Almanac Footy History: The Lexton Football League and Lexton Football Club – Part 1

 

Roger Spaull has written a history of the Lexton Football League and Lexton Football Club for publication on the Footy Almanac site. The history will be presented in four parts over the coming week. The first part up is an overview of country footy as seen through the eyes of Richmond legend Jack Dyer in an interview conducted on behalf of the Lexton Football Club in 1971.

 

 

 

JACK DYER’S THOUGHTS ON COUNTRY FOOTBALL: AN INTERVIEW FOR THE LEXTON FOOTBALL CLUB IN 1971.

 

 

JackDyer

PART: 1 JACK DYER’S INTERVIEW FOR THE LEXTON FC IN 1971.

 

While researching an aspect of country football, a well-worn edition of a publication, entitled Lexton 71, was unearthed.  Arthur Pritchard, who was the assistant secretary of the Lexton FC that year,  and I had compiled the book,  on behalf of the club,  when we were playing with the Lexton Football Club  some 50 years ago. The book was basically a ‘potted history’ of the Lexton FC from 1945-71.

 

 

Articles were collected, written and collated throughout the winter months of that year; and book was printed by Fletcher & Sons of Skipton Street, Ballarat.  Lexton 71 among other things, carried articles regarding the committee, patrons, past and ‘then-current’ players, club records, premiership teams, photographs and a line-graph of the club’s performances since 1945.

 

A feature of ‘Lexton 71’ was an interview with an iconic figure of Australian football, Jack Dyer.  The interview, which is re-printed below, for readers of Footy Almanac, was conducted in Jack’s office at The Truth newspaper building at 402 Latrobe Street ( the former headquarters of the Southdown Press).

 

Note: Younger readers may be interested to know that Jack wrote a regular column in The Truth each week. It was called ‘Dyer ‘ere’ (a play on words); and it was based upon snippets related to football and other sports. Jack’s observations were pithy and witty (sometimes corny) but always ‘compulsory reading’ for football fans and his comments never failed to create comment.

 

Jack, who had an indirect connection with the township of Lexton, was most patient and obliging when answering the set of interview questions.   As the interview unfolded, his knowledge and love of football became obvious; and his geniality shone through as he considered his answers   to the various questions.    Jack’s interview is re-published ‘word for word’;   and, while football has undergone some radical changes, in the last fifty years, his answers are illuminating and still have some relevance to the ‘modern game.’

 

 

The living legend

 

Q:  DO YOU FEEL MINOR FOOTBALL LEAGUES MAKE ANY REAL CONTRIBUTION TO LEAGUE FOOTBALL?

JACK: Yes. Minor leagues supply the greater proportion of all recruits.

 

Q:  WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COUNTRY FOOTBALL  AND LEAGUE ( VFL )?

JACK: Country football naturally lacks the professionalism of league; consequently training is vastly different. Again, for the same reason plus other circumstances (such as employment), country players lack the same degree of dedication.

 

Q: DO YOU FEEL COUNTRY FOOTBALL RECEIVES SUFFICIENT ASSISTANCE FROM THE ANFC (AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL FOOTBALL COUNCIL) AND, IN TURN, THE VFL?

JACK: No. At present, league clubs could and should receive greater assistance in the form of finance, clinics and payment for recruits.

 

Q: DO YOU FEEL COUNTRY RECRUITS ARE ADEQUATELY CATERED FOR IN THE CITY?

JACK: Yes. Of late, league clubs have gone to great pains to ensure that recruits are comfortably and happily settled. Clubs are very conscious of housing, education, employment and even the religious needs of recruits.

 

Q:  DO YOU THINK ZONING HAS IMPROVED COUNTRY FOOTBALL?

JACK: At present no. However, long term advantages will be numerous. I feel players signed will not be ‘rushed’ to the city. Zoning will allow young players to mature and gain experience in their own local area.

 

Q: DO YOU THINK COUNTRY PEOPLE ARE TREATED FAIRLY IN OBTAINING FINAL TICKETS?

JACK: No… and there seems no real answer until the VFL fully exploits Waverly Park. At present, the MCG appears to hold too much power in the distribution of tickets to all sectors of the public

 

Q: DO YOU THINK TELEVISING LEAGUE FINALS WOULD ASSIST OR HARM COUNTRY FOOTBALL?

JACK: Definitely harm. Television is indeed a danger to the survival of country football. Perhaps in the future, closed circuit television, as used in the USA, may be an answer.

 

Q: WHAT STEPS, IN YOUR OPINION, COULD BE TAKEN TO IMPROVE COUNTRY FOOTBALL?

JACK: That’s a hard one. This lies in the enthusiasm of the townspeople, officials, supporters and, in these days, local businessmen. Improvements of facilities and public amenities would undoubtedly assist.

 

Q: DO YOU FEEL VFL CLUBS ADEQUATELY COVER THE LOSS OF COUNTRY PLAYERS?

JACK: Probably not. The $500 transference fee could be increased after a period of, say, two years- that is once the player has established and proved himself.

 

Q: FINALLY, AS A COUNTRY COACH WHAT WOULD YOU REGARD AS THE MOST IMPORTANT TASK?

JACK: The first thing is to become an active and interested citizen within the town. Establishing good relations with citizens provides an essential solid form of support. Secondly, it would be, providing it is a reasonably good team, to encourage and coach the youngsters around the district. Lastly but also high in priorities to win a premiership, in fact the second and third aims are really part of the same.

 

At the conclusion of that interview Jack was presented with a bottle of wine / port,  on behalf of Lexton FC,  to thank him for his time and consideration with the interview.

 

FOR YOUNGER READERS OF FOOTY ALMANAC

 

Jack Dyer played 311 games (443 goals) for Richmond; and represented Victoria on 16 occasions. He won six RFC Best & Fairest awards and was selected in the AFL Team of the Century. He coached Richmond, and skippered the Tigers from 1941-49. His list of achievements is extensive; and in summary, Jack was given ‘Legendary Status’ in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. He was a spirited, tough and highly skilled footballer who, following his retirement from playing and coaching, became one of the most celebrated and popular figures in the Australian media.

 

A long list of books has been written about the exploits of Jack Dyer. His life is worth studying not only for his days at Richmond FC but his experiences as a police officer, florist, shop keeper and a media celebrity are edifying.

 

Jack was awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) and a monument/ sculpture was erected in his honour at the Punt Road Oval in 2003.  In 2017, Dyer Street, Richmond 3121, was officially proclaimed.

 

The sculpture of Jack Dyer.

 

The local hero. This wonderful photograph says it all about Jack Dyer. Note the young boy carrying Jack’s Gladstone bag.
Source: ‘Punt Road End website’.

 

Jack Dyer being congratulated by Collingwood’s President , Harry Curtis,  on equalling Gordon Coventry’s  VFL games record of 306 games in Round : 10 1949. (Jack’s playing history was later amended)  Source:  The original source of this photo is not known.

 

To be continued

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE

 

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