixty games between 1909 and 1915. He was born in 1891 making him eighteen when he played his first senior game.

 

The story goes that Bert gave up his footy because he was not permitted to go and fight alongside his elder brother John in WW1. Bert was a wool sorter – a protected occupation with those skills needing to be kept in Australia. Curiously, older brother John was a wool sorter too but he wrote that he was a ‘clerk’ on his enlistment form, though on his return from the war he reverted back to ‘wool sorter’ in an effort to gain access to land under the soldier settlement scheme. Hard to verify the truth of the story about Bert stopping his footy in protest at not being allowed to go to war, but John enlisted in 1915 – the same year Bert stopped playing, which would have made him only twenty four.

 

Growing up in Geelong for most of his younger life (Norm and John had lived with their father for several years on a sheep farm in the western district hamlet of Vite Vite), John was a Geelong supporter. We understand he didn’t go to many games on account of his economic circumstances. His dad died on the farm when John was six, so Norm and he went to live with different relatives in Geelong. The unmarried Aunty Maud protectively raised ‘young Jack’ for about ten years.

 

John’s interest in the Cats seemed to grow when he lived away from the place. He certainly went to at least one of the triumphant grand final victories of 1951 and 1952. He would have heralded the still to be broken record of 23 games undefeated across the 1952-1953 seasons.

 

Ever since Sue and Simon were young, they picked up a liking for the game and their dad’s team. Simon went with his dad to the 1967 Grand Final. It was a cracking game but resulted in a narrow nine point loss to the Tigers. This was to be the first of what would be four grand final losses for Simon as a spectator at the MCG, before it finally turned around some forty four years later.

 

Simon’s heyday as a regular spectator came between 1967 and 1972 – a five year period when he attended nearly every game, home and away. He visited foreboding and unwelcoming places such as Victoria Park, Windy Hill, Princess Park, the Western Oval and Arden St.

 

Kardinia Park, on the other hand, was parochial Geelong. Where John, Sue and Simon stood, near the race on the members’ side, was full of all those supporting the local team. They always got there early to see at least half of the reserves game. Seating was virtually unknown unless you arrived at 10.30am when the gates opened to sit along the seat that encircled the boundary fence or paid for a seat in the stands – which they never did at Geelong. Standing tall behind the goals at both ends were huge trees overlooking the ground that gave vantage points to some of the keener fans when the Cats played the big teams like Collingwood, Essendon and Carlton when the outer was shoulder to shoulder. Roofless, stinking urinals were also the order of the day!

 

The win/loss ratio would have been strongly in the negative but the Cats were never wooden spooners and were close to competing in the finals some years. The worst flogging Simon remembers was a fifteen goal to three demolition by St Kilda on a muddy Moorabbin one cold and wet Saturday afternoon in the middle of June; aside, that is, from the two more recent grand final shellackings of 1994 and 1995 he unfortunately witnessed!

 

John had as a friend Neil ‘Nipper’ Tresize, a former Geelong rover, member of parliament and Geelong Football Club president. This association allowed father and son into the rooms after the games. They got to know quite a few of the players and Simon had all the autographs. One training night at Kardinia Park, Simon even went out onto the ground with some of the players and ran a lap and did a bit of kicking. Among them was Simon’s hero, number 14, David Clarke. Simon invited David to attend one of Simon’s trophy nights at Chadstone Football Club. He came along… and that was huge!

 

David’s halo evaporated somewhat when he was traded to Carlton and then some years later was completely erased when he was ‘the David Clarke’ involved in the Pyramid Building Society collapse where thousands of Geelong and regional people lost their savings due to a scam by the three directors – and D. Clarke was one of them!

 

Sue’s days of consistent attendance really started when Simon and John stopped going regularly due to Simon playing U 13 football at various times on Saturday mornings. By this stage Sue had met John Peat and John had wheels (4 of them under a Torana) and the couple would drive together to Geelong matches. Sue and John got into the social scene and would stay after games, getting to know many of the players. One player, Gary Davidson, attended Sue and John’s engagement party at Atkinson Street. That was huge too!

 

John Dalton continued to be passionate about the Cats in a divided household. It was divided between those who liked football and those that didn’t, and those who supported Geelong Football Club and those that grew to dislike this club that dominated too much of the conversation and seemed to perpetually raise false hopes. Norma and Lisa belonged to the latter group. When Lisa left to live in Queensland when she was eighteen, leaving behind a football family would not have been one of her regrets.

 

Bizarrely, Norma found a belated passion for the Cats in 2006/2007 which would have left John puzzled from above, and definitely had the remaining living family perplexed. Lisa was simply disgusted when she learnt that her mother had crossed to the dark side! More bewildering still has been Norma’s penchant for purchasing soft toys and gnomes regaled in those infamous hoops. Who would have thought!

 

John Dalton’s moods could be linked closely to the fortunes of his football team. As such cricket over summer reduced the level of tension that football and winters brought on weekends, especially when Geelong had been going through a long spell of mediocrity! Family members recall one pivotal moment when at about half-time of a game the Cats, unsurprisingly, were being thrashed in, that John came in from listening to the radio exclaiming, ‘I am not going to let the bloody football ruin my weekends!’ If John swore (and it was only ever the ‘b’ word) – you knew he was boiling angry. Jo and their daughters may have seen little snippets of this particular inherited ‘quality’ in Simon over the years, especially between 1992 – 2006!

 

From the early seventies’ Sue began to master the art of going to the toilet at the twenty five minute mark of the final quarter in close games, thus missing the last, riveting minutes of high drama. This is a tradition she raised to new heights midway through the last stanza of the gripping 2009 grand final when she disappeared to do some much needed gardening. She only returned just before the siren because her jubilant family watching the game on TV shouted at her to come inside and experience an amazing win!

 

The Cats have been adopted by John Peat and Amanda in expressions of love for their partners, based on the ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ philosophy. We all know but have never understood how ‘mute and passive John’ at games he attends live, turns into ‘crazed and angry John’ when a Geelong game is on TV.

 

And what of calm and laid back Jarrod who, for reasons we have never been sure of or completely comfortable with, has a disproportionate number of Hawthorn supporting mates. The passion wells from inside him when these two fierce rivals clash. The 2008 grand final was the lowest point in Jarrod’s Geelong supporting life when he must have wished his early alliance with the then Brisbane Bears had not been ruthlessly crushed by his parents like a Tienamen Square democracy demonstration. For such was the depth of his humiliation brought on by the on going taunts from his Hawthorn mates, that he (with some support from his usually rational uncle) gets mighty fired up when they go to these games. That Geelong won all seven encounters with the Hawks over the next three seasons since that 2008 grand final defeat has been a highlight of Jarrod’s rollercoaster ride with the Cats.

 

Rachael has been instrumental in enticing ‘Rugby Union Craig’ out of the thick neck set to become a Geelong tragic – though since Craig has been on board he has experienced very few tragedies. Indeed it could be said he has the Midas touch. He still loves his rugby, so enjoys the best of both worlds.

 

Simon has had less success in keeping the tradition burning, with Eliza the keenest of a relatively indifferent bunch from Parkdale. Though it must be said the Kangaroo in Hana has secretly given way to an unspoken allegiance for the all conquering Cats. Despite not being into footy, Lili is a quiet believer and watches and knows more than she leads on. All three girls celebrated hard at Federation Square after the 2011 grand final victory over Collingwood. Jo is just relieved the good times finally arrived to see her husband able to celebrate instead of stew!

 

Those that follow, such as Olivia, will be allowed a free will in most things I suspect – though AFL allegiance is unlikely to be one of them. For better or worse she is already a Cat fanatic or a Cat hater! Will she be like her grandmother Sue or her great aunt Lisa in her attitude to ‘the hoops’?

 

The Cats have been responsible for some moments that are now family folklore. Having just witnessed one of the great comebacks of all time, a one point victory against Hawthorn in 2010, coming as it did from thirty points behind at the start of the last quarter and two key defenders down, a group of pumped up family led by Sue Peat, were descending to the lower reaches of the MCG when Sue spotted recently retired dual premiership captain, Tom Harley. The moments that then unfolded were some of the scariest of Tom’s career and this was from a man who regularly backed into packs to chop off opposition attacks with total disregard for his own safety. Here he was faced with a mother so keen to get a photo with him and ‘my family’ that she threw herself in front of other people Tom had been invited to be photographed with and beckoned her family to gather around. Her manic determination had Tom doing what he had been told!

 

Furthermore, who can forget John Peat soaring for a mark from a Port Adelaide player’s errant kick during a warm up behind the goals at the old Doug Wade stand end at Kardinia Park in 2011. John clearly acted on instinct and temporarily, yet crucially, forgot he was holding a cup of coffee and wearing a white t-shirt and as he spilled the mark the coffee and t-shirt came together to form the essence of modern art – and the canvas remained wet until at least half time!

 

We have the Geelong Football Club to thank for giving us countless conversations, shattering hopes and finally realising dreams during the golden era between 2007 and 2011. This period delivered three premierships in five years and the best win/loss ratio of any of the great teams over such a sustained period. We were finally blessed.

 

In the live stakes, Rachael and Craig have three premierships to their names, Sue two and Simon, belatedly, one. John’s TV watching GF record is 3-5 but it has been a great comeback because in 2006 it was 0-4. Jarrod and Amanda will remain happy if we can keep beating the Hawks.

 

Our links with the club go back at least a hundred years. I wonder for how long the Dalton/Peat/Dunstan connection to the club will continue. Olivia and future offspring across the family, it’s over to you. No pressure!

 

Simon Dalton,

December, 2011

 

PS. The ‘no pressure’ bit relates to the numbers of people listed in the above story who will turn in their graves/ashes when their days of following the Geelong Cats are over and any relatives have dared not to pick up the blue and white striped baton!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Peter Baulderstone says:

    Wonderful stuff. The virus spreads across at least 5 generations, and seems to infect all who come into close contact. Pre WW2 we were a much more rural society, so the links to your grandparents life in the bush were great. I was musing the other day that the Cats have always been good to watch and played open, flowing footy. They are harder to hate than Pies, Blues, Bombers etc – who all have their ruthless traits. But I’m working on it – 3 in 5 years is enough!

  2. Simon – as it happens I was at a gathering of the Dalton clan on Sunday (or at least one branch of the Daltons). My grandmother was a Dalton. It is through the Daltons that my family (O’Donnell) all barrack for Geelong now, because one of the older Dalton cousins gave my oldest brother a Geelong jumper when he was little. It went through our family like a two day old curry. .

  3. John Butler says:

    PB, Carlton supporters of my generation didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the Cats.

    Times are different now. This year it’s ON!

    Dips, I reckon I’ve had a couple of 2 day old curries at some of Geelong’s finest eating establishments.

  4. Jan Was says:

    Wonderful story! I am also descended from William Henry and Flora Dalton, (specifically their son, William James) I have been researching the family tree and have always wondered about John (Jack) and whether or not he had descendants. Thanks for filling in some of the gaps.

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