Almanac (Family and Footy) History: At the end of the day, everyone just wants to come home.

 

Every week when Fitzroy plays the season proper – home and away, in the heat of battle or on the training track – a man mountain clad in club gear can be seen cheering them on. That man’s name is David Leydon and his family, like no other, represents the face of Fitzroy old and new. Some years ago, the Fitzroy Footy Club posted a story about David’s family and their abiding love for the Roys. The Footy Almanac is pleased to publish a slightly updated version of this story which first appeared on www.fitzroyfc.com.au in 2018.

 

David, who is a real community man, is also a member here at the Almanac.

 

 

by Gabby Murphy

 

 

Born and bred in Fitzroy, Patricia Ryan and Ward Leydon were both passionate Roys supporters when they met and subsequently married in the early 1950s. Theirs was a marriage made in heaven, and heaven was the Brunswick Street Oval.

 

Pat and Ward have followed Fitzroy through thick and thin all their lives: from ground to ground, in good times and in bad, against all odds. For them and their children, David and Kelly, and David and Kelly’s kids – following the Lions is a family thing. It’s something they’ve always done, and will always do.

 

So when the first bum deal was dealt the Roys and they were moved off the grand old Brunswick Street Oval in 1966 to become the refugees of the VFL/AFL, it was a wrench. But never ones to bemoan their fate, or that of their beloved Roys, Pat and Ward simply changed routes and travelled further afield to watch them every week, rain, hail or shine.

 

 

The Leydon family (from left to right) David, Sean and Pat, travelled all over Melbourne to watch the Roys at whatever their ‘home ground’ was at the time.

 

David tells us that Pat first started going to Fitzroy games at Brunswick Street Oval in the late 1940s. She was Pat Ryan back in those days.

 

“She and her sister Doreen would always stand behind the goals at the Brunswick Street end. That way they could run out of the ground at the end of the game and get a seat on the waiting tram,” says David. “But importantly, it gave them the perfect vantage point to catch the heroics of their favourite forwards and backmen of the day close up.”

 

Pat was in the crowd when Fitzroy captain Alan Ruthven kicked the winning point in the dying seconds of the 1952 semi-final against Carlton. She was there to see Vic Chanter keep legendary Essendon full forward John Coleman goalless for the only time in his career. She was there when Kevin Murray played his first game and twenty years later, was there to see him play his three hundred and thirty third game, his last. She was there in the pouring rain at the ’86 elimination final against Essendon when Micky Conlan kicked that last-minute goal to beat Essendon – one of her greatest days as a Roys supporter.

 

And Pat and sister Doreen were in the crowd on that sad day in 1996 when the Royboys played their last AFL game in Melbourne. Words aren’t necessary to explain what this felt like for Pat and Doreen. Their faces say it all.

 

 

Pat Leydon and her sister Doreen express the deep distress all Fitzroy followers experienced on the last day the Roys played in the AFL in Melbourne.

 

Of all the family, Ward was probably the most affected, finding it very hard to accept what had happened. While the whole Leydon family played their part over the years in fundraising attempts to keep Fitzroy afloat, Ward went to the extent of taking long service leave in 1991 to work on the fundraising appeal conducted by the club from AFL House. He worked there all day, tag-teaming with David who came in at night to volunteer on the phones with other passionate Roys supporters.

 

It was a little different, and perhaps a little easier for Pat, and she embraced the Brisbane Lions concept pretty early on. David thinks much of this was due to Pat’s pivotal position as a Lions’ matriarch and organiser of family football allegiance. After all, she was over the moon when her first grandson Sean was born in 1992 and accompanied him to his first Royboys’ game as a two-year-old.

 

 

 Sean Leydon, 20 months old, with Paul Roos in 1994.

 

After all, how could a grandmother countenance her first-born grandchild living without an AFL team to follow? So, in time, Pat also became a passionate member of the Brisbane Lions and was ecstatic when they won three premierships in a row in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

 

David, like his father, was at first angry, and then felt lost, after 1996.

 

“Even after the first couple of Brisbane premierships which was great, there was something lacking,” says David. “We yelled, screamed and supported our backsides off in those two grand finals and we were rapt to finally have some success.

 

“But to me, deep inside, something still didn’t make it feel 100 per cent like old Fitzroy.

 

“I vividly remember the moment that properly changed that feeling forever.”

 

This was Round 19, 2003 when the Brisbane Lions played Collingwood at the MCG.

 

“It was heritage round,” David recalls, “and for the first time the Brisbane Lions wore the old Fitzroy jumper with the traditional white FFC on the front. They looked magnificent!

 

“The Lions won and as the players walked around the ground waving to supporters after the game, Jonathan Brown and Michael Voss tapped their hearts and pointed to the FFC on the jumper.

 

 

 Sean Leydon with hero Michael Voss in 2003.

 

“I was in tears and 100 per cent back from that moment,” David says. “It made the third premiership all the sweeter in 2003.”

 

For David and all the Leydons, the fact that they now have the opportunity to come to the great old Fitzroy home at Brunswick Street Oval every winter is icing on the cake.

 

“A thousand passionate emotions are stirred every home game,” says David. “Fitzroy Football Club at Brunswick Street Oval and the old song playing, we feel like we’ve come home!”

 

 

 David Leydon at a Fitzroy pre-game luncheon before being presented one of the Roys’ iconic ‘Quit’ jackets from the 1980s and quipping “50 years old and I can’t wait to take it home and show my mum!”

 

As for Pat, now in her 80s and wheelchair-bound, she remains a proud, passionate and paid up member of the Fitzroy VAFA team and derives much pride in the fact that her husband, sister, son and grandson are too.

 

 

 Happy to be home again: Kelly, David, Pat and Ward at Brunswick Street Oval to watch the Roys.

 

She looks forward to receiving the Red Roy and reads it from start to finish every week. She demands to know the quarter-by-quarter Fitzroy VAFA scores from David and is always rapt to hear of their wins and confident in their ability to resurface after a loss.

 

She absolutely loves the fact that women are now enjoying on-field prominence and recognition in AFL circles, recently telling David that if the AFLW had of been around 60 years ago she’d definitely have got a game for Fitzroy and have liked to play against and beat those Collingwood girls!

 

She is very pleased to know that the Roys have a women’s teams in the VAFA and likes to know that they are there serving it up to the opposition.

 

Pat and Ward’s marriage, like their footy club, has stood the test of time. For Pat and Ward that’s over 60 years and for the Roys over 137 years. And still counting on both fronts.

 

Now they’re Fitzroy achievements we’ll all celebrate.

 

 

At Pat and Ward Leydon’s 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, Fitzroy memorabilia takes pride of place alongside Pat’s wedding gown!

 

 

 Pat and Ward hand in hand with their all-time hero Kevin Murray at the Brisbane Lions’ 2019 family day.

 

 

David dug out his first footy jumper, knitted by mother Pat and sporting the number 1, to show Fitzroy’s most famous number 1!

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    What a fantastic story about a family and their love for a footy team. This community spirit experienced at a grassroots level is something left wanting at an AFL level. Maybe when the big bucks are gone our teams will revert to the scenario of years ago, and support will come from the community minded supporters as happens with Fitzroy FC these days.

  2. It’s a beautiful family story with positives the Leydons overcame margining the beloved Roys.

    I wish passions have dominated over financial circumstances.

    Their heart is always with the Lions.

    Thanks for sharing the lovely story in the hard time.

  3. Fantastic story about a family of true Fitzroy diehards, Gabby.
    It would be interesting to know how many Roys games the Leydon clan has collectively seen since the early 1950s.
    Seeing David tower over the great Muzza, I reckon he would’ve been a pretty handy ruckman if/when the opportunity presented.
    The photo of Pat and Doreen at the Round 21, 1996, game at the MCG reflects the sadness a lot of Roys fans would’ve been feeling (and are still feeling).

  4. Daryl Schramm says

    Great read. Thank you. Has anyone ever come across anyone that didn’t like Fitzroy?

  5. A superb piece that really tugs at my heartstrings, Gabby.

    I am an old South Melbourne supporter and 2 of my closes friends are Fitzroy supporters. We became kindred spirits through the early-mid 1990s when both of our clubs’ futures appeared perilous. We regularly supported one another at matches as honorary “supporters” of the other club for a day.

    While there were some truly heart-wrenching times, I have come to the conclusion that it is actually the hard times that are what SUPPORTING a football team is all about. Looking back, the supposed hard times were some of the more enjoyable experiences of my Swans following life.

    To those that drop off supporting their club when the wins are few, I pity you……… you are missing out.

    Footy is an ever changing thing, and while I have dear memories of watching a struggling team at the Lake Oval, my kids will have a very different set of memories and experiences of the Swans……. and whose to say that my memories are more valid or more important than theirs !!?

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    That’s a lovely read. What a wonderful history of getting behind Fitzroy by the Leydon family. So happy you all have got to follow Fitzroy playing out of Brunswick St Oval in recent years.

    As an aside, it has baffled me visiting the BSO in recent years as to how it never became a major ground. Close to the city, decent sized oval, spacious parklands, public transport right on the doorstep, as opposed to grounds like Victoria Park and the Whitten Oval that are more hemmed in by their surrounds.

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