Almanac Footy and Water-skiing: Ted Hopkins – Renaissance Man in Blue


With the passing of Carlton footballer Ted Hopkins on Monday, the Footy Almanac reprises Andrew Fraser‘s story about Ted.



Ted Hopkins and the Monash University Water Ski Club






(Times approximate)


2min30: Ted Hopkins kicks his first, returning to position with arms circling wildly, encouraging his bigger-name teammates.


3min30: Butch Gale exalts “Gee, that was good play on that kid’s part” as Hopkins snaps his second off the back of a goal-square pack.


8min: Syd Jackson’s left-foot snap from the pocket is true.


8min30: Hopkins tackles tenaciously and the resultant free hits the Jesaulenko-Crosswell hot spot where Crosswell goals from another free.


10min: Robbie Walls marks, handballs immediately. Michael Williamson: “Hopkins in a bit of trouble but he shoots – “IT’S HIS THIRD!”


12min: Walls marks again, and slots the goal himself.


13min: Hopkins roves to Big Nick’s tap, gets his kick as slung viciously, finding Jezza who turns and goals.


We may never forget those seven goals in 10 and a half minutes when Ted Hopkins, 19th  man, thrilled us beyond our hopes, leading Carlton back from the dead in the third quarter of the 1970 Grand Final.


But we should remember much more about Ted Hopkins, water-ski champion, businessman, environmentalist, poet – and the “Football Futurist” who revolutionised the game we love.


Ted, now 74, is deep in a battle with a form of motor-neurone disease (perhaps linked to blue-green algae from all that time water-skiing) and has endured a number of strokes in recent years, with consequent costs to his memory.


His long-time mate, Roger Ley, of Canberra, visited Ted recently and the memories came back across the course of the years, triggered particularly by a photo of Ted, Roger (centre) and Col Hercus, in the Hopkins’ family water-ski boat, “Sabre”.


Roger and Ted first met in 1966 when Roger, president of the then one-year-old Monash University Water Ski Club, got wind that Ted, of Moe, the Australian junior water-ski champion, was coming to uni next year.


Despite it being only an amateur club, Ted, champion skier and also on the verge of joining Carlton, became ski coach and took Monash from last in the inter-varsity comp to considerable successes.


But coming to Melbourne was a big shift.


“He told me actually only last year that he was a country boy and he had no experience of university,” Roger relates. “He got to know my family and he particularly told me that my mother had looked after him and helped him understand what it was like to be at university.”


Ted was goaded into contesting the inter-varsity ski comp, notwithstanding that he was on the books with Carlton.


“He had two goes over the jump and he was out of practice and he went over the top of his skis and landed on his back and he told me later that that was one of the concussions he had had over his career…


“This was in the footy season. I don’t think Ron Barassi was too happy about it.”


Barass was in better mood when Ted and Roger, the economics graduates, had the supercoach visit their initial business venture one off-season, telling them it was so good they should be charging double. And he wasn’t kidding.


The idea came from Ted, who had read in Life magazine about the elusive European operation called Club Med, then pretty much unheard of in the English-speaking world, and the young men sought to replicate it on Lake Eppalock, between Bendigo and Heathcote.


It was a holiday camp in a caravan park.


They had a series of tents, one for cooking, and offered an “all-inclusive holiday” with sports various, including having separate boats for skiing and fishing.


“We foolishly said people could come up and ski from dawn to dusk,” Roger recalls. People took them at their word, to which they were true. “We took it in shifts, and drove all day.”


Roger agrees that Barass was right about the charging at Skiway Holidays, and its associated club, The Fun Body.


Though the business was “quite successful”, it didn’t suit Ted, who moved on after two summers, 1969-70 and 1970-71, which of course were separated by that unforgettable ten minutes of footy.


With Ted gone, Roger looked for other sites, including particularly on the other side of the lake.


“I met this guy who had this big caravan park with lots of permanent sites and I told him what I wanted to do [and who his partner had been], and he said, ‘Ted Hopkins!?! I owe you guys my business. Every car that came in from last summer asked for Ted Hopkins.’


“So we were on the wrong side of the lake!”


Ted went on to become head ranger at Falls Creek, and also ran Headquarters, a fashion shop, for a time, before operating a printing business in Prahran, including producing the many, many band posters for Melbourne rock gigs in those days. Roger only learned recently from Ted’s daughter that Ted threw out all that remained when the business closed: “she wasn’t happy.”


Champion Data came next, the idea coming from Ted’s first wife, Judy, and with considerable assistance from one Eddie McGuire.


“Ted had to invent a lot of words, like ‘clangers’ and ‘hard-ball gets’ and all that sort of stuff,” Roger recalls. “They were his words basically.”


That data was sold originally to the clubs but soon along came the bigger clients: the betting agencies.


But none of these business pursuits could match, for Ted, the love of competitive sport, and of writing poetry.


Roger tells of Ted’s Dad, during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, building a 1-2-3 podium for seven-year-old Ted to place on when he raced himself around the house, noting Ted would not, like so many other kids, always put himself first, doing so only when he felt his performance truly deserved it.


With his literary pursuits (five books) and performances, there was no dining out on having been a footballer.


When you went to a recital, you got Ted Hopkins, poet.


“It was different,” Roger recalls. “He was in a kind of spaceship on stage, reciting poems …very avant garde …


“He didn’t want to attract people to his poetry because of his football. He wanted the poetry to stand on its own.”


The former ranger also ran a blog for a long time on the environment, particularly Gippsland, where he’d grown up.


This has been, as the incomparable Greg Baum put it in The Age when Ted’s The Stats Revolution was published in 2011, “a rich, eclectic and somewhat bohemian life”.


Does Hopkins rail against how he has forever been fixed in time? Not a bit, it seems, Baum recording that Ted found the exhilaration of playing well in big games “utterly compelling and, I am pleased to say, everlasting.”


On the night of that magnificent 1970 victory, Ted felt compelled to get in touch with his great mate.


Roger takes up the story: “I had a phone call with a voice singing ‘We are the old dark navy Blues’.  It was Ted, inviting me to come to the Carlton team’s Grand Final celebration.   To this day, I can’t believe I said it, but I said, ‘Sorry Ted, you have a great time, but I don’t want to go, I’m a Melbourne supporter!’  My brother-in-law, a Carlton supporter was there at the time and he went in my place.  Silly me!”




Read more from Andrew Fraser HERE.


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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks for the terrific piece Andrew, thoroughly enjoyed it. I was there at the MCG when Ted came on at half-time, kicked four goals and won a premiership for the Blues. Memorable occasion.

  2. Andrew Fraser says

    Cheers, Colin. I’m jealous. I was 9, camped in front of the black-and-white telly in Canberra.

  3. When Ted lived in Albury he produced a weekly newsletter called The Champion.
    This was a time when the NSW cops were into all sorts of monkey business.
    It was a bit like the Toorak Times, though I don’t think it was owned by a dog.
    Nevertheless it was required reading.
    At the time Bob Askin was Premier of NSW and the corruption went all the way to the top.
    It was nothing new.

  4. Thanks Andrew. Wonderful memories of the man and the times. We were remarkably naive with no internet or mobile phones to guide (or mislead) us. Remember reading Ted’s Stats Revolution book and finding a lot of it about his personal life and not Carlton and Champion Data (the bits I came for).
    “Self indulgent” I thought at the time, but on reflection – weren’t we all. The 60’s-80’s a great time of personal exploration and falling flat on your face. The difference with Ted was that he kept picking himself up and embarking on the next venture in his personal or business life – until something clicked.
    A remarkable and generous life – never settling for second best.

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