A Royboy’s Lament

“Whad’ya follow bloody Fitzroy for – you must have flamin’ rocks in your head?” people too numerous to mention have asked me over the years.

I’ll grant they had a valid point, given Fitzroy’s eighth-and-last premiership came way back in 1944, when Hitler was struggling to kick a goal for Germany and his mate Hirohito was dropping the ball with Japan.  Although the once-mighty Roys kicked on longer than those two likely lads, they ultimately met the same fate.

Fitzroy last made the Victorian Football League finals in 1986, but went rapidly downhill and finished stone motherless last in 1995 and 1996 – with just three wins from their final 44 games.  The Lions were promptly shown the door because they had no money and the AFL Commission wanted to introduce Port Adelaide into the competition.  The AFL kicked Fitzroy firmly in the guts and out the door, one bounce into the gutter, despite them being a foundation member when the VFL-turned-AFL began in 1897 and one of only three clubs to’ve competed uninterrupted in the League’s first 100 years.  It’s a cruel game – or should I say, business – is football.

No more Fitzroy; it’s bloody hard to take; impossible to take, if you must know.  No more mighty Maroons, Gorillas (yes, Fitzroy was once a team of primates), Lions, Roys, Royboys, Easybeats.  Easybeats – Fitzroy were never easybeats!  Sure, they received some fearful floggings, but usually rebounded the next week with a fighting win over a more fancied opponent.  Until the AFL coldly and cruelly penned Fitzroy’s obituary and the other clubs – led by Brisbane – readied themselves like vultures to swoop on the decimated Lion carcass.

The thing about following Fitzroy was that you rarely expected to win.  The Royboys perfected the time-honoured art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, with the vast, empty spaces in the club’s trophy cabinet living proof.  Even former Lions president Leon Wiegard agreed when, during one of the team’s many lean spells, he said: “Someone’s supposed to be on the bottom of the ladder.  Unfortunately, it just happens to be us at the moment.”

Towards the bitter end, Fitzroy had put in a land rights claim on that bottom rung.  The only consolation from the Roys’ demise is that I’ve fared infinitely better in footy tipping competitions.  A true supporter never sells his soul to the devil by tipping against his side in a desperate attempt to win a truckload of cash, or beer, no matter what he thinks deep down of their chances (or lack thereof) of success.  I believe if your team is out of form or languishing lower than Bill Clinton’s zipper, betting against them only serves to further sap the players’ confidence.  Not once – ever! – did I tip against Fitzroy, and have both the bank overdraft and grisly scars on my wrist to prove it.

This urge to wager on footy started as a young bloke at school – the same one attended by the great Simon “Yogi the Storm Chaser” York – in the bush.  Under severe provocation, I bet the headmaster that my WA Football League team, East Perth, would whip traditional rival West Perth’s arse (I didn’t quite frame the bet in those terms) in the 1971 Grand Final.  Because I was too young to drink or punt (legally), we didn’t bet a slab of beer or a crisp, new redback on the outcome.  Instead, the loser had to sweep the school’s concrete cricket pitch with a toothbrush, which, in terms of practicality, surely only compares with holding a Miss Universe pageant in a Taliban cave.

Predictably, East Perth lost – ingloriously so – and the headmaster, consistent with the strict disciplinarian he prided himself on being, ensured I kept my end of the bargain.  If the mighty Royals had won, I guarantee he wouldn’t have swept the pitch.  No, some pathetic excuse about ancient, arthritic knees would’ve been dragged out of mothballs.  Because my toothbrush was so traumatised, I didn’t clean my teeth for a year.  Thereafter, I vowed never to be so cruel to a toothbrush.

Years later, I successfully reined in the footy betting monster during a short stint in England, where there were about as many Aussie Rules fans as coppers enrolled at a non-violent, crowd-control seminar.  Being pre-Internet, I kept up to date with the Roys’ (mis)fortunes by dialling the former Telecom Australia sports results service on a Saturday night.

If you phoned around midnight UK-time the footy scores were usually first-up, because anybody in Australia professing to be a true believer would’ve read the Sunday sports pages by then and have no need for the services of the resident Telecom sports voice (as seductive as she sounded to a bloke with a dozen beers under his belt).  Otherwise, brace yourself as “the voice” talked you through everything from the Bong Bong Picnic Races to the World Macrame Championships.  And make sure you keep firing the pennies into the coinslot like you’re feeding a poker machine with nymphomania.  When she finally reached the footy results – if you hadn’t run out of money or fallen asleep in the meantime – there’d always be some drunken yobbo outside the phonebox wailing at the moon or barking at the ground, making it impossible to hear a thing as the scores evaporated into the crisp night air.

Yes, you needed to be a few sprigs short of a footy boot to support Fitzroy.  While the AFL certainly did not, history will judge the Royboys kindly. What true footy fan will dispute that the Roys were THE 19th-century powerhouse, winning two of the three premierships contested (1898 and 1899).  And who can forget 1916, when the Maroons were both premiers and wooden spooners.

First and last in the one year?  Is this a Mensa question, or have I disengaged brain completely in my misguided fanaticism for the Roys?  Well, because of the Great War, only four teams had the resources to kick the pigskin in anger.  Fitzroy won just two and drew one of 12 qualifying games to be further in arrears than a one-legged marathon runner.  However, because the Maroons finished fourth (of four), they automatically qualified for the finals then hit their straps big-time to take the flag.  I’ve already mentioned 1944, the Year of the Gorilla, but after that things deviated drastically from the script.

There was actually a time in the late ’70s, early ’80s when Fitzroy looked genuinely capable of breaking the premiership drought.  The Lions slaughtered North Melbourne by 76 points in the 1978 Night Series Grand Final, with the Kangaroos kicking their only two goals in the first five minutes of the game.  The Roys were invincible in winning nine successive games next season, before booting a then-competition high of 36.22 (238) to Melbourne’s 6.12 (48), a record winning margin that stands to this day.  And Bernie “Superboot” Quinlan, unquestionably the greatest footballer ever to pull on a boot (though Kevin Murray, Johnny Murphy, Garry Wilson, Mick “The Tank” Conlan and Paul Roos – all Royboys, of course – weren’t far behind), shared the 1981 Brownlow Medal and kicked a century of goals in 1983 and 1984.

Ouch! – 1983 really hurts.  Not even the rapid passing of time and more rapid passing of neurons will lessen my conviction – and that of every Roys supporter – that WE WUZ ROBBED (again!) by the men in white, who gift-wrapped Hawthorn a four-point “win” in the qualifying final and a gold-lined invitation into the Grand Final.  Superboot booted five goals in the last quarter alone, but no way known did pip-squeak Loveridge and old man Tuck deserve those late free kicks – greater acts of charity I’ve never seen – that resulted in match-winning goals to the Hawks.

Onto more pleasant things – what about The Tank’s moment of glory to eliminate the Essendon Gliders in 1986?  In pouring rain, Conlan, who with Doug Barwick formed the Biceps Brothers (thanks to “Louie the Lip” Richards), kicked a match-winning goal at the death, from an angle so acute the ball had to deflate itself to squeeze between the posts (with apologies to the late Jack “Captain Blood” Dyer).  Next victims were the Sydney Swans, but trust the ’Orrible ’Awks to again gatecrash the party a week later when the Lions had the flag at their mercy.

However, the game that stands out above all others – both on and off the field – was the 1981 first semi-final against the hated Collingwood Magpies.  Traditionally, most footy fans have two teams: their own and whoever’s playing the Pies.

My dislike of Collingwood goes way back to when I took a shortcut home from school and was swooped by a flock of magpies.  They left me with a bald patch so pronounced that more than one person in the street has addressed me as Your Holiness.  And each and every spring (coincidentally, footy finals time), some do-gooder lady from the Save the Magpies Society – 75 not out in the shade, high-pitched voice, silver-rimmed specs, dark Matron Sloan-like uniform covering a figure like a beach ball, and a head like a chewed-up Mintie – will publicly say what lovely creatures magpies are and suggest nothing less than the death penalty for any person even remotely wishing them harm.  Now, I’m a great nature lover bordering on greenie, and have the utmost respect for those who do volunteer work, but it’s pretty damn obvious the dear lady has never been swooped by a magpie.  You don’t need to be a shrink to understand why I despise Magpies, especially those wearing black-and-white-striped guernseys.

I’m no longer paranoid about friggin’ magpies … I think.  Because of these feathered meglomaniacs, I don’t trudge through the bush in spring.  That’d be about as smart as playing hopscotch in a German minefield.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to get back to Hitler – he’d be “fuhrerious” at me for doing so!  Instead, I prefer to spend September watching Collingwood lose grand finals, although things haven’t gone entirely to plan in recent years with their premiership wins in 1990 and 2010 (admittedly, both occurred in early October).  I’ve nothing against the (very) average Magpies player who, for the most part, has the coordination of an elephant on roller-skates and the personality of a squashed duck.  But it’s the common garden Pies supporter I hate – a real Jekyll and Hyde – particularly the big, fat bastard who stood behind me on that heart-breaking day, September 12, 1981, at the MCG.

The ’81 first semi at the home of footy in front of 85,133 people; the second-largest crowd to attend a Fitzroy game, behind the corresponding game (also a loss) against the Magpies two years earlier.  Had the big, fat bastard not been there, they could’ve squeezed in another couple of thousand people – and three more beer tents and an extra hot dog stand.  I’ll be the first to admit I carry a few extra kilos, but compared to the big, fat bastard I looked like an emaciated knitting needle.  In keeping with his fair-sized-roof-over-the-toolshed physique, he was pretty vocal, especially when he saw me decked out in my Fitzroy gear.  I didn’t care what the big, fat bastard said, as long as he didn’t fall on me.

Unfortunately, the manly Lions played like dandelions in the first half and trailed by 38 points at the long break.  The big, fat bastard was carrying on like a pork chop and, if you believed his ranting and raving, each Collingwood player made Batman look as threatening as a boy scout with gout.  He was paying out on the Royboys big-time.

“Ehhhh … Lorenzo Serafini … you’re about as much use as last week’s spaghetti!  A-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Oi … Matty Rendell … why don’t ya stand in the one spot and be a goalpost?  You’d be movin’ more than what ya are now!  A-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

“So theys tip yous for the Brownlow, Quinlan?  That’s a joke!  Me mother-in-law’s a better footballer than you.  And she’s been dead for five years.  A-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

The big, fat bastard was as funny as a fart in a church confessional.  And each time he unloaded that fearful laugh I copped a spray of warm Foster’s to the back of the head.  Well, I think it was Fossies.  What could I do?  Deck him, maybe.  But Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in tandem couldn’t have managed that, so what chance little old me?  Fingers crossed Fitzroy kicked a few goals to at least make the scoreboard look respectable.

Not bloody likely, sunshine.  When the Magpies booted the first goal of the third quarter to extend their lead to 45 points, the big, fat bastard pulled my Lions scarf even tighter around my neck.

“You’d rather hang than watch this massacre, eh, Royboy?  A-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

No disagreement there.  But before I could further consider his suggestion, a miracle occurred: Fitzroy kicked a goal.  A few cynics – the big, fat bastard included – claimed it was the first goal the Roys had kicked since their 1944 triumph.  But then the boys went into overdrive and piled on goal after goal, trimming the deficit to just 14 points at three-quarter-time.  Geez, Fitzroy could win this!

Certainly the Pies fans believed so.  Conditioned to being prophets of doom, they were already ranking this among the black-and-whites’ best, or worst, fadeouts, depending on which way you look at it.  The big, fat bastard was pretty quiet, aside from bagging the umpires – but I’ll never criticise anyone for that.  He was quieter still when the vastly underrated David McMahon – now he was a player-and-a-half – goaled midway through the last quarter to put the Lions four points up.  Magnificent!

I was pretty tanked by that stage – initially from drowning my sorrows and then from celebrating – and thrust my hand skywards in jubilation … the same hand gripping a freshly opened Foster’s can.  The contents poured out like Niagara Falls – all over the big, fat bastard.  Despite the fact I’d “worn” gallons of his beer earlier in proceedings, this was not a clever move on my behalf considering the delicate state of the game.  I turned around slowly, and braced myself for a clip around the ears.  But … far canal … none came.  Instead, the big, fat bastard made a speech that would’ve done old Freddy Nile proud at the Get On Board Sinners Make A Choice Keep Evil Down (GOBSMACKED) Society’s AGM.  And I quote, because I remember every friggin’ word!

“You’re truly the vilest and most disgusting individual I’ve ever encountered at the football.  Is it any wonder that a man puts his son on the MCG membership waiting list the moment the boy is born?  Makes a lot of sense; both father and son can watch the cricket and football in peace without cultural heathens like you ruining their appreciation of the game.  How many girls do you see here in the crowd?  Very few – I’d lock up my own daughter to protect her from your unsavoury attitude, excessive drinking, deplorable language and all-round loutish behaviour.”

Thanks for the sermon, mate.  To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement.  It only proved a severe personality disorder is a prerequisite for following Collingwood.  When McMahon steered another one through to extend the Lions’ lead to 10 points with just three minutes remaining, I forgot about the big, fat bastard.  The Roys had the game all parcelled up – as sure as night follows day; as sure as taxes will go up this year; as sure as Kylie Minogue will see the light and have her wicked way with me.

The only problem was the Fitzroy players believed this.  No, not that Kylie Minogue was going to have her wicked way with me (unfortunately), but that they had the game won.  Foolish boys!  In the worst 60 seconds of my life, bar none, the Pies goaled twice to restore their lead.  Despite a last-ditch counterattack, the Royboys failed to kick one last goal before the siren sounded to signal defeat by a single, solitary, measly, miserable, pathetic, piddling, bloody point.  Tragedy!  No team – unless it’s Collingwood – deserves to lose such an important game by one point.  But Fitzroy just had.

There is a God; the Magpies lost the Grand Final to Carlton a fortnight later.  As for the big, fat bastard behind me, I didn’t hear him against the screeching chainsaw playing over the PA system, which I presumed was the Collingwood theme song.  It should’ve been Fitzroy’s song – to the tune of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise – playing:

“We are the boys from old Fitzroy;

We wear the colours maroon and blue.

We will always fight for victory;

We will always see it through.

Win or lose, we do or die;

In defeat, we’ll always try.

Fitzroy, Fitzroy, the club we hold so dear;

Premiers we’ll be this year.”

Sheer poetry!  But “this year” and that elusive premiership will never come for Fitzroy.  The shell-shocked remains of players wearing the famed maroon and blue (and gold in later years) – and the theme song, logo, cheer girls and bank overdraft – were shunted off to the hybrid Brisbane Lions.  Some players moved to other clubs, but they’ve all finished up now.  Just like the paltry number of people who ever supported the Maroons, Gorillas, Lions, Roys, Royboys – many of whom were given the last rites soon after the club was.

I’m yet to receive the dreaded visit from the priest, but may as well take up marbles on the weekend rather than try to select winners in games that I don’t have my heart in.  The AFL’s decision to shaft Fitzroy must rank as Australia’s biggest sporting blunder since Channel 9 sacked Keith Stackpole (coincidentally, the son of 1944 Roys’ premiership player Keith Stackpole Senior) from its international cricket commentary team.  But that, my friends, is another story.

 

Fitzroy Pete Carter’s recently published book “Dreamer, Drifter, Drunk” can be previewed and purchased from his website www.fitzroypete.com.au

 

 

About Pete Carter

Author of Dreamer, Drifter, Drunk, 1919 The Royal Domination Begins and Fitzroy's Fabulous Century: The 100 Greatest Victories, 1897-1996 (see www.fitzroypete.com.au); diehard Fitzroy supporter who's never forgiven the AFL for its "clinical execution" of the RoyBoys; fanatical fan of and club historian at WAFL club East Perth, the Mighty Royals; lover of all things willow on leather (we're only talking cricket here).

Comments

  1. Some great names there FP. I loved ‘the Flea’ Garry Wilson. Courageous, skilful and clever. Pound for pound as good as ever pulled on a boot.
    What about that Gary Pert going to the Maggies eh? Bet that crossed him off your Chrissie card list.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Enjoyed this Pete, especially “a few sprigs short”

  3. Thanks very much for the feedback, Peter and Mark. I loved watching “the Flea” play – perhaps only behind “Superboot” and “Bulldog” Murray in terms of my favourite Royboys. Absolutely right, Pete, Perty was off my Xmas card list when he crossed to the Pies. Apparently, Fitzroy didn’t look after him when he was recovering from his knee reco, but surely he could’ve gone anywhere but Collingwood. Swish, my rough head copped more than a few sprigs from more than a few footy boots during my modest amateur footy career, perhaps explaining my blind loyalty to the Lions long after their “departure”.

  4. Neil Anderson says

    Wonderful piece of writing touching so many raw nerves as a Bulldog supporter.
    Except for Fitzroy actually being shafted by the VFL, you could have used Footscray in most cases during your lament.
    The under-dogs and under-lions up against the born-to-win favourites, in front for most of the match and then victory snatched away at the last minute. Us Bulldog supporters are accepted on this web-site largely because we can come up with a different angle on how we lost the 1997 Prelim, time and time again. Then again it could be just pity.
    I will put in an order for your book and get someone to put it away for my birthday which unfortunately is not til November.
    I really enjoy your style of writing and the voice I keep hearing reminds me of the David Mitchell character, Mark Corrigan, in ” Peep Show”.

  5. G’day Pete,

    I had heard about Fitzroy’s mergIhave with former Brisbane Bears and feel how devastating it was for you and other Roy fans.

    Your writing is interesting to read, especially the rivalry with Collingwood who are rivals of many AFL clubs including my St Kilda. I hope we will win the second flag by 2020.

    I learnt that Carlton was your neighbouring suburb. Were the Blues your rivals as well?

    In September last year, I listened to an interesting story about your beloved Fitzroy on Evenings with Finey program on 1116 SEN. The club song was tuned to the French anthem because a club board member had a connection with France in the early 20th Century, I heard. Can you please tell us more details?

    Thanks

    Yoshi

  6. Many thanks for your very complimentary words, Neil and Yoshi. Including sharing remarkably similar names, the parallels between Fitzroy and Footscray are many, Neil. Had the 1989-90 merger gone ahead, would Fitzscray or Footsroy been a better option than the Fitzroy Bulldogs? I can still see Libba raising his hands in the air in celebration after he thought he’d kicked the sealer in the 1997 preliminary final. You’ve had a couple of narrow losses since. That’s great if you want to get a copy of my book – I’m sure I’ll have plenty of copies for a while yet. I must check out Peep Show – I have a good mate named David Mitchell who’s a mad Saints fan.
    Speaking of “mad Saints fans”, I love your passion for St Kilda, Yoshi. After the near misses of 2009 and 2010, I hope St Kilda can win another flag by 2020 – have always had a soft spot for the Sainters. I’ve always understood Collingwood to be more of a traditional rival of Fitzroy than Carlton. Marc Fiddian’s “The Other Side of Smith Street” gives a great summary of Fitzroy-Collingwood matches. I’ll have to research the origins of “La Marseillaise” as the Royboys’ club song and will try and download the “Evening with Finey” program you mention.

  7. Pete, although it may not be too much consolation to you, it is to many of us here in Northcote/Fitzroy/Brunswick. Fitzroy lives! In B Section of the ammos. You must come to a lunch at Brunswick Street Oval and then watch the seniors. It is sensational.

    And, there’s more. It is so sensational that The Footy Almanac will be covering the Roys games in 2015. You are welcome to cover a game – when you come over.

    Let me know if you are keen.

    Indeed, anyone who would like to write a Fitzroy match report during season 2015, please let me know. [email protected]

  8. Thanks Pete for your warm wishes for the Saints, answering my question about the rivalry and effort to research about the relation between the Fitzroy Lions and France.

    I wish you all the best in 2015.

    Yoshi

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Brilliant, Pete.
    What the AFL did to Fitzroy was sporting infanticide. Should never have happened.
    Many great victories over my Pies. One at Vic Park in 1985. Remember Shane Halas? Played a blinder that day. And the winning goal by Paul Roos in 1992 after Pert had put Collingwood in front. I thought my RoyBoy mate John was going to have an aneurysm
    Here’s an idea for Gillon: Get rid of GWS and bring back the Roys. The game might just find its soul again. Cheers

  10. Thanks, John, if I do get over to Melbourne this year I’ll definitely accept your kind Fitzroy Reds’ lunch invitation and offer to report on a game at the Brunswick Street Oval. Great news that the Almanac will be covering Reds games. I’ve had a Reds membership for several years and occasionally touch base with the great Bill Atherton.
    My pleasure, Yoshi. This information about Fitzroy’s theme song comes from the Big Footy website in 2012. “Fitzroy had a song written for them by poet Norm Byron after winning the 1944 premiership, but on a trip back from Brisbane in 1955, a group of players, including Bill Stephen and Ken Ross, came up with the words, set to La Marseillaise, that remain virtually intact today.”
    Love your thoughts, Phil. Did you attend the 1981 first semi-final and how did you feel about the Pies almost coughing up victory? Yes, the Roys had many fine wins over the Woods between 1974 and 1993 inclusive, after beating your blokes just once from 21 games between 1962 and 1973. Shane Halas – now he’s blast from the past. The Lions won six of the 11 games (his career tally) he played in 1985, yet just one of the 11 matches he missed. Was Shane’s form an “Halasucination” (shocking, I know)?

  11. Peter – lucky enough to run into and chat with The Flea recently. He’s still as fit as a trout and plays golf off about 2 or 3. Amazing athlete. Has some very forthright and interesting views on footy and footy players – past and present.

    I also see David McMahon quite often. Also in good nick.

    . My old man was a Fitzroy supporter but their demise was too cruel so he didn’t follow them to Brisbane.

    Great piece.

    Great piece.

  12. Paddy O'Peace says

    Thxs Pete. Top read. Fitzroy is full of characters including yourself.

    The Buntons hailed from Albury. Cleaver was the long term Mayor & his
    Brother was Hayden. Dinny Ryan, Brownlow Medalist 1936, lived in Kenilworth St,
    East Albury & when young, David McMahon in Mount St

    Who can forget Harry Beitzel’s Footy Panel on the ABC with Chicken Smallhorn,
    Tony Ongarello, Roy Wright, Thorold Merrett et al.
    The ABC were pioneers but some birdbrain there, or was it Politicians, pulled
    the program off. The pruning still goes on, the powers that be never listen or have hidden agendas. Me reckons that we haven’t necessarily be shirtfronted, nor shirt lifted, but short changed. Sold a dummy. Sorry for digressing.

    At Uni in the 70’s we had Don Whitford, Rossie Thornton, Rod Ashman & apparently
    Brent Tiger Crosswell, though I never saw him.
    Incidentally,Ross’s nephew, by marriage is Fraser Gehrig.

    Once saw Fitzroy V Geelong at the Junction Oval. Alan Thompson was in scintillating form. Gary Flea Wilson always was.

    Other Fitzroy stalwarts include Superboot, Bernie Quinlan, Robbie Walls,
    Len Thompson & Max Richardson. Plus Davo Parkin not forgetting Kevin Rose, Bill
    Stephen, G Donaldson & Campbell.
    The late Les Parish, from Yarrawonga, also deserves a mention.

    Les Carlyon put it beautifully in his Afterword to Patrick Bartley’s biography on Roy Higgins. “This racecourse, beautiful as it is, is not consecrated ground – not in the
    accepted religious sense anyway. But for many of us it comes close”.
    He was talking of Flemington, though it could equally be said of the Brunswick St,
    Oval.

  13. Thanks very much, Dips, I share your Dad’s sentiments and haven’t been able to embrace Brisbane (other than being happy for those Royboys who played in the three-peat). That said, it’s always a buzz on the rare occasions when they wear the old FFC jumper. I saw Gary Wilson’s wonderful interview on Open Mike last year – he looked more like 50 than 60. I always thought David McMahon was stiff to miss out on Fitzroy’s Team of the Century – arguably the best shot for goal I can remember among the old Lions (Superboot had days when he could really spray them).
    Loved reading your reflective thoughts, Paddy, and a great Les Carlyon quote to end with. Among the stalwarts you mentioned, we can add John Murphy and Warwick Irwin. I always thought it was sad that Murphy left the club on the dawn of its best era in decades, though I believe he was at loggerheads with the committee. It was ironic that Warwick Irwin played in that 1981 first semi – for Collingwood. I read somewhere that he had mixed feelings about the result of that game.
    Geez, Albury certainly had a great Fitzroy connection. I never got to see Harry Beitzel’s Footy Panel over here in the West, more’s the pity. My first ABC exposure to the VFL was an hour that included replays of a quarter from two games late on a Sunday night. That was a precursor to “The Winners”. My interest in Fitzroy stemmed from Kevin Murray being captain-coach of my WAFL team, the East Perth Royals. When Muzza returned to Fitzroy, I became both a Royal and a Royboy.

  14. Pete – Close to the very best player I ever played footy with was Brad Gotch. Gotchy went on to play about 40 or so games with Fitzroy and 50 or so with St Kilda. He was a deadly kick and as elusive as the Scarlett Pimpernel. Plugger loved seeing Gotchy with the footy when he was storming out of full forward with the Saints. He’s currently coaching South Adelaide. His son (Seb Gotch) is pushing hard for selection with Victoria’s Shield side. A name to remember.

    Do you remember Gotchy running around with the Roys?

  15. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fitzroy Pete love your passion for the Roy’s . The irony in a club being given the boot re being broke and yet the tv deal now guarantees each clubs existence. Fitzroy had some champions , Wilson was as classy as any 1 going around if luck had gone the other way they may well have a flag during the eighties .

  16. I certainly do remember Gotchy, Dips. One of the old style, cheeky, left-foot rovers. He probably lacked opportunities at Fitzroy in the shadow of “the Flea”. Ironically, he kicked seven goals (Plugger “only” booted five) for the Saints versus the Lions at Moorabbin in 1987, while I saw him play a beauty against the Roys at Princes Park in Round 1, 1988. I’ll have to Google Seb Gotch’s cricket career, Dips – third-generation top sportsman after Brad’s father, Graham.
    Thanks very much for your kind words, Malcolm. Absolutely right about the TV deal – the AFL had their “magic number” set at 16 (In: Port Adelaide, Out: Fitzroy), but that’s gone by the wayside now. I still think 1983 and 1979 were Fitzroy’s best chances of a flag. 1983 has been well documented in terms of the Lions having beaten losing preliminary finalists North Melbourne by 25 goals midseason, but coughing up a 27-point lead against Geelong in the last 10-15 minutes in Round 22 cost the Roys a top-three spot and the double chance in 1979.

  17. Hi Peter and Phil,

    Peter – thanks for hardwork researching about the club song. I admire the song is good and Fitzroy one is better than the Brisbane one.

    Phil – merging is painful and bringing back the club to Fine would be good. Do you think GWS get more spectators than old Roys? I reckon a Tasmanian AFL club would have more attendances at matches.

    Recently I have read the match report between Richmond and Brisbane in the Almanac book 2014. The author barracked for Roys but has no club to support now. Poor him…

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  18. Not a problem at all, Yoshi, I enjoy researching the quirkier side of sport. I just reread Rees Quilford’s excellent Richmond-Brisbane match report. My feelings about Fitzroy’s demise definitely echo his. The only positive about not having an AFL team to support is that I don’t suffer the same anxiety or devastation from a Fitzroy loss. That said, in most games I have a team I want to win (though I don’t lose any sleep if they don’t). That was certainly the case when St Kilda won their first 19 games in 2009 – I was hoping they’d go through the season undefeated, but it wasn’t to be.

  19. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Hi Yoshi, good to meet you through the Almanac. I’ve had a year off contributing much content to the site, but now feel my interest in footy re-emerging.

    Fitzroy’s situation was not a merger, but a murder. The AFL wanted to bring Port in for 1997 and were determined to do so at any cost. The Roys were the sacrificial lamb. The other clubs turned their backs on Fitzroy also, unless there was a merger that could benefit them. In 1996 Hawthorn weren’t much better off than Fitzroy in terms of funds and supporters. Look at Hawthorn now. Cheers.

  20. Fitzroy was in the wrong spot at the wrong time, Phil. Admittedly, the club had discussions about going to Brisbane as far as back as 1986, along with merging with Melbourne. Ironic that Hawthorn almost merged with the Demons – who can forget get Don Scott’s emotional speech against the union. I still think two divisions of 10 teams (two teams promoted from Div 1 to Div 2, two going the other way) would work, though many argue that the teams in the second tier would receive minimal sponsorship.

  21. G’day Phil. Nice to meet you too through this wonderful footy community. Your story about how Fitzroy was treated by AFL makes me sad… They just seemed to focus on bringing Port Adelaide into the competition. Opposed to Fitzroy, Hawthorn was lucky and is so strong now…

    G’day Peter again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on watching footy. In 2009, even I didn’t watch footy, but hearing about St Kilda missing to win the flag is sad.

    By the way, I think you will be relieved when a forever lady Roy fan appears on GBU Crew segment as a part of Evenings with Finey show on SEN. She always appears on the show with the Fitzroy club song and talks about her hero. They always talk about VFL/AFL players having a particular number every Wednesday starting just after 10 pm.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  22. Thanks, Yoshi, I’ll see if I can get Evenings with Finey on the Net over here in Perth. Sports radio 91.3FM usually has a lot of SEN stuff – they must be brother/sister stations.

  23. Terrific article with many great responses which bought back many memories for this old Royboys
    It is a shame they have gone from the national scene but I still follow them in the VAFA even though I now reside in Queensland

    Terry

  24. Thanks very much, Terry. Likewise, I follow the Fitzroy Reds and respect how they and, to a lesser extent, the Brisbane Lions have kept the Maroons/Gorillas/Lions/Royboys heritage going. However, it’s the banter I miss from not having an AFL team. Some of my friends have said: “Get over it, Pete; choose another team.” Now that might be all well and good when in relation to other aspects of life (e.g. romance gone wrong), but not when it involves something far more important – footy!!!

  25. george smith says

    Mr Pete, as a loyal Collingwood supporter I was there in 1981. I had driven down from Canberra after my girlfriend dumped me the previous weekend, so the portents from the footy gods were not good, particularly after the debacle against the Moggies the previous week. After cruising along at the top of the ladder for the entire season, all Collingwood had to do to win the flag, get position one, and get a well earned rest was beat the Bike Helmets at Vic Park, an easy assignment for any team but the Heartbreak Kids. The rest is history. The annoying ones fired up for yet another date with destiny, made the finals and won the impossible last game, setting off a car crash for the mighty pies. But somehow after the debacles of 77, 70, 66, etc, etc, the Pies climbed off the canvas, it was as if Bossy Maggie finally said: “Enough is enough!” what a day to be a Magpie supporter! One point! after leading by 45!

  26. George, we may well have passed each other on the Hume Highway that weekend, as 1981 was my first year in CanOfBeerAh (I was living in Limestone Avenue, not far from the Ainslie Footy Club, at the time).
    Perhaps your then girlfriend knew what a tense game that first semi-final was going to be.
    I have fond memories of the Roys’ Round 22 win over the Pies, though I think the Cats-Bombers game was screened into the nation’s capital that weekend.
    I’m pretty sure it was Daicos and Brewer who kicked the last two Woods’ goals.
    You had your customary preliminary final win over the Cats and led the Blues until early in the last quarter before the Colliwobbles again resurfaced.

  27. george smith says

    Pete, I could write a book about that strange and terrible weekend. After that wonderful win, marred by Peter Moore’s hamstring, I spent some time with my friends at Ocean Grove, trying to make sense of it all, then tried to drive home on Sunday night. I made it as far as Seymour before my new car got a piece of metal wedged in the accelerator cable, and I spent a whole day in Seymour waiting for the car to be fixed, reading a bland copy of Penthouse and musing on my newly single status.
    Years later I took my sweet, current wife to see the Magpies at the SCG, her first match. It was a win, Anthony Rocca reached for the sky to beat the Swans by 3 points.
    It’s funny how great Collingwood wins are tied in with road trips. In 2010 I drove to Adelaide to see the pandas, maintaining radio silence so not to stress about the Grand Final. At Hay, I plucked up the courage to ask the score – it was a draw!!!

  28. Were you trying to make sense of your new-found single status or Collingwood’s Jekyll-and-Hyde performance, George? I think my mate and I returned to Canberra on Sunday morning, otherwise we would’ve given you a lift (or at least dropped off a few more copies of Penthouse in Seymour).
    Regards the Anthony Rocca game, was that after he’d returned from his Swans sojourn? Glad that you have a great wife who loves footy. You’re a better man than I, Gunga Din, for maintaining radio silence on Grand Final day, George. Given pandas’ black-and-white colouring, could we dare contemplate Collingwood being known as the Pandas and not the Magpies (or maybe the Panda Pies)?

  29. Pete

    Although a Saints fan, I watched many a Fitzroy game with my Royboy mates at Princes Park whilst at Melbourne Uni between 1987-1989. As there were very few others around, we’d huddle together in the standing room area on the half forward/back flank and down two (opened) tinnies and one pie each – per quarter – for warmth, you will understand!

    As Roys supporters we never went with any great expectation, but always with great hope. I always felt sorry for the supporters of the top clubs – if they won, it was expected and if they lost there was no consoling them. We had nothing to lose.

    We had some shocking days, but also some crackers. Round 5, 1989 was one such cracker. Trailing Geelong by 5 goals at 3/4 time, we were just going through the motions as we added a bag of donnas (doughnuts) to our menu. But our proud Lions had other ideas. They came out and played a blinding last quarter and when Kevin Caton (a.k.a. Roland Gift) out-marked Gary Ablett (who Malcolm Blight had played at full back!) and booted a point from the 50, as the siren blew, pandemonium broke out in the outer. Disparate groups of Fitzroy supporters flocked to embrace each other as La Marseillaise rang out around the ground. As a St Kilda and part-time Roys fan, it felt as good as I imagine it does to win the Grand Final! But it was only Round 5. Dare we dream? Of course we did, but ultimately we finished just outside the 5 – thwarted again by – you guess it – the Carringbush!

  30. Corka of a story, Corka. I guess the Saints and Roys have always been kindred spirits (though there may be some Sainters who still haven’t got over the 1913 Grand Final (-:] ). The fact Fitzroy moved to the Junction Oval a few years after St Kilda went to Moorabbin may have also helped forge a bond, plus a mutual “hatred” of Collingwood (though the two clubs weren’t on their Pat Malone there!).
    I was actually in England for the first half of the 1989 VFL season, mostly working on a Cornwall farm. However, I used to pop up to London every couple of weeks and invariably called into Australia House (I half expected to bump into Sir Les Patterson), in The Strand from memory, to read the Aussie newspapers. I recall reading the reports of Kevin Caton hitting the post to win the game for the RoyBoys against the Mad Catters.
    The Lions had a slump then won five games in a row late season to challenge for the top five, only for the Pies to spoil the fun, as you mentioned. That was the day Richard Osborne did his knee, if I recall correctly.

  31. In recent years the Uni Canberra Wombats have folded and were soon to be forgotten, or so I thought. But I stumbled across the AFL Footy Almanac and by chance saw Tony Robb’s article on the ‘Bush Barrassi’ where the football skills of the Wombats were first written. This article prompted a recent reunion of the 1984 playing side and another splendid article by Tony suitability titled “Balls to ANU”. Again by chance I found this article by Peter Carter on his love for the Fiztroy Lions ‘Roy Boys Lament’ and saw that his long awaited book had hit the stands. I immediately purchased a copy and have spent the new year reading the odd chapter of Peter’s travels and adventures.
    It is not often you get to read recollections of amateur football these days, certainly not from Canberra. It seems that now with AFL players contracted with highly educated professional ghost writers, computers, word processors our modern day professional football fraternity seems destined to pen their stale and tepid autobiographies minutes after round 22.
    This is where “Dreamer, Drifter, Drunk” by a former team mate Peter Carter is such a refreshing read and delightful return to when you played footy for recreation not for adoration or victory and played with blokes that you only knew by their nick names such as Rippers, Obes, Fats, Tulls, Alphabet, Matty, Camel, Pud, Mad Dog, Gumboot, Whispers, Sutto, Starky, Dogsfood, Budda, et al.

    As a wise man once said “Do yourself a favour” and purchase a copy or two of Peter’s book. You will enjoy well written and funny stories with tales of good natured misadventures and misdemeanors of here and abroad, of being desperate and dateless in Canberra, of football mateship and of a friendly larrikin and author we lovingly know as ‘Fats’.

    Well done Fats, from the boundary, at full pace, kicked one between the big sticks!

  32. Neil Anderson says

    I’m halfway though Pete’s book and I was going to let him know how it went when I was finished. Most Almanackers would enjoy this book.
    His tales of mad characters he shared houses with and worked with mirrored my own misspent youth in Melbourne, particularly when I worked in Melbourne in the Commonwealth Public Service.
    Pete reminded me why we had some much time as Public Servants to partake in all the tomfoolery as he called it. It was because of all the leave available.
    He said, ” Let’s see, you could take annual leave, study leave, long-service leave, moving-house leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, fraternity leave (perhaps) . But the most-maligned leave, but easily the most practical, was sick leave– the old reliable Aussie sickie.”

  33. Thanks for your very kind words, Mitch and Neil.
    Might I add that for those who never saw him play, Mitch (David Mitchell) was one of the finest footballers I ever saw pull on a boot in Canberra amateur footy.
    It remains a travesty that his beloved St Kilda didn’t see fit to give him a chance at the highest level.
    Neil, I must admit I was perhaps the least diligent public servant to ever fill in a timesheet (that was the extent of my work on most days).
    Of course, that’s not to malign those in the public service, as I believe it’s changed markedly in recent years.
    Looking forward to chatting to you at some stage about those characters you met in your “misspent youth”.

  34. Neil Anderson says

    So that’s the famous David Mitchell Pete. I said before that I am a huge fan of the British David Mitchell. Both in Peep Show and Would I lie to you? which is on five nights a week on UK TV. David Mitchell’s character Mark Corrigan shares a house with a guy who doesn’t pay the rent, cons all the ladies of course, smokes weed and will do the dirty if necessary on the nerdy educated Mark at the drop of a hat. They use the voice-over of Mark as a way of showing the viewers what he’s really thinking as he is saying something completely different.
    I will talk to you later Pete about Public Service life and what we got away with.

  35. I recall you mentioning the British Dave Mitchell, Neil.
    My Wombat mate and fanatical Saint Dave (Mitch) is certainly into peep shows, but it would be libellous of me to go any further.
    I must check out “Peep Show” and “Would I Lie To You?” at some stage in the future.
    Speaking of sitcoms, Aussie Rules is crying out for one.
    A week ago, I watched “The Great Macarthy” for the first time.
    Some of the footage in the movie from the 1974 VFL season, including South Melbourne versus your beloved Footscray, Neil, is superb.
    The link below is from a 1974 game between Fitzroy and the Swans at the Junction Oval.
    Interestingly, the Lions’ logo in the close-ups is more like Carlton’s CFC than Fitzroy’s FFC.
    I also loved the movie’s soundtrack.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9chbdIZ9QuE

  36. Neil Anderson says

    Great stuff Pete. Thanks for that. You would think there would be more films about our great game that has such a big following, but there’s not many.
    Interesting to see a young John Jarratt forty years before he terrorized them at Wolf Creek.
    It would have been just before they made Picnic At Hanging Rock where he played a young bushy. Good to see Uncle Doug Elliot in his film debut and John Stanton the voice-over king scowling in the background.
    I have tried to write a couple of plays based on the machinations of a football-club without much success. It’s hard to come up with something different from David Williamson’s ‘The Club’. Also if you are hoping they’ll put a play on interstate, you have to be aware the audience might be sneering and calling it ‘ aerial ping-pong’.
    I will try and find a copy of The Great McCarthy especially to see the old Footscray/ South Melbourne match.

  37. I recall seeing Barry Round and Terry Wheeler in the 1974 SM-Foots footage, Neil, but you’d probably recognise every player.
    John Jarratt is unrecognisable from the chubby-faced villain in “Wolf Creek”.
    There are certainly quite a few blasts from the past in “The Great McCarthy”, with both Kate Fitzpatrick and Judy Morris (in particular!) “very impressive” for reasons that I won’t elaborate on.
    I reckon you could write a good play about the Bulldogs, though the most controversial era (in terms of selling players) coincides with when “The Club” was released as a movie.
    Maybe you could write one about the Roys-Scrays’ failed 1989 merger (speaking of which, I must read Barry Dickins’ “Royboys”)!
    Good points you make about sneering interstate audiences when it comes to putting on an Aussie Rules play, Neil.

  38. Charlie Dillow says

    thank you mate

  39. My pleasure, Charlie. All the very best for your Swans and your own footy career.

Leave a Comment

*