1951 Recruit of the year

With the football off-season dragging on and with most of the bios in the local library read, I checked out the home book-shelves for possible re-reads.

Not surprisingly for me I looked beyond the bank of Bryce Courtneys and historical novels and spotted two books about the Bulldogs.

The first one was ‘Southern Sky, Western Oval by Martin Flanagan where he was imbedded in the then Western Oval during 1993. Unfortunately like ‘Year oF The Dog’ in 1996, it was another bad year for the Bulldogs after a promising year under Terry Wheeler the year before.

The second book I greedily grabbed off the shelf was ‘EJ’ by Jim Main using Ted’s own biographical notes and copies of official correspondence from the Footscray Football Club.

I thought the invitation for Ted to train at the Club and the actual ‘appointment’ letter was worth reproducing not only for Bulldog fans but as historical documents showing just how amateur recruiting was in those days. They just happened to get get lucky with EJ.

The first letter dated 31st January 1951 headed FOOTSCRAY FOOTBALL CLUB had all the premierships listed (from the VFA days of course) but makes good reading for Bulldog fans. Nine premierships and Champion of Victoria in 1924.

The first paragraph read as follows to Mr. E. Whitten:

‘ I desire to inform you that training for the 1951 season commences on Friday evening, March 2nd and on behalf of the committee, I have great pleasure in extending to you a most cordial invitation to attend with a view to becoming a player with Footscray.’

And then in the second paragraph, the classic understatement:

‘From reports we have received regarding your ability as a footballer, we consider that you are a prospective League player and we are eager to give you the opportunity to make the grade.

Signed by the Secretary of the Footscray Football Club, Ray Russell.

Then the second letter dated 15th April 1951 informed Ted that he was officially a Bulldog:

‘ On behalf of the Committee of the above Club, it is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected on the Final Training List for Season 1951 and to congratulate and wish you every success in your career as a League Footballer and a player with Footscray.’

Ted was then invited to a Pre-season dinner after training on the following Tuesday. I will never complain again about waiting until February each year to see some some football action after reading this.

The other remarkable thing was the way that Ted found out he was selected in his first game. He sat around the ‘wireless’ with his family on the Thursday night to hear his name read out from the team lists. Much like the way Brownlow medal winners found out in those days.

Such a low-key ‘ we’ll give you a chance to play at Footscray under new coach Charlie Sutton’ appointment for a player that went on to play 321 games until 1970. I suppose we’ll be looking at next week’s draft hoping hoping the number four pick for the Bulldogs will be even half as good and durable as EJ was.

About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.


  1. Love the old world formality of those times, Neil, I remember the formal invites we issued to Debutante Balls in country SA even in the early 70’s – “Mr XX requests OOOO daughter of YYY the honour of accompanying……………………..”
    Christ knows why because we were all boozers and slappers the other 364 days of the year – but those were the days of hanging on to genteel traditions.
    As for Teddy, I’ve spoken to my Dad and he says Mum was the Recruit of the Year in 1951.
    Great stuff. Thanks.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Peter,
    The other big difference between then and now was the complete absence of any talk about filthy lucre back in 1951. Not to mention any sign of the ubiquitous managers and sponsorship deals.
    I suppose details of players receiving three or four pounds per game wasn’t worth mentioning back then. Although very important to people like Jack Dyer in the Depression era of course.
    With wonderful hindsight, the Footscray Football Club could have lured recruits by promising a premiership within three years which is what actually happened.
    Peter Box was the other star recruit of 1951 (CHF in the premiership side) and won the Brownlow in 1955.
    I thought I was safe nominating Ted as the 1951 recruit of the year but had no idea there was opposition coming out of SA? in the form of Mrs B. Just goes to show you can never do enough research.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Enjoyable historical letters , Neil love how formal it was , fantastic that you would be invited down to train fo your local side . I no th game and society has moved on but in a lot of regards how much better were the old days in my opinion
    Thanks Neil

  4. Peter Fuller says

    A lovely dispatch from memory lane. Peter Box’s Brownlow was actually 1956, Fred Goldsmith won the award in 1955. The story from that event reinforces your reference to the Brownlow in the post. Apparently, Fred was on duty in his day job as a fireman at Eastern Hill. His boss took the phone call to say Goldy had won it.

  5. Giday Neil.

    Ted and Peter Box both debuted in the Rd 1 1951 1 point victory (15.10-100 to 15.9-99) over the Tigers at Punt Road. Not a bad start for new coach Sutton.


  6. Neil Anderson says

    Quite right Peter,
    Even as I was writing 1955 it didn’t seem right. But I can blame Jim Main the author of ‘EJ’ or maybe the Argus. Jim said, ” Also named for his Footscray debut was Peter Box, who went on to win the 1955 Brownlow Medal, and the Argus continued: ” Box and Whitten are regarded at Footscray as the finds of the season…
    From about 1955 to 1960 we used to camp on the foreshore at Rosebud most summer holidays like so many other families. One day my father pointed out a very laid-back man having a drink with his mates in the tea-tree. He said, ” See that bloke over there. That’s Fred Goldsmith who won the Brownlow Medal.”
    Yes, I used to be able to rattle off the years when any Bulldog won the Brownlow but my super-powers are fading. I’m glad you are around to reboot my hard-drive.

  7. Neil Anderson says

    Gidday Mic,
    That first match for Ted really is folklore when he was opposed to big bad Mopsy Fraser. Ted was starting to get on top and Mopsy shirt-fronted him after crashing into him from behind earlier in the match. I think Ted felt if he survived that match he could handle anything else later on.

  8. Fred Goldsmith’s a gem and so nearly a Bulldog player. Had a wonderful afternoon standing in front of him, Barry Round and Triple Skilts near the barby at Willy one time – great Brownlow characters and would’ve made a cracking sports panel.
    Was it Goldsmith who lived in the same street as Charlie?

  9. Neil Anderson says

    Yeah Crio,
    1951 was a great year for recruits and Fred would have been a nice pick-up for the Bulldogs along with Whitten and Box.
    Not sure if Fred lived in the same street as Charlie but he was recruited from Spotswood.
    There is another connection with Ted early in his career. Mopsy Fraser broke Fred’s ankle in 1952 just as he was starting to establish himself.
    That wasn’t a bad trio you were standing in front of at Willy that day. Five Brownlows between the three of them. Fred played a few games with Port before he retired.

  10. Skilts told them you could fluke one!

  11. Neil Anderson says

    Just finished reading about two of the ex-players in this story; Fred Goldsmith and Barry Round.
    The AFLPA is funding a trust to help ex-players with medical and financial problems.
    It’s hard to believe that mountain of a man Barry Round has heart problems and Fred Goldsmith had to sell his, yes Peter, 1955 Brownlow to fund a hip replacement.
    Let’s hope the trust comes to fruition and they look after our heroes of yesteryear.

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