Almanac Footy History: Starting to Rise – Fitzroy FC’s promising 1978 day and night season

 

Starting to Rise: Fitzroy Football Club’s promising 1978 day and night season by Philip Mendes

 

1978 is the first season from which I have vivid memories of watching Fitzroy Football Club (FFC). There are probably three reasons for this. Although I had regularly viewed Fitzroy home games since 1970, this was the first season at the age of 13 years that I also attended multiple away games, watching the Roys play against Carlton, Footscray, North Melbourne, Richmond and Melbourne at the MCG, and South Melbourne. This gave me a new vantage point on the various impacts that diverse grounds, crowds and atmospheres had on the game. A second factor was that the Roys finally began to improve that year as reflected in the Night Premiership, and the recruitment mid-year of top liners Robert Walls and Bernie Quinlan. That success accentuated my engagement with the Roys, whereas previously I had probably been more interested in the results for my local VFA team, the Caulfield Bears. A third factor was the increasing media coverage – both print and broadcast – that improved performances generated. In those days, there was no internet or multiple highlight shows and replays. Channel Seven’s Big League dominated the airwaves, and if a team didn’t appear regularly on the Big League or at least on the ABC’s Winners, it was almost as if they didn’t exist.

 

Fitzroy had a new coach (Graham Campbell replacing Kevin Rose) and a new captain (Harvey Merrigan replacing John Murphy who defected to South Melbourne) to start 1978. It was a mixed season that combined degrees of promise and frustration. The Roys defeated the eventual premier Hawthorn twice, and won six out of their last 11 games to finish 9th with eight wins. But narrow defeats (conceding eight games by less than two goals) cost them dearly including three close losses to eventual finals sides in North Melbourne and Carlton. FFC President Frank Bibby rightly lamented that not all the narrow losses could be attributed to ‘bad luck’. [i] The absence of tall marking forwards cost Fitzroy dearly in many of those early losses.[ii] Conversely, the recruitment of Walls and Quinlan had a major positive impact in the second half of the season.[iii]

 

 

Season highlights included:

 

  • Gary Wilson had an enormous season, totaling 646 disposals, 134 marks, and 42 goals.[iv] He won multiple media awards such as The Age Footballer of the Year,[v] and was a close third in the Brownlow Medal with 20 votes; additionally Ron Alexander finished 11th in the Brownlow.
  • Bob Beecroft kicked 65 goals to finish 7th overall in the VFL goalkicking table.[vi]
  • The Roys won the Night Premiership (called the Amco-Herald Cup) for the first time since 1959 when it was played only by the sides that had missed the final four. This victory against the reigning day premier North Melbourne was highly impressive.[vii]

 

Night Series

 

You can read a report of the night series Here.

 

The Roys defeated Tasmania (March 23) and South Melbourne (April 18) in the first two rounds followed by victory over Richmond in the Semi Final. The Grand Final victory over North Melbourne was a magnificent result for first year coach Graham Campbell who unfortunately resigned at the end of the season for personal reasons.[viii]

 

Semi Final, 23 May 1978

 

Fitzroy     3.2, 5.6, 7.10, 10.14 (74)

Richmond 1.4, 1.7, 2.8, 8.10 (58)

 

Best Players: Irwin, Wilson, Merrigan, Conlan, Alexander, Smith, Padley.

Multiple Goalkickers: Irwin 4, Wilson 2.[ix]

 

Grand Final, 20 June 1978

 

 

 

Fitzroy                  2.3, 3.5, 10.13, 13.18 (96)

North Melbourne   2.1, 2.5, 2.6, 2.8 (20)

 

Best Players: Walls (Best on Ground), Alexander, Brian Brown, Quinlan, McMahon, Irwin, Wilson, McCarthy, Keays.

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 3, McMahon 2, McCarthy 2.

 

What an amazing victory. The bottom placed Roys kicked the last 13 goals of the game including seven goals in 24 minutes in the third quarter to thrash the top of the ladder Roos. Recruits Walls and Quinlan starred as did ruckman Ron Alexander. Highlights included an incredible 70 metre torpedo goal kicked by Quinlan from inside the centre square in the third quarter.[x]

 

Home and Away Series

 

 

Round One: 1 April 1978

 

Fitzroy  4.3, 8.3, 11.5,   15.11 (101)

St Kilda 1.4, 9.8, 14.10, 16.13 (109)

 

Best Players: Wilson (Best on Ground), Alexander, Linton, Padley, Irwin.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Wilson 6, Beecroft 3, Padley 3, McMahon 2.

 

The Roys started well. Irwin, Wilson and Fowler starred in the mid field, and Beecroft booted three in a fine opening quarter. But the Saints big man strength proved the difference after quarter time. [xi] Wilson dominated with 32 disposals and six goals.

 

 

Round Two: 8 April 1978

 

Fitzroy      5.3, 8.7,     16.13, 23.19 (157)

Melbourne 4.7, 14.15, 20.20, 24.23 (167)

 

Best Players: Beecroft, Irwin, Alexander, Austen, Lawrie, McMahon.

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 9, Irwin 5, Lawrie 2, McMahon 2, Wilson 2.

 

Another close loss. The Roys trailed by more than 10 goals early in the third quarter, but then kicked eight goals in 16 minutes to get back in the game. Alexander and Wilson dominated the final quarter to close the margin to three points, but Melbourne steadied to secure victory. Beecroft booted nine to sit second on the goalkicking ladder.[xii]

 

Round Three: 15 April 1978

 

Fitzroy    3.4, 7.10, 10.13, 14.17 (101)

Essendon 6.5, 8.7, 10.11, 15.15 (105)

 

Best Players: Alexander (Best on Ground), McMahon, Wilson, Austen, Linton, McCarthy.

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 4, McMahon 3.

 

A further unlucky loss. Wilson starred with 35 disposals, but hit the post with less than a minute to go when a goal would have given the Roys victory.[xiii]  Fitzroy sat 11th on the ladder despite losing three games by only 22 points. Bob Beecroft remained second on the goalkicking ladder with 16 goals.

 

 

Round Four: 22 April 1978

 

Fitzroy                2.5, 6.9, 11.10, 21.17 (143)

South Melbourne 6.3, 9.8, 16.12, 18.16 (124)

 

Best Players: Wilson, Beecroft, Irwin, Alexander, McCarthy, Smith.

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 10, Wilson 7.

 

The Roys came back from six goals down in the third quarter to over-run South Melbourne. Beecroft booted five and Wilson four in a devastating final quarter. Beecroft’s 10 goals was a club record at the Junction Oval.

[xiv] The Roys jumped to 9th on the ladder. Beecroft now topped the VFL goalkicking ladder with 26 goals, and Wilson was 7th with 16 goals.

 

 

Round Five: 29 April 1978

 

Fitzroy     5.4, 8.6, 11.10, 15.12 (102)

Hawthorn 4.4, 7.11, 11.14, 14.17 (101)

 

Best Players: Alexander, Brian Brown, Hodges, Wilson, Fowler, Smith, Linton, Austen.

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 4, Padley 3, Fowler 2, McMahon 2.

 

A great win over 2nd placed Hawthorn at Princes Park. Brown was outstanding in the back pocket. [xv] The Roys jumped to 8th on the ladder, and Beecroft remained top of the goalkicking ladder with 30 goals. Wilson now led the Age Footballer of the Year Award.

 

 

Round Six: 6 May 1978

 

 

 

Fitzroy          1.2, 7.4,     10.7, 14.12 (96)

Collingwood  6.5, 11.11, 18.14, 22.16 (148)

 

Best players: McMahon, Irwin, Brian Brown, Wilson, Merrigan, Alexander.

Multiple Goalkickers:  McMahon 3, Wilson 3, Beecroft 2, Irwin 2.

 

Fitzroy’s clash with Collingwood was termed the Match of the Day, and the biggest crowd for the Round of over 25,000 crammed into the small Junction Oval. There was even a crowd invasion. But the Roys were never in the hunt. [xvi] Beecroft remained the top goalkicker with 32 goals, and Wilson 9th with 20 goals.

 

 

Round Seven: 13 May 1978

 

Fitzroy                4.3, 6.4, 11.8, 14.11 (95)

North Melbourne 3.1, 8.6, 11.8, 14.14 (98)

 

Best Players: Alexander, Irwin, McMahon, Wilson, Serafini, Fowler, Smith.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 4, Padley 3, Fowler 2, Irwin 2.

 

Another narrow but disappointing loss away to top side North Melbourne. The Roys had lots of opportunities late in the game, but lacked marking support for Bob Beecroft. Midfielder Warwick Irwin just missed a last minute snap that would have won the game. [xvii] Beecroft stayed equal top of the goalkicking with Michael Moncrief of Hawthorn.

 

 

Round Eight: 20 May 1978

 

Fitzroy 2.4, 4.5, 5.7, 9.7 (61)

Carlton  1.2, 3.5, 6.15, 8.15 (63)

 

Best Players: Merrigan, Alexander, Padley, Irwin, Smith.

Multiple Goalkickers: Padley 4, Beecroft 2.

 

Boom recruit Bernie Quinlan made a reasonable debut for the Roys, but they lost another nail biter to a rejuvenated Carlton (under new coach Alex Jesaulenko) to drop to 11th place on the ladder. Merrigan and Alexander were outstanding, and Wilson had 30 disposals.[xviii] Beecroft dropped to 4th place on the goalkicking ladder with 38 goals.

 

 

Round Nine: 27 May 1978

 

Fitzroy    8.4, 8.7, 11.11, 13.14 (92)

Footscray 4.2, 8.5, 13.7, 18.9 (117)

 

Best players: McMahon, Alexander, Hodges, Wilson, Merrigan, Brian Brown.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 3, Walls 2, McMahon 2.

 

Former Carlton captain Robert Walls made his debut, but the Lions suffered a poor loss to bottom of the ladder Footscray. The media speculated that the Roys were not coping with the burden of playing regularly on Tuesday nights (having now progressed to the Grand Final of the night competition) and also Saturdays. [xix] Beecroft stayed 4th in the goalkicking table with 41 majors.

 

 

Round Ten: 3 June 1978

 

Fitzroy     1.1, 3.6,   8.12, 11.14 (80)

Richmond 6.7, 9.12, 11.13, 12.14 (86)

 

Best players: Irwin (BOG), McMahon, Wilson, Walls, Linton.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 4, McMahon 3.

 

The Roys came from 42 points down at half time to nearly overtake Richmond in the last quarter. Irwin, McMahon, Wilson and Walls starred, but the 5th loss in a row (and 6th by less than 10 points) sent the Roys to the bottom of the ladder.[xx]

 

Round 11: 17 June 1978

 

Fitzroy   2.4, 6.8,     12.10, 16.15 (111)

Geelong  3.9, 10.13, 14.16, 16.18 (114)

 

Best players: Wilson, Smith, Irwin, Quinlan, McMahon, Alexander, Brian Brown.

Multiple Goalkickers: Wilson 5, Quinlan 4, Beecroft 2, Walls 2.

 

The Lions sadly remained bottom of the ladder despite holding a respectable percentage of 92.5.

 

Round 12: 24 June 1978

 

Fitzroy   4.4, 8.6, 14.9, 20.14 (134)

St  Kilda  4.2, 6.3, 13.5, 17.9 (111)

 

Best Players: Wilson (BOG), Quinlan, Walls, McMahon, Irwin, Smith, Alexander, Keays.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 4, McMahon 4, Irwin 4, Conlan, 2, Padley 2, Quinlan 2.

 

The Lions finally ended a run of six consecutive losses, and jumped off the bottom of the ladder. Wilson, Walls, Quinlan and McMahon were decisive in the victory, and five goals in the first eight minutes of the final term ensured there would not be another close loss. [xxi] Ron Carter in The Age even speculated that Fitzroy could still make the five given they were only three games behind the fifth team.[xxii] Beecroft sat third in the goalkicking table with 51 goals.

 

 

 

Round 13: 1 July 1978

 

Fitzroy      5.4, 7.9, 16.17, 19.27 (141)

Melbourne 2.3, 6.7, 7.10,  8.13 (61)

Best Players: McMahon, Irwin, Smith, Quinlan, Conlan, Wilson, Alexander.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Irwin 5, Conlan 5, Beecroft 4, Walls 2, McMahon 2.

 

The Roys demolished bottom side Melbourne, but stayed 11th on the ladder. Nevertheless, the Age speculated that they still had ‘some chance of sneaking into the five’.[xxiii] McMahon starred with 27 disposals and two goals, Irwin gained 29 disposals and five goals, and Wilson had 31 disposals. Beecroft remained 4th on the goalkicking ladder with 55 goals.

 

 

Round 14: 8 July 1978

 

 

Fitzroy                 2.5, 3.13, 8.14, 13.15 (93)

South Melbourne 5.2, 13.5, 19.10, 22.11 (143)

 

Best Players: Irwin, Smith, Quinlan, Conlan, Alexander, Wilson.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Beecroft 3, Conlan 3, Allan 2, Quinlan 2.

 

A big loss to 6th placed South Melbourne at the Lakeside Oval ended any faint finals hopes.[xxiv] Irwin had 33 disposals, and Wilson collected 27. Beecroft remained 4th on the goalkicking table with 58 goals.

 

 

Round 15: 15 July 1978

 

Fitzroy    4.3, 13.6, 13.7, 15.11 (101)

Essendon 2.3, 5.7, 9.14, 11.17 (83)

 

Best Players: Hansen (BOG), Brian Brown, Smith, Wilson, Alexander, Irwin, Walls.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Walls 3, Conlan 3, Lawrie 3, Beecroft 2.

 

A strong win at home over 4th placed Essendon. Key defender Hansen starred with 24 disposals and nine marks, whilst fellow backman Brown and Smith also excelled. Wilson had 33 disposals.[xxv] Beecroft stayed 4th on the goalkicking with 60 goals.

 

 

Round 16: 22 July 1978

Fitzroy     4.3, 12.7, 16.8, 18.14 (122)

Hawthorn 3.6, 8.10, 14.14, 17.19 (121)

 

Best Players: Walls, Quinlan, Wilson, Hansen, McMahon, Peter Brown, Lawrie.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Quinlan 6, Walls 3, Beecroft 3, Irwin 2.

 

The Lions made it four out of five by defeating top side and eventual premier Hawthorn for the second time (both by one point) in the season. Robert Walls capped off a superb game (19 disposals, 8 marks and 3 goals) by nailing the winning goal with only two minutes left. Quinlan booted six goals despite playing with strained left shoulder ligaments, and Wilson dominated with 31 disposals. The Age quipped that Fitzroy ‘really has a talented team’.[xxvi] Beecroft remained 4th on the goalkicking with 63 goals.

 

 

Round 17: 29 July 1978

 

Fitzroy          2.4, 5.6, 7.10, 11.11 (77)

Collingwood 2.2, 6.6, 12.10, 16.11 (107)

 

Best Players: Wilson (BOG, 49 disposals and 11 marks), Smith, Irwin, Allan, Lawrie, McMahon.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Lawrie 4, Allan 2, Walls 2.

 

This loss to 3rd placed Collingwood ended the 11th placed Roys very faint finals hopes. Garry Wilson had an amazing game, prompting The Age to label him a strong chance for the Brownlow Medal. [xxvii] Beecroft failed to score, but remained 4th on the goalkicking tally.

 

 

Round 18: 5 August 1978

Fitzroy                 5.6, 7.8, 10.13, 11.16 (82)

North Melbourne  1.0, 9.4, 16.6, 19.10 (124)

 

Best Players: Irwin, Wilson, Allan, Hansen, Brian Brown, Keays.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Irwin 4, Lawrie 2.

 

The Roys started brilliantly to grab an early 35 point lead, but fell away to concede a soft loss to 2nd placed North Melbourne. Warwick Irwin was outstanding in defeat with 27 disposals and four goals.[xxviii]

 

 

Round 19: 12 August 1978

 

Fitzroy 0.2, 4.4, 7.8, 8.10 (58)

Carlton 5.5, 5.9, 6.10, 9.15 (69)

 

Best Players: Wilson, Irwin, Thompson, Brian Brown, Alexander, Walls, Allan, McMahon.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Irwin 2, McMahon 2, Wilson 2.

 

A second narrow loss for the season to 3rd placed Carlton. Wilson had 37 disposals and two goals, and Irwin 27 disposals and two goals.[xxix]

 

Round 20: 19 August 1978

 

Fitzroy    7.2, 12.7, 20.10, 21.13 (139)

Footscray 1.2, 2.5, 6.10, 9.17 (71)

 

 

Best Players: Wilson, Walls, Hansen, McMahon, Allan, Thompson, Brown, Alexander.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Wilson 5, Allan 4, Walls 4, Alexander 3, Beecroft 2.

 

My first ever visit to the Western Oval was a happy one. The Roys climbed to 10th on the ladder after belting fellow strugglers Footscray. Wilson dominated with 24 disposals and five goals. The Age referred to coach Campbell’s likely departure at the end of the season, and opined that he would ‘leave behind a team which is thumping on the door of success.[xxx]

Beecroft nailed two goals to remain 6th on the goalkicking table with 65 goals.

 

Round 21: 26 August 1978

 

 

Fitzroy      3.1, 10.6, 13.10, 20.14 (134)

Richmond 10.4, 10.5, 14.11, 17.15 (117)

 

 

Best Players: Wilson (BOG), McMahon, Frazer, Allan, Quinlan, Walls.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: Frazer 9, Wilson 3, McMahon 2, Conlan 2, Walls 2.

 

The Roys came from 52 points down to end the finals hopes of 7th placed Richmond. The win took them to 9th place on the ladder, and rover Gary Wilson’s BOG performance (35 disposals and 3 goals) took him to the lead in The Age Footballer of the Year Award. Former North Melbourne  full forward John Frazer, who replaced the injured Bob Beecroft, remarkably kicked 9 goals despite not touching the ball until half way through the second quarter.[xxxi]

 

Round 22: 2 September 1978

 

Fitzroy   2.1, 3.3,   3.6, 5.8 (38)

Geelong 3.9, 7.11, 7.19, 13.22 (100)

 

Best Players: Brown, Allan, Irwin, Hansen, Alexander, Quinlan.

 

Multiple Goalkickers: None.

 

Geelong had to win to secure 5th spot, and the result was never in doubt, particularly after Roys champion Wilson corked a thigh in the first 10 minutes of the game. [xxxii]

 

Top Ten Best and Fairest

Garry Wilson 186 (20 Brownlow votes)

Warwick Irwin 135

Ron Alexander 108 (13 Brownlow votes)

Brian Brown 83

Chris Smith 62 (9 Brownlow votes)

David McMahon 52

Bernie Quinlan 47

Robert Walls 46

Chris Hansen 38

Bob Beecroft 29

 

 

Top Ten Goalkickers

 

Bob Beecroft 65

Garry Wilson 42

Warwick Irwin 34

David McMahon 34

Robert Walls 24

Barry Padley 19

Bernie Quinlan 18

Michael Conlan 17

Grant Lawrie 13

Graeme Allen 11

 

Conclusion

 

Club President Frank Bibby confidently predicted at the end of 1978 that Fitzroy was on ‘the brink of the greatest success the club has enjoyed for a decade or two’.[xxxiii] He was to prove correct. Youngsters such as Conlan, Serafini and Lawrie stepped up to join experienced stars such as Wilson, Quinlan, Alexander, and McMahon in driving a period of sustained finals contention:

 

Read Philip’s account of Fitzroy’s 1979 VFL season Here.

 

 

[i] Frank Bibby (1978) ‘President’s Report’ in Fitzroy Football Club, 95th Annual Report and Balance Sheet 1978, p.4.

[ii] Russell Holmesby (2020) The Death of Fitzroy Football Club. Hardie Grant Books. Melbourne, pp.21-22.

[iii] Ibid, pp.28-29.

[iv] Chris Donald (2002) Fitzroy: For the love of the jumper. Pennon Publishing. Melbourne, p.231.

[v] Allan Atwood (1978) “Gary gets our vote”, The Age, 4 September, p.30.

[vi] Donald (2002), p.194.

[vii] Jim Main (2007) Fitzroy. Bas Publishing. Melbourne, pp.195-96.

[viii] Annual Report, pp.12 & 14.

[ix] Mike Sheahan (1978) ‘Lions are hungry for money’, The Age, 24 May, p.30.

[x] Mike Sheahan (1978) ‘Lions night of nights’, The Age, 21 June, p.26; Pete Carter (2020) Fitzroy’s Fabulous Century. Mr Smudge Books. Perth, pp. 151-54; Matt Zurbo (2016) Champions All: A history of AFL/VFL football in the players own words. Echo. Melbourne, p.255.

[xi] Alan Attwood (1978) ‘Hope before the dawn’, The Age, 3 April, p.30.

[xii] Steve Harris (1978) ‘Centuries thrill fans’, The Age, 10 April, p.36.

[xiii] Peter Stone (1978) ‘Unlucky Fitzroy pipped on the post’, The Age, 17 April, p.26.

[xiv] Steve Harris (1978) ‘Here come the Lions’, The Age, 24 April, p.26; Pete Carter (2020), pp.273-76.

[xv] Alan Attwood (1978) ‘Lions get a break’, The Age, 1 May, p.30.

[xvi] Peter Stone (1978) ‘Big Len had Lions tossed before first bounce’, The Age, 8 May, p.28.

[xvii] Trevor Grant (1978) ‘North is human after all’, The Age, 15 May, p.28.

[xviii] Peg McMahon (1978) ‘Blues need kick in the pants, Lions just fail again’, The Age, 22 May, p.30.

[xix] Noel Bushnell (1978) ‘Nightlife catches up with Lions’, The Age, 29 May, p.28.

[xx] Stephen Phillips (1978) ‘Time for Lions to stop blaming bad luck’, The Age, 5 June, p.24.

[xxi] Trevor Grant (1978) ‘Play that week again – Fitzroy’, The Age, 26 June, p.28.

[xxii] Ron Carter (1978) ‘Bottoms up for Fitzroy’, The Age, 26 June, p.30.

[xxiii] Steve Harris (1978) ‘Lions still having a ball’, The Age, 3 July, p.30.

[xxiv] Peter McFarline (1978) ‘Season’s swansong for erratic Lions’, The Age, 10 July, p.28.

[xxv] Noel Bushnell (1978) ‘Lions have last laugh’, The Age, 17 July, p.28.

[xxvi] Peter McFarline (1978) ‘Giant-killing Lions make their point twice over’, The Age, 24 July, p.28; Pete Carter (2020), pp.200-02.

[xxvii] Stephen Phillips (1978) ‘Gary’s lion-hearted effort’, The Age, 31 July, p.28.

[xxviii] Stephen Phillips (1978) ‘Roos give me fever, says Ron’, The Age, 7 August, p.34.

[xxix] Steve Harris (1978) ‘It’s easy when you know how…and try’, The Age, 14 August, p.28.

[xxx] Steve Harris (1978) ‘Lions didn’t forget coach’, The Age, 21 August, p.30.

[xxxi] Stephen Phillips (1978) ‘Frazer’s timing was perfect’, The Age, 28 August, p.28; Pete Carter (2020), pp.185-87.

[xxxii] Allan Attwood (1978) ‘Cats are purring’, The Age, 4 September.

[xxxiii] Bibby (1978), p.4.

 

More from Philip Mendes can be read Here

 

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About Philip Mendes

Philip Mendes is an academic who follows AFL, soccer, tennis and cricket. He supported Fitzroy Football Club from 1970-1996, and on their death he adopted the North Melbourne Kangaroos as his new team. In his spare time, he occasionally writes about his current and past football teams.

Comments

  1. A great read and very well researched, as always, Phil.
    Losing seven games by 10 points or less in the first half of the season crucified Fitzroy’s finals chances.
    But winning the Night premiership more than made amends.
    As you said, the signing of Bernie Quinlan and Robert Walls set the club up for consistent success for almost a decade.
    Making the finals was almost like winning a premiership, so low was the bar set for Fitzroy after the sombre ’60s and subdued ’70s.

  2. Philip Mendes says

    Thanks Pete, the night premiership really meant something in those days. I was also pretty excited when we made the Night Grand Final in 1992, only to lose to Hawthorn.

  3. Bob Beecroft eventually found his way to my old hometown of Moonta (SA) in the mid-80’s. Had a stint as playing-coach (sort of). Kicked 14 against Arthurton one day early on but was hampered by knees and soft-tissue injuries.

  4. Philip Mendes says

    He was a magnificent mark Beecroft when given room to jump. Loved to fly from the back of the pack.

  5. Ta Philip. As always your writing on Fitzroy makes good reading.

    How do you rate 1978 to 1980? You were wooden spooners in 1980 but your scoring put top sides to shame. You were finalists pre & post 1980 but that season you finished last; not a true reflection of how good you were

    Going back to your writings on 1978 there are names i’ve forgotten. Your coach Graham Campbell is lost in the mists of time in my old brain. Other names that have faded in my memory: Linton, Hodges, Fowler( ex Essendon & Hawthorn?), Keays ( ex Melbourne?), which Brown is Jonathon’s dad: Brian?

    Your R 22 shellacking at Kardinia Park let Geelong into the finals. The week prior at Kardinia Park saw a close loss to Hawthorn where a late shot at goal was clearly touched by Gary Malarkey, though given as a goal to Hawthorn. I was not a happy teenage boy !!!

    Glen!

  6. Philip Mendes says

    HI Glen – clearly a lot of things went wrong in 1980, and the team became too reliant on ageing players past their best. Fortunately, they were able to turn it around in 1981 which I wrote about here: https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/from-the-foot-of-the-table-to-the-final-five-fitzroys-exhilarating-1981-season/

    Brian Brown is Jonathan’s dad. Peter Keays was ex-Melbourne, courageous player, but not a very good kick. Fowler moved to Essendon in 1980 and later briefly Hawthorn because he struggled to get a regular game at Fitzroy. Hodges was an ex-South Melbourne player who was good in 1978, but left the club at the end of that year. Wayne Linton last played in 1978.

  7. Shane Reid says

    Thanks for this great piece Phil, I always love reading your summaries. I’m a little bit younger than you, my first clear memories of Fitzroy are from 1983. 78 seems to have been the start of that era in many ways.

    Forgive my ignorance, were Walls and Quinlan both cleared to Fitzroy mid season? Do you think that 78 was Garry Wilson’s best year?

    Great piece, thanks again.

    Shane

  8. Philip Mendes says

    Hi Shane, great to get your feedback. Yes in those days, the VFL allowed transfers until the end of June, so players often swapped clubs mid season. The arrival of Walls and particularly Quinlan in the longer term made a huge difference as Fitzroy always had good smalls in the 70s – Wilson, Irwin, Murphy, Allan, McMahon etc. – but few good talls other than Bob Beecroft who was consistently good from 1977-1980. Wilson was amazing in 1978. I remember being dazzled by his handball skills when I saw them up close live. He was also exceptional in 1979, and probably should have won the Brownlow in both years. I would possibly rate 78 higher because he was playing in a weak side which won only eight games, whereas the Roys won 15 games in 1979.

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