Almanac Footy History: Arthur Olliver – ‘The Champion’s Hero’

Arthur Olliver – Ted Whitten’s Hero.

Source: AFL Hall of Fame 

 

INTRODUCTION & DEDICATION TO NICK GORDON

It is not unfair to say that everyone in Australia has heard of ‘Mr Football’, Ted Whitten, at some time or other in their lives. Ted was a larger-than-life character; and a person that made people cry with laughter or weep in sorrow (e.g., his unforgettable and emotional ‘final lap’ of the MCG, with his son, on the 17th June 1995).

As a youngster growing in Exhibition Street, West Footscray, Ted’s hero was the Footscray stalwart Arthur Oliver; and in his book entitled ‘EJ”, Ted wrote…

“My hero was ruckman Arthur Olliver and in all our street games I would pretend I was the Footscray number three – Olliver’s number – tapping the ball out to the smaller players…” Source: ‘EJ’- Ted Whitten, Jim Main & Friends Page: 24.

This article is dedicated to Nick Gordon and is about one of Footscray’s finest players, Arthur Olliver. Nick Gordon was a boy with a ‘Bulldog Spirit’; and it is hoped that his family will enjoy reading this story about another hero who also gave so much to so many.

EARLY YEARS IN SEDDON

Arthur Olliver was born in Seddon (Victoria – once known as Belgravia) in 1916. It is said that his parents were English. Although, yet to be verified for this story, it is thought that his father’s name was Edward and that he may have worked as a spray painter at Barkly Street in Footscray.

It is known that the Olliver family lived in Tennyson Street, Seddon; and that Arthur attended the Hyde Street State School.  The Hyde Street School seemed to be a positive influence and a place where and Arthur and some other well-known local sporting identities such as Jim Thoms and Len McCankie were given plenty of opportunities and encouragement to participate outdoor games and sports. Even from a young age, Arthur was a ‘budding star’ in football and cricket; he was a natural at golf, enjoyed swimming and had a penchant for billiards (he may have been inspired by the famous Australian champion Walter Lindrum).

As is common knowledge, Arthur was light-framed and very tall for his age, which possibly explains his prowess in high marking as youngster. He first came under notice, in football, when he was playing for Footscray Technical School Old Boys (see below) which was a fertile breeding ground for many young local footballers. There is also evidence to suggest that Arthur may have undertaken trade training (as an electrician); and there are numerous references that he played in the Wednesday Football League (i.e., and industrial competition with a team simply named known as ‘Railways’).

 

A good start in life for Arthur and his friends at the Hyde Street State School.

 

THE FOOTSCRAY TECHNICAL SCHOOL OLD BOYS FOOTBALL TEAM

 

Footscray Technical School- Source:  Rose Series Postcards.  

 

Arthur Olliver was recruited to Footscray from the Footscray Technical School Old Boys Football Club. According to the Australian Football website, FTSOB was originally affiliated with the Western Region Football League; and in 1932 joined the Victorian Amateur Football Association.

In 1934, the FTSOB FC was competing in ‘D’ Section of the VAFA. The other affiliates were: Parkdale, St Ignatius, National Bank, Ivanhoe, Old Brightonians, University High School Old Boys, Malvern, Hampton and Alphington.

After lengthy research, it was discovered that Ivanhoe 19.14 (128) won the 1934 divisional premiership in convincing style, by defeating University High School Old Boys 4.5(29).

1935 ARTHUR OLLIVER SEEKS A CLEARANCE TO MELBOURNE

As for Arthur Olliver’s football in 1934, the name ‘Oliver’ (incorrect spelling) was listed in the FTSOB results; and he was apparently impressing onlookers with his performances in the VAFA. Arthur’s style and skill attracted serious attention ‘across town’ and, it is known, that Melbourne FC was anxious to secure his services via a clearance…

“ARTHUR OLLIVER… hard fight Footscray had to wage before Arthur signed on the dotted line. He had played so well for Footscray Technical School that Melbourne scouts, who had been ‘tipped off,’ snapped him up but he was a Footscray boy, and had to play with that team. Source: ‘The Argus’ April 22 1950. Page 3.

Arthur was refused a clearance; under the VFL residential zoning laws (introduced in 1915) he had no recall and/or right to appeal the decision of Footscray FC.  As history shows, Arthur ‘stayed and played’ with Footscray and his impact at FFC would, in time, prove immeasurable.

 

 

Arthur Olliver was denied the opportunity to transfer to Melbourne in 1935. Percy Streeter (as also shown above) had played with Melbourne in 1933 and Footscray in 1934. Percy played with Yarraville until 1945; and was a member of the 1935 Yarraville Premiership team Source: ‘The Age’ April 17th 1935, Page 7

FTSOB FC was a highly regarded club in the local football circles; and over the years produced a good sprinkling of VFL footballers including Arthur Olliver, Bill Findlay, Jim Greenham, Fred Cook, Max Isaac and, the 1975 Brownlow Medal winner, Gary Dempsey. Jim Miller, who played 132 games with the Bulldogs, started his junior football with the Footscray Technical School before joining a local team called the Liverpool Stars (coached by local hero Alan Hopkins).

Jim’s best match in junior competition was against Spotswood when he booted 25 goals. Jim later coached Yarraville and was the President of FFC from 1963-66. One of the most famous students to attend Footscray Technical School (but did not play with FTSOB) was Ron Barassi who commenced his studies in a Diploma of Engineering in 1951.

 

Bill Findlay was recruited to Footscray from Footscray Technical School Old Boys in 1934. Bill played 5 games with Footscray before being cleared to North Melbourne where he played 158 games. He also represented Victoria (in 1945). Source: Australian Football.

 

1935 ARTHUR OLLIVER WEARS THE TRICOLOURS

 

A lion-hearted stalwart of Footscray-Alby Morrison.  Albert George Henry Morrison played with Footscray from 1928 until 1946. Alby played a total of 224 games and also coached the club in 15 games. Alby could play either in defence or in attack; and, during his VFL career, he kicked 369 goals for FFC. He was 37 years of age when he played his last game against Melbourne in the 1946 Semi- Final.  Photograph source: Wills Cigarette cards.

 

Arthur Olliver made his VFL debut for Footscray in Round 3 in 1935, against Fitzroy at the Western Oval in front of crowd of 20,000 fans. Footscray’s playing coach in 1935 was the club’s champion, Alby Morrison (see above) who was a robust, versatile footballer and well equipped to hold down any position. Other well-known players who played with Arthur that day included:  Bill Spurling, Norman Ware, Roy McKay, Stan Penberthy and Bob Spargo.

Fitzroy was coached by ex-Collingwood star Percy Rowe; and the team had a handful of truly brilliant footballers such as Haydn Bunton, Wilfred Smallhorn, Doug Nicholls, Charlie Cameron, Tommy Williams and Frank Curcio.

Arthur was one of three teenagers to take the field that day.  Coincidently, the others being ‘unrelated Ryan’ boys – Denis Ryan (Fitzroy from Albury Rovers) and a young boy from Maryborough named Jack Ryan. Denis (aka ‘Dinny’) Ryan would prove to be a historic figure in VFL as the following season he won the Brownlow Medal.

Footscray held the ‘Roys for three quarters that day and looked likely to steal the game but stumbled in the last term and succumbed by 11 points. Arthur made a promising start in VFL ranks with two goals. Footscray’s best player that day was Bernie O’Brien (a rover from the Carlton and Railways FC).   Bernie played for Victoria (1937); and his brother Wally had been listed with Footscray from 1932-34.

 

 

Arthur Olliver kicked two goals in his VFL debut.  Source: Sporting Globe. May 11th 1935.

 

Arthur Olliver in action. Source: ‘Herald Sun’ (original source unknown).  

 

1935 – LORD HUNTINGFIELD MEETS ARTHUR OLLIVER

Things often move quickly for those who break into the top echelons of sport; and, within a few short months, Arthur went from playing VAFA ‘D Section’ to meeting the Governor of Victoria, Lord Huntingfield (William Charles Arcedeckne Vanneck – the 5th Baron Huntingfield).

Lord Huntingfield was the VFL’s guest dignitary at the clash between Footscray and Essendon at the Western Oval on May 18th.

As shown in the rare photograph (below) Footscray’s coach, Alby Morrison, is seen introducing the Governor to members of the Footscray team.

Readers will notice the striped guernsey worn by Alby in the photograph. The Tricolours had changed the jumper design in 1935; and the vertical stripes were a stark contrast to the former red and white hoops.

“1935- Distinctive Blue shirt with Vertical Stripes. Unfortunately destroyed by drycleaner at end of season 1936-1937 – Same as 1925-34 but stripes further up the jumper…” Source: Boyles Photos website.

 

Extract caption: VICTORIA’S GOVERNOR LIKES FOOTBALL. LORD HUNTINGFIELD, who is a keen follower of all sport, is shown being presented to the Footscray and Essendon football teams prior to their match. A. Morrison, the captain of Footscray, is doing the introducing. Source: ‘The Swan Leader’ (W.A.) June 14th 1935.  Page: 1

 

THE COACHING MERRY-GO-ROUND AT FOOTSCRAY

Source: ‘The Age’ May 22nd 1935 Page: 9.

 

For any sporting organization to be successful, the style, the strength and the stability of leadership are paramount.

In those early years of affiliation with the VFL, Footscray FC was severely disadvantaged by being unable to settle upon a practical blueprint for the club’s future. There were various but separate plans to take the club forward.

Following the club’s entry into the VFL (1925) and, up until 1935, Footscray had at least eight coaches at the helm:  Con McCarthy (1926), Harry Saunders & Jim Cassidy (1927), Paddy Scanlan (1927-28), Alec Eason (1929), Alan Hopkins (1930), Bill Cubbins (1931-33), Alby Morrison (1934 and part of 1935) and Syd Coventry (14 games in the 1935 season).

 

 

The former Collingwood champion Syd Coventry coached took over from Alby Morrison in Round: 5 1935. He also coached in 1936 and for four games in 1937. In his time at Footscray, Syd had a win-loss ratio of 25%. In 1937, Joe Kelly took over the role and coached the club until Round: 18 in 1940. Joe steered Footscray into the VFL Finals in 1938. Photograph source: ‘The Australasian Pictorial’ August 27th 1932.

The official records (i.e., AFL Tables) show that in Arthur Olliver’s first season in 1935, the club changed coaches after Round 4, when Alby Morrison nobly stepped aside to allow Sid Coventry to take the reins.

Syd coached for the remainder of that season (Rounds 5-18). From his 14 starts as club coach, Syd guided Footscray to two wins and also two draws (Carlton in Round: 7 and Geelong Round: 11 – see below). In 1935, Footscray finished eleventh on the VFL Ladder just above North Melbourne (with a solitary win). As those who have coached any sports team would know: ‘Coaching is a hard gig.’

 

1935 ARTHUR OLLIVER – FIVE GOALS IN A BRILLIANT EXHIBITION

 

Source: ‘The Herald’ July 6th 1935. Page: 3

 

Arthur Olliver had a solid debut season and played eleven games. It was reported in one newspaper that Arthur had suffered a ‘poisoned leg’ which may explain why he did not play in Rounds 13, 14 and 15 in that season.

Arthur kicked 23 goals in 1935 including a bag of five against Geelong at the Western Oval in Round: 11. Although Arthur had kicked four goals in two other matches that season (Richmond and Carlton) his efforts against Geelong underlined his capability and spirit in tough situations. As shown below, his 5 goals included the vital major that levelled the scores…

“A goal by Olliver on the bell made the scores level. Footscray had played grandly and a draw was a fitting finish in a wonderful game” (See extract).

 

Arthur Olliver featured prominently in an exciting drawn game against Geelong in Round 11. Arthur booted five majors and was listed in the better players for the Tricolours. Others to play well that day were:  Alby Morrison, Sid Dockendorff, Hugh McLaughlin, Cliff McCrae, Jack Ryan and Bernie O’Brien. Source: ‘Sporting Globe’ July 5th 1935, Page 3  

 

ARTHUR OLLIVER DOMINATES AT WINDY HILL -1936

1936 started with a flash (not a blaze) of publicity for Arthur Olliver with a photograph and a brief accompanying comment about his first season of VFL football, which was published in ‘The Argus’ in March. There is ‘documented evidence’ to suggest that Arthur was playing cricket that summer and that may explain his relatively ‘late appearance’ on the track for preseason training at Footscray FC.

 

 

Extract text: OLLIVER REAPPEARS Arthur Olliver, the full forward of last year, trained for the first time and created a good impression, and A. Morrison showed his dash of last year. Others who trained well were:  R. Richards, Zimmermann, McFarlane, Attrell (follower, from Bordertown), King (follower, Tasmania), Rogers, and Ferguson (both from Ballarat), Len Taylor (half-back, from Nullawil), and Jack McMillan (full forward from Hastings, the leading goal kicker in the Mornington League). Source: ‘The Argus’ March 27th 1936, Page 13

Footscray struggled again in 1936 and despite a fighting win against Fitzroy in Round 4 (thanks to Bernie O’ Brien’s five goals), the club sat ‘lost and lonely’ at the bottom end of the table.  When North Melbourne defeated FFC by six points at Arden Street, things had become critical for the loyal but drained band of supporters.

However, ‘all was not lost’ as Arthur Olliver’s seven goal haul against Essendon in Round 11 at Windy Hill, was a bright spot on a gloomy season. Arthur received plaudits for his sterling effort that day.

Scores: Footscray 16 .13 (114) defeated Essendon 12.13 (87)

Goal kickers -Footscray Olliver 7 Dockendorff 3 Eason (2) O’Brien Penberthy Shields and Spargo

“For Footscray Olliver:  full forward was the best man on the ground. His grand marking was the feature of the match and he kicked well…”   

 

Source: ‘The Argus’ Monday 20th July 1936.

 

Arthur kicked 39 goals that season and won the club’s goal-kicking award. Arthur, Bernie O’ Brien (28 goals), Alby Morrison (18), Jack McMillan (17) and Cliff McCrae were the only FFC players to boot ‘double figures’ that season. Alby Morrison finished fourth in the Brownlow Medal with 19 votes. Norm Ware collected 14 votes and Arthur polled five votes.

 

1937 ARTHUR  TAKES  THE  GOAL KICKING  TROPHY AGAIN

Arthur was amongst the goals again in 1937; and kicked 39 goals, including six, in a losing team against St Kilda at the Junction Oval in Round 14. At the other end of the ground, the legendary Bill Mohr kicked five goals for the Saints and Laird Smith (ex-Melbourne High School) aided the victors with four goals.

Things improved marginally for Footscray in the second half of the season as the club finished in tenth position with five wins, 13 losses and a percentage of 86.9%

 

Arthur Olliver won the club goal kicking award in 1937 and 1938 Source: Unknown

It was troubled season again for the Tricolours because Syd Coventry stepped down as the coach after the Round 4 defeat at the hands of Collingwood; and the following week, Joe Kelly took over and guided the Tricolours to a 43-point victory over North Melbourne.

Joe coached for the remainder of the 1937 season and Footscray won four games, finishing eleventh on the VFL Ladder. The FFC committee must have seen something in Joe’s coaching style and methods because he was re-appointed as the Senior XVIII Coach for the 1939 season.

In the last game of the 1937 season against Carlton, three Ryan boys played for Footscray: Jack (ex- Maryborough), Joe (ex- Footscray Rovers) and Leo Ryan (aka Leonard from Fish Creek). Leo was a steady and reliable defender and went on to play 119 games with Footscray. Every footballer has a story to tell and the Ryan boys’ backgrounds are worthwhile in hearing.

Another player that proved to be of interest in this research was Cyril Cooper from the Williamstown District FL. Cyril made his debut as the 19th man that day for the Tricolours; and that proved be his one and only VFL game.  Cyril (also known as ‘Curly’) Cooper won a training award at Williamston FC in 1940; and, in all, played 18 Senior Grade XVIII games with Williamstown, kicking six goals.

THE BULLDOG BREED

In 1937, Footscray adopted the Motto ‘Cede Nullis’ which translates to: “Yield or surrender to none.” The following season the club became known as the Bulldogs and the moniker ‘Tricolours’ slowly vanished from the football vernacular.

It is said that The Bulldog nickname can be traced back to a game in 1928 when a bulldog ran onto the field in a match being played between Footscray and Collingwood. While the motto and the moniker were important innovations, what Joe Kelly did in 1938 had a greater bearing on the future of the club.

 

 

JOE KELLY MAKES HISTORY AT FOOTSCRAY

 

 

Joe Kelly – The former Carlton wingman coached Footscray from 1937 until 1940; and led FFC for first time into a VFL final. Joe coached on 69 occasions and had a win-loss ratio of 42.03%. Joe crossed to South Melbourne in 1941 and coached the Swans until 1944. Photograph source: Wills Cigarette cards.

Footscray FC had done the obligatory homework in appointing Joe Kelly to coach in 1938. Joe had won a handsome reputation as a wingman at Carlton, and had played 137 games (1926-34).

His background at Xavier College and his experience with the Blues may have been strong factors in Footscray persuading him to take on the key role at the Western Oval.

Joe hit the ground running. Footscray notched up seven wins in the first ten rounds; and the Tricolours sat in fourth slot on the VFL Ladder. When Footscray defeated Melbourne by 40 points in Round: 16, the result sent out a forewarning to other clubs of things to come. Joe Kelly was the toast of the town when he steered Footscray into its first ever final against Collingwood.

It had been a long haul and Joe deserved eternal credit for lifting the club from the gloomy depths of earlier years.

The First Semi-Final attendance of 67,566 set a VFL record, but the joy that   Footscray supporters felt, in making the finals, quickly dissipated as Collingwood slammed on six goals in the first term and set up victory.

Footscray fought back with grit and spirit but the Magpies, led by Des Fothergill, Ron Todd and Alby Pannam, destroyed any hope of a third quarter Bulldog revival and went onto win in convincing style.  Cliff McCrae was valiant in kicking five goals for Footscray. The curtain came down on Footscray’s best ever VFL season; and Joe Kelly had lifted the club to new heights giving the Bulldogs some ‘real bite.

 

The quarter-by-quarter analysis:

Collingwood:     6.1    9.1     16.5     18.9 (117)

Footscray:          3.2    5.11   9. 14   10.16(76)

Goals for Collingwood: Fothergill 6 Pannam 5 Todd 4 Williams Doherty Kyne

Goals For Footscray: Macrae 5 Morrison 2 Palmer Luke Evans

Best for Collingwood:  Fothergill Regan Pannam Whelan Kyne and Boyall

Best for Footscray:  Spargo Greenham McCrae Miller Standfield Ware Hickey Evans.

 

Dick Reynolds won the 1938 Brownlow Medal that season with 18 votes and the most under-rated footballer in Hawthorn’s history, Stan Spinks, was runner up with 17 votes. Alby Morrison and Norm Ware featured in the top ten medal vote winners.

The improvement by Footscray that season was reflected in the number of goal kickers who reached double figures tallies. Charlie Luke (ex-Phillip Island) booted goals 44, Alby Morris (29), Harry Hickey (26), Arthur Oliver (24), Joe Ryan (23) and Cliff McCrea, who left his best work unroll the final series, kicked 19 goals that season.

Norm Ware won his third (of six) club Best and Fairest trophy in 1938. Norm also shared the prestigious ‘Argus Cup’ with Collingwood’s Marcus Boyle in that newspaper’s best player award. Ambrose Palmer, who had made his name in boxing and was an adroit footballer for the Bulldogs, picked up three votes in the Brownlow Medal that season.

 

LOOKING FOR A LOCAL CHAMPION – 1939

 

Caption: Arthur Olliver, one of Footscray’s many local products. For a big man, he has great pace, and is a fine mark and kick. Olliver is an electrician.

 

Arthur Olliver featured in a major article of the ‘Sporting Globe’ in 1939.  The story centred around the topic of supporting and encouraging local talent and minor competitions. The article was written by former Geelong and Richmond star rover Alec Eason. Alec coached Geelong in 1920 and took on the job at Footscray in 1929.   Alec later became the Chairman of Selectors at Footscray and a regular contributor to the ‘Sporting Globe’ …

 

“The district boy for me every time….”If clubs spent as much time looking round their back doorsteps, they would find better footballers than they ever will in the country, “Now I am talking about Footscray. When I say that Footscray have obtained Sainsbury, Sampson, Wilson, Miller, Spargo, Thoms, Olliver, Porter, Page, Hickey, Joe Ryan, Menzies, Greenham, Evendon, Glenister, Le Suer, McDonnell. Palmer and Zimmerman from their local district competition, what better argument could there be?” Source: Sporting Globe May 13th 1939 Page 5

 

Note: During the war years, electricians were part of a large group of jobs that were categorized as ‘reserved occupations’ (i.e., essential service industries) and may explain why Arthur did not enlist in the armed forces.

 

Harry Hickey- One of the champion midfielders of Footscray Football Club. Unfortunately, Harry is another forgotten star of VFL; and his deeds need to be revisited by future football journalists. Harry played 174 VFL games, kicked 169 goals, won three club best and fairest trophies and captained the bulldogs in 1947. Harry became a celebrated personality in country football in later years. Source: Kornies Football cards  

 

In the 1996 edition of ‘Sons of the Scray’ by Mark Buttler and Steven Milne a glowing tribute is paid to Arthur Olliver…

“…after a 1938 Footscray game …some of his towering marks were worthy of Dick Lee or Ron Todd at their best and his disposal was faultless.”   Page 32

Further praise of Arthur’s ability was found in an article headed ‘Footscray Team of the Hour’ by the illustrious former Melbourne champion, Ivor Warne Smith…

“Footscray’s greatest strength is in its three big men Olliver, Ware and Morrison. Olliver is a wonderful mark and has improved out of all recognition…. after much discussion, a generous supporters prize had been awarded to Arthur Olliver as the best player. Loud cheers greeted the announcement…”  Source: ‘The Age’ June 3rd 1938. Page: 19.

 

1941 AN EXCEPTIONAL SEASON FOR ARTHUR OLLIVER

 

At the start of 1941, Joe Kelly departed the Western Oval after being appointed coach of South Melbourne FC.   Joe’s record at Footscray was 31 wins from 63 games (49.21%); and at the end of 1940, the Bulldogs (as they were called from 1938 onwards) had finished in sixth place on the VFL Ladder with nine wins and a decent percentage of 108.9%.

The champion of the era, Norm Ware, assumed the mantle of FFC coach; and with a strong list of players and a ‘kit bag full of hope’ things were vibrant at the Western Oval.

Arthur Olliver brought up his 100th VFL game in Round 5 against North Melbourne at the Western Oval. Arthur had moved into defence by that stage of his career and had developed into a forceful centre half back. Arthur’s versatility in defence, attack or on the ball could not be denied; and the importance of his height, aerial skills and indomitable spirit meant much to the Bulldogs team balance.

1941 was an exceptional season for Arthur as he was chosen for Victoria and tied with Norm Ware in the club’s Best and Fairest award.

 

Source: ‘Weekly Times ‘ May 24th 1941, Page 39

 

While the club missed the finals in 1941, that collective disappointment was somewhat offset by Norm winning the Brownlow Medal.  Three Footscray players (Norm Ware, Harry Hickey, Arthur Olliver) dominated the voting in the ‘Medal that season; and the combined number of Footscray votes totalled 63. During his VFL career Norman Ware’s votes in the Brownlow Medal polls from are shown below:

 

Year 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941
Votes 7 13 12 3 14 15 13 10 20 23

 

 

Caption: ‘Two members of the Victorian National Code team, Olliver and Regan leap high for the ball during practice at the Cricket Ground yesterday.’  
Source; ‘The Sydney Sun’ May 23rd 1941, Page 14

 

 

The 1941 Footscray team. Arthur Olliver is circled and the photograph gives readers some appreciation of Arthur’s height and why he was such a formidable contested overhead high mark for Footscray.  Back Row: Jim Thoms, Tom Tribe, Rob Sainsbury, Charlie Page, Reg Evenden, Arthur Olliver, Ambrose Palmer,Pat Cahill. Middle Row: Bill Crosling, Leo Ryan, Harry Hickey, Norm Ware, Alby Morrison, Bill Houston, Ted Ellis  Front Row: Jim Miller, Alan Collins, Wally Harris Source: Charles Boyles Football Photos.

1942- HOME GAMES AT YARRAVILLE & VFL FINALS ACTION

Readers may be interested to read that, despite widespread criticism, the VFL continued to play football during World War 2.  

However, Geelong could not / did not enter a team in the competition in 1942; and the 1942 VFL fixture was truncated. Suburban and country football and other sports were suspended during those years of hostilities.

It is understandable how football lost its ‘shine’ in those years while the fervent debate, regarding the question of men playing sport while others served their country in military action, raged on.

 

The Yarraville Oval – Source: Maribyrnong Library Service. During 1942, the MCG, Junction Oval, Western Oval and the Lake Oval were requisitioned and used for military camps /wartime operations. Footscray played its home games at Yarraville Oval.  Melbourne played at Punt Road, St Kilda (Toorak Park) and South Melbourne’s home games were at Princes Park in Carlton. The war effort demanded significant changes across all national sporting organizations.  

 

The Bulldogs were a most competitive unit under Norman Ware in 1942 and took all before them and won ten out of fourteen games. The Final Four comprised Essendon, Richmond, South Melbourne and Footscray.

 

 

The most famous number 4 in Bulldog history: Norm Ware. Norm was recruited from Sale to Footscray in 1932.  Norm played 200 games, won the Brownlow Medal, represented Victoria, captained/ coached the club, won the club’s Best & Fairest award on five occasions and was selected in Footscray’s Team of the Century The original source of the photograph is unknown but appeared in a recent ‘Herald Sun’ advertising promotion.

The Bulldogs meet South Melbourne in the First Semi-final; and the worsening situation in Europe and in the Pacific theatre of war impacted heavily on that final series.

The finals were played at Princes Oval (as the MCG and other grounds mentioned above were being used as a military camps/ bases for wartime operations).

Only 25,000 people witnessed the game; and Footscray fans would have been bitterly disappointed with the outcome. Footscray’s inaccuracy in front of goal was costly; and it was reported that the Bulldogs ‘hit the post’ on five occasions. There is evidence to show that Norm Ware kicked 3 goals 14 behinds that day. The old adage ‘bad kicking is bad football’ was ample explanation of the Bulldogs’ demise in that final.

The score line was:  South Melbourne 13.13 (91) defeated Footscray 7.22 (64); and, according to the ‘Sporting Globe’, Footscray’s best players were listed as: Arthur Olliver, Norm Ware, Jim Thoms, Len McCankie, Alf Sampson, Ted Ellis and Alby Morrison.

Ted Ellis (ex-North Melbourne) won the club’s Best & Fairest award while Norm Ware took out the goal kicking trophy with 51 goals. Little is heard of Ted Ellis these days but he was player of some status in that era of VFL football. Ted played 85 games with North Melbourne and a further 65 games with Footscray; and he also represented Victoria in 1937. Ted’s sons (Lindsay and Kinsley) also played VFL football.

1943 ARTHUR OLLIVER IS APPOINTED CAPTAIN & COACH OF FOOTSCRAY

Source: ‘Sporting Globe’ May 12th 1948, Page 9

 

Norman Ware enlisted for military service in 1943 and was posted to West Australia (later at the Solomon Islands).  In his absence, Arthur Olliver was appointed as the captain and coach of the club.

Up until that point in his career, Arthur had played 127 VFL games; and was ‘quite young’ (26 years of age) when he accepted the most important role in any football club structure.

Arthur proved to be a worthy replacement for Norman, where his ability to lead by example shone through became a definitive coach and an ornament to the game.  The way Arthur guided his club through the next chapter of the club’s history was simply outstanding (Arthur did not coach in 1947 as explained below).

Arthur’s record as a playing coach was impressive. He coached the club in 131 games and won 68 of those with a win/loss ratio of 52.29%. In his time as Footscray’s coach, the club played in three VFL finals series (1944-46- 48).

In football history, statistics need to be handled like dynamite, i.e., with extra caution, but as an indication of Arthur’s prowess as a strategist, his results against the doyen of VFL coaches, Jock McHale, are a guide. In nine outings against Collingwood, Arthur coached Footscray to five victories. Where Arthur ranks as a VFL coach is a difficult to establish.  When one looks at the coaching records of Damian Hardwick, Alistair Clarkson, Kevin Sheedy, Alan Jeans, John Kennedy, Norm Smith, Ron Barassi… (the list goes on) it is evident that Arthur is not in that elite ‘league of gentlemen.’

However, it is fair to say considering that era, of a nation at war and the ramifications of austere times, Arthur Olliver was the ‘best man for the job.’ His ability, loyalty and spirit were vital to steer his club to a ‘safe harbour in such stormy seas.’ Lesser men may have abandoned the ‘wheelhouse.’

 

ROUND  3 OF  1944:  BILL WOOD’S SPECTACULAR DEBUT FOR THE BULLDOGS

 

 

Bill Wood kicked nine goals on debut against Collingwood in 1944. He averaged 2.54 goals per match in his 115 games for the Bulldogs. Source: Carters’ Price Guide to Antiques.

 Arthur Olliver played a significant role in unearthing a star forward for the Bulldogs in 1944. Arthur’s decision, to select a virtual unknown, Bill Wood, for the clash against Collingwood was a calculated risk which paid huge dividends.  Bill Wood kicked 9 goals against Collingwood in his first VFL game and played the major role in the Bulldogs victory by eight points. Bill booted three goals in the first term before the Magpie defenders had time to think and settle before trying to close down the ‘mystery man’ at full forward.

Bill, who was born in Jindera, arrived at Footscray via his friendship with Footscray star Harry Hickey while on wartime service.

“…Wood lived in Albury and joined the AIF Armoured Division when it was formed. Two years ago, he was in camp at Geelong with Harry Hickey. On Hickey’s advice Footscray signed him up. That season he played two games with the seconds and was then transferred to Sydney. Last year he leapt into the headlines with 28 goals in one match in Sydney…”  Source: ‘The Sporting Globe’ May 24th 1944. Page: 12.

Note: During World War II, Bill’s rank was ‘Gunner, Leading Aircraftman’   and Harry Hickey’s was listed as ‘Bombardier, Leading Aircraftman.’

Had times been different, Bill Wood would may have hit the headlines for his brilliant performance in his debut for Footscray in Round 3 that season. However, because of the vehement opposition to football, coming from influential quarters, Bill’s efforts were probably toned down.

For younger readers, only the legendary John Coleman kicked more goals than Bill Wood on debut in VFL football. John kicked 12 goals against Hawthorn, at Windy Hill, in Round 1 (1949). John was 20 years of age on that historic day. The top five ‘debut goal tallies’ in AFL football are:

12 – John Coleman (Essendon).  

9 – Bill Wood (Footscray) and Warren Ralph (Carlton).

8 – John Georgiades (Western Bulldogs) and Scott Cummings (Essendon).

Bill did not play VFL football in 1945 but returned in 1946; overall, played 115 games for Footscray and booted 294 goals at an average 2.56 goals per game. Bill kicked four or more goals in a match on 38 other occasions.

 

ARTHUR THE ACROBAT – This action photograph of Arthur Olliver, in mid-flight, was published in ‘The Argus’ (August 12th 1946 on page 11) and illustrates Arthur’s agility for such a tall man (189cm). Caption:  WITH A SPECTACULAR LEAP Olliver (Footscray) gathered in the ball with one hand, in the match against Melbourne.

 

1946 – ARTHUR OLLIVER GOES INTO BUSINESS WITH JIM THOMS

Arthur Olliver and teammate Jim Thoms went into the retail business in 1946 and opened a sport store in Footscray. You could say it was family business enterprise as Arthur had married Jim’s sister (Helen).

Arthur and Helen were married in the Paisley Street Baptist Church in April 1940. Jim Thoms was the best man that day and the groomsman were also Footscray footballers Paul Standfield and Roy Evans.

It is believed that the Olliver’s had three children Ken (who trained with Melbourne in 1959), Jim and Helen. Helen (i.e., Arthur’s wife) passed away in September 2005. It was obvious from the tributes carried in the ‘Herald Sun’ that Helen was much admired and loved by all.

Arthur became a was quite sporting celebrity; and in 1948 featured in a major advertising campaign conducted by the State Savings Bank promoting savings accounts and the school banking system.

In the latter part of his VFL football career, Arthur made what is called ‘good copy’ and his opinion was sought on a variety of football matters.

 

Extract text: FOOTSCRAY MEN RUN SHOP:   Arthur Olliver (right) and Jim Thorns, who have opened a sporting goods and toy store in Hopkins Street, Footscray, make attentive salesmen. They will play in the first League semi-final against Melbourne on Saturday. Source: ‘Herald’ September 4th 1946, Page 19

 

1946 ARTHUR’S COSTLY MISS FROM POINT BLANK RANGE

 

Source: ‘The Age’ September 9th 1946. Page: 8

 

Arthur Olliver was an enthusiastic and dedicated coach and he tasted further success in 1946, That year the Bulldogs won a successive streak of nine games (rounds 1-9) and looked unstoppable. However, in the second half of the season the Bulldogs struggled and won just four games but still finished third on the VFL ladder with 13 wins in a 19-round season.  Consequently, Footscray met Melbourne (coached by Frank ‘Checker’ Hughes) in the First Semi-Final at the MCG on September 7th.

It was a significant day in Arthur’s career as he played his 200th VFL game that day. It is interesting that in all the articles written about that match not one reference was made of Arthur’s milestone. He deserved accolades not only for his longevity but his contribution and promotion of the game in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. He was a hero and an inspiration as Ted Whitten would later write.

61,277 eager fans flocked to watch the clash; and, after a slow start, the Bulldogs had staged a brave fightback and held a one-point margin at the final break.  With the clock ticking down, Footscray seemed to be in control and when Arthur Olliver marked close to goal, he had a chance to ‘nail’ the game for the Bulldogs. However, as is often the case in life and sport but the ‘fickle finger of fate’ intervened.

“…When Arthur Olliver marked at the top of the square into time on …Footscray’s first victory in a VFL finals match seemed assured.  Unfortunately for the Bulldogs the unthinkable happened. Olliver slipped as he took the kick-the ball skewing out of bounds on the full” Source: ‘The Clubs’ Page:  149

Melbourne rebounded with renewed vigour and rattled on a string of unanswered goals in the dying minutes to swamped Footscray by 18 points.    Jack Mueller and Norm Smith were praised, by Hec De Lacey of the ‘Sporting Globe’, for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Hec also described Arthur Olliver as ‘tireless and courageous’ on that day.

Despite his slip (in the true sense of the word) in front of gaol, Arthur was named as Footscray best for his unstinting ruck work and three goals.

Norm Ware (4 goals), Evan Rees, Tom Miller, George McLaren, Alan Moncrieff, Dick Wearmouth, Jim Thoms (2 goals), Harry Hickey (2 goals) and Merv Laffey (2 goals) Bruce Fountain and Bill Wood were other names mentioned in the match review. Footscray supporters had every right to believe that was the final that ‘got away.’

The Bulldog’s 1946 season was ‘mothballed’; and, conceivably, of the three finals, in which Arthur coached Footscray, that result may have proven the most disappointing. Footscray came close that day but the faithful supporters would need to patiently wait until 1954 before their dreams were fully realized.

Joe Ryan won the club’s Best and Fairest while Bill Wood topped the goal kicking list with 52 goals.  Jim Thoms had his best season and registered 50 goals and Norm Ware kicked 33 goals to bring his career tally to 220.

 

AN UNANSWERED QUESTION: WHAT HAPPENED IN 1947?

Jim Crowe (shown above) was an adept footballer and starred with Carlton and played in Collingwood’s premiership team.
The background to Jim’s appointment as coach at Footscray in 1947
is a riddle and has yet to be clearly explained.
Photograph source: Blueseum website.  

Despite a lengthy search, there appears to be little account of the events that unfolded at the Western Oval in 1947.  Perhaps the finer details have been lost with the passage of time; however, in retrospect it seemed to be a peculiar affair.  As described above, Arthur Olliver led the Bulldogs in the 1946 final series; and the club seemed to be competitive, settled and building for the future.

However, for reasons unknown, Arthur was sacked as captain and coach for the 1947 season. In doing so, the FFC Committee appointed Jim Crowe to the position of Senior XVIII Coach. It is widely known that Jim Crowe, a former respected Carlton and Collingwood player, had previously coached the Footscray Seconds and must have impressed officials for his name to be put forward to be considered for the 1947 job. As a consequence of Jim’s appointment, Arthur’s football was in limbo. It is only guesswork but, despite Arthur Olliver being a stout-hearted character at the Western Oval, he was only human. In no doubt he would have been severely wounded (perhaps indignant) at being ‘passed over’ for the role of club coach.

At least three clubs (Hawthorn, Richmond and Port Melbourne) made overtures to Arthur to join their ranks. There is documentation to suggest that Arthur did consider those attractive offers but ultimately decided to ‘stay on’ with his comrades at Footscray.

Harry Hickey was captain of Footscray in 1947. As for Jim Crowe, he was on ‘thin ice’ when the club plummeted to ninth on the table (with only the old suspects North Melbourne, Hawthorn and St Kilda below them on the ladder).

It is known that a mid-season incident, involving Jim Crowe, reported in the ‘Sporting Globe by Hec de Lacey (July 2nd 1947), was a cause of unease to the VFL and also adds to a strange turn of events in the Bulldogs’ history.

 

 

Arthur Olliver was reinstated as captain and coach of Footscray for the 1948 season. No doubt Arthur’s experience, knowledge and above all, his unswerving loyalty to the red, white and blue would have been of substantial weight for those deliberating on his re-appointment

1947 was Jim Crowe’s only stint of coaching at VFL Senior Grade level.  However, Jim remained actively in involved in VFL affairs and administration, as shown below in the extract, he was made an Honorary Life Member of the VFL in 1974.

 

The original source of this article is unknown but was posted on the Blueseum website

 

 

1948 BILL TWOMEY DASHES ARTHUR’S HOPES IN THE SEMI FINAL

 

Source: ‘The Herald’ September 11th 1948. Page 10

Arthur Olliver experienced the highs and lows in sport in 1948. In June, he was chosen as vice-captain of the Victorian team to meet an NSW combination in Sydney. Briefly, Victoria 15.24 122 won in comfortable style (NSW 9.10 64); and Arthur was listed among the best players for Victoria.

Arthur again travelled northwards for an exhibition match in Brisbane against Richmond in July while the results were difficult to unearth, it is known that Arthur sustained a serious hand injury and was in doubt to be selected the for the club’s next fixture against Carlton.

Bill Twomey of Collingwood.
Bill’s eight goals against Footscray in 1948
was one of the sensational individual performances
in that era of VFL football.
Source: Kornies cards.

Arthur’s sore hand would have paled into insignificance compared to the pain he must have felt when Collingwood led by a ‘rampaging’ Bill Twomey quelled any hope of Footscray of going deep into the 1948 finals series.  The first Semi-final was held the MCG and a crowd of 71514 attended. At half time, the Bulldogs had built a small buffer of ten points but Collingwood’s champion centre man, Bill Twomey, took charge and virtually sent Footscray packing for that season. Bill, who was injured in during the second quarter…

“…Limped to a forward pocket …began to drag down some glorious marks. He was quickly switched to spearhead, his brother went to the centre, and both became match winners. In fifty minutes, Bill booted eight goals…”  Source: Courage Book of Finals. Page: 155.

By three quarter time, Collingwood had established a lead of four goals and cruised home to triumph over a ragged Footscray team by 35 points.

Bobby Rose was at his brilliant best that day while the Twomey boys had ‘worked their Magpie magic.’  Footscray was best served by Charlie Sutton, Joe Ryan (4 goals) Dave Bryden, Norm Webb, Marty McDonnell and the valiant Harry Hickey.

That was to be Arthur Olliver’s last crack in VFL finals. No doubt he would have felt frustrated after three attempts to win the club some silverware. History shows that Footscray supporters would need to wait until 1954 for the prize.

 

In 1949 this sketch of Arthur was published in ‘The Argus’ on Friday 8th July, Page 18

 

The caption: FOOTBALL FAVOURITES No 1: (FOOTSCRAY) ARTHUR OLLIVER Fifteen years with Footscray. Now captain-coach. Local boy. Star ruck man and high – flying     mark. Kicked goals from all over the place. (But not early this year when he was stooging for lack of a full-forward.) Hands show how he tackles the ball in the ruck. Married. Age 32. Two sons. Sports store proprietor. NEXT FRIDAY: GEELONG

 

1950 – THE JIM EDEMA CARTOONS OF ARTHUR OLLIVER

Jim Edema was a noted cartoonist who became very popular with readers of ‘The Argus’ for his caricatures of VFL players.

In 1950, Arthur Olliver featured on two occasions in Jim’s clever football-theme sketches. The extract below shows Arthur Olliver on the right hand side of the page below.  Jim’s drawing includes other well-known VFL champions such as Dick Reynolds, Gordon Lane, Norm Smith, Les Foote and Bill Morris Another of Jim’s cartoons centred upon Footscray’s match against Essendon in May 1950.

It shows Essendon’s famous coach Dick Reynolds delivering Arthur Olliver and the Bulldogs a lesson in football. The cartoon includes sketches of Dave Bryden, Jack Collins Wally Donald, Charlie Sutton and Len McCankie.

 

Source: The Argus April 29th 1950 Page 44

 

Source: ‘The Argus’ May 13th 1950. Page 44

 

Jim Edema predicted the outcome of that match with uncanny accuracy as Essendon 21.9 (135) walloped Footscray by 71 points.

As Jim had forecasted, it was indeed a lesson in football for the players and onlookers as young John Coleman kicked eight goals to bring his season tally 28 goals after 4 rounds of football. John went on to boot 120 goals that season.

Although Footscray was thrashed in the above game, Essendon just scraped home by two points in the Round 15 return clash at the Western Oval. On that day, John was restricted to three goals by Footscray fully Marty McDonnell (see below).

The best players for Footscray were: Charlie Sutton, Marty McDonnell, Arthur Olliver, Dave Bryden, Dick Wearmouth and Merv Laffey. Don Henderson kicked three important goals for Footscray in that game. *Don is not to be confused with Herb Henderson.

Marty McDonnell was recruited from West Footscray and played 92 games for the Bulldogs. It was no fluke that Marty ‘held’ John Coleman so effectively in that game.

Marty was a brilliant defender and played eight games for Victoria. Sadly, he is another forgotten star in Australian football and deserves greater recognition in VFL football.

 

 

Arthur Olliver and his team in 1950. The ‘future coach’ (who carried the club to its first VFL premiership) Charlie Sutton can be seen in the front row.
Source: ‘The Argus’ Weekend Supplement July 15th 1950

 

CHANGING OF THE GUARD AT THE WESTERN OVAL

As a new decade approached, the ‘changing of the guard’ was taking place at the Western Oval. Following the war years, ‘talent scouting’ (by all VFL clubs) had widened across Victoria.

At Footscray, targeted recruiting in the late 1940’s was successful in securing some very talented recruits such as:  Alan Martin ( Stawell),  Max Isaac FTSOB ),  Tom Miller ( Bentleigh),  Dave Bryden (Wonthaggi), Alby Linton (Spotswood),   Angus Abbey (Strathmore ),  Bruce Reid ( Romsey ), Alan Bulman ( Bacchus Marsh ), Bob Templeton ( Williamston Methodists),  Herb Henderson ( see below from Mildura-1950 )  and,  of course,   a teenager,  waiting in the wings at Braybrook,  Ted Whitten ( 1950).

‘In with the new and out with the old’ sounds fairly harsh and heartless but renewal/ regeneration is/are essential for all football teams. Every football club must take store and prepare for a new winter!

By 1950, Arthur would have had an inkling that his time was ‘up’ in VFL senior ranks; and his mind may have turned to a ‘different’ life beyond the Western Oval.

Players of his calibre were in great demand, from all points of the compass, but, no doubt, Arthur would have concentrated on leaving Footscray ‘ship shape and Bristol fashion.’  From researching and reading, about Arthur’s attitude and values to all important things, it would seem that he would make sure that he ‘left the house in good order when he handed in his keys.’

 

 

Caption: ENTHUSIASM AND EXPERIENCE were combined at Footscray practice last night. When new recruits, Herb Henderson, of Mildura, had his first run with some of Footscray’s stalwarts. Henderson (right), who is only 19, is 6ft. 2 in. and plays centre, half-back or forward. Left: The captain, Arthur Olliver.
Source: The Age April 19th 1950, Page 22

 

Caption: FOOTSCRAY CAPTAIN AND COACH. Arthur Olliver, discusses training with Allen Martin (left) and Dave Bryden at Footscray last night. Olliver is being treated for a slight foot injury by head trainer. Ernie Tomlinson. Source: The Age May 3rd 1950, Page 22

 

ARTHUR OLLIVER’S LAST GAME FOR FOOTSCRAY

 

Source: ‘The Argus’ August 25th 1950. Page 9.

 

Arthur played his last game for Footscray in Round: 18 in 1950 against Collingwood at Victoria Park. Arthur’s retirement was announced prior to match day (as shown above). Only 12, 000 supporters watched that game and perhaps if the game was at the Western Oval, then more locals would have taken the chance to get across town to farewell Arthur in his swansong.

1950 had been a particularly tough season for Arthur (5 wins); and it would have been fitting to leave the scene with a win but, VFL football is hardly a charity organization and all victories must be earnt via the ‘heat of battle.’

Collingwood was coached by the ‘new’ boy on the block at Victoria Park Phonse Kyne. Jock McHale had stepped down after Collingwood’s loss in the 1949 final against Essendon (see above).

As can be seen from the selected teams, Collingwood was a talented outfit with Bob Rose, Des Healy, Charlie Utting, Ron and Lou Richards, Bob Rose Gordon Hocking and Neil Mann. Further, a youngster named Thorold Merrett who was capturing a lot of media attention for his dynamic style of play and Len Fitzgerald “had been branded by Bruce Andrew as the most brilliant big man since Albert Collier…”  Source: Collingwood Forever.

 

Source: ‘The Argus’ August 25th 1950. Page 9

 

Harvey Stevens who played for Collingwood would later cross to Footscray in 1953 and go on to play 72 games with the Bulldogs including being a member of the 1954 premiership team.

The Footscray team also included a handful of promising footballers such as: Alan Martin, Don Henderson, Reg Egan, Jack Collins, Angus Abbey Frank McCrae and Bernie Smallwood.

The match was umpired by the eminent Jack McMurray (which is a story within itself); and it was a scrappy affair with the standard of play never reaching any great heights.  In the first half, the Footscray defence, led by one of the most under-rated full backs in VFL history, Marty McDonnell and a well-supported by Alan Martin and Wally Donald restricted the Magpies to just two goals.

In desperation, Phonse Kyne swung Len Fitzgerald to centre halfback, Thorold Merret went to a wing, Jack Hamilton moved into the ruck and Gordon Hocking was thrown into defence. Things ‘clicked’ for the Magpies and they added with three goals in the third term.

The hope that the Bulldogs could outlast the Magpies wasn’t to be; and Collingwood chipped away as Footscray slowed and stalled.   In a thrilling climax, Footscray’s fate was sealed when Des Healy was awarded a free kick close to goal and he converted for full points and victory.

 

The details of the match were:

Collingwood   2. 5   2.6   5.10      9.10 (64)

Footscray        3.6     5.8   6.10     8.14. 62

 

Goal kickers for Collingwood:  Des Healy 2 Ron Richards 2 Lou Richards 2 Gordon Hocking 1 Thorold Merrett 1 and Len Fitzgerald 1.

Goal kickers for Footscray:   Dave Bryden 2 Merv Laffey 2 Arthur Olliver 2 Jack Collins 1 and Dick Wearmouth 1

Best for Collingwood:   Hamilton Mann Richards Lucas Fitzgerald and Rose.

Best for Footscray: Collins McLaren Donald McDonnell Scanlan and Sutton.  

 

It would have been nice to have been a fly on the wall and to have listened to Arthur Olliver’s post-match address to his players and FFC officials. Retirement speeches, by footballers, are always a salient moment in the life of a club; and Arthur would have been mindful to say ‘adieu’ in a manner becoming such an important occasion in his life. So, after a VFL career that had ‘kicked off’ in 1935, some 272 games later, Arthur packed his bag and took the first step to his life after Footscray.

Other Footscray players to step down that day included; Evan Rees (80 games), Tom Miller (not to be confused with Jim-34 games), Len McCankie (143 games) and Marty McDonnell (92 games). There were seven players, in the above team, who would form the nucleus of the club going forward; and as the archives show would guide the club to its first ever VFL premiership.

They were: Wally Donald, Herb Henderson, Dave Bryden, Alan Martin, Jack Collins, Angus Abbey and a genuine protagonist in in the next chapter of Footscray’s history book-Charlie Sutton.

 

1951 TEDDY WHITTEN RECEIVES HIS HERO’S NUMBER 3.

As stated at the beginning of this story, as a youngster, Ted Whitten imagined that he was number 3 for Footscray (i.e., Arthur) when playing ‘street football.’ What an incredible moment it must have been in young Ted’s life when he was presented with number: 3 to wear for his first game, with Footscray against Richmond, in 1951. Dreams can come true!

 

The most famous number 3 in VFL football, Ted Whitten, drags in another fine mark at Arden Street in 1961. Source: ‘Past colours’ (Original source of this photo is not known)

 

Ted was just seventeen years when he made his VFL debut. Meanwhile, his real-life hero, Arthur Olliver, was elsewhere (see below) but ‘his old’ number: 3 jumpers would dominate Victorian football for the next two decades.

In time, Ted Whitten became known as ‘Mr Football’ and was, arguably, the finest footballer of his generation. He played 321 games wearing that famous number; and it must have evoked some wonderful memories for Arthur Olliver on every occasion that he saw ‘young’ Ted take the field.

Other well-known players to have worn number: 3 at Footscray include:  Allan Stoneham (128 games) and Chris Grant (341 games). Ted’s son, Ted (Junior), wore number 22 during his 144 game career with the Bulldogs. The current number: 3 at Western Bulldogs is Mitch Wallis whose father Stephen played 261 games for the Western Bulldogs (wearing number: 24).

1951- ARTHUR OLLIVER COACHES NEW NORFOLK FC.

In late 1950, there was some serious chatter about Arthur Olliver considering to play with New Norfolk Football Club which was affiliated with the Tasmanian State League at that time.

As shown below, by January 1951, Arthur had applied for a clearance, from Footscray, to join NNFC. His decision to cross to Tasmania makes intriguing reading as the champion of South Melbourne, Ron Clegg, was central to Arthur’s deliberations.

 

Source: ‘The Argus’ January 10th 1951, Page 9

The next chapter in Arthur Olliver’s journey in football would last for three seasons as he put his heart and soul in representing his new club and state. It was not surprising that Arthur was a star player in the TSL. He achieved substantial success in captaining the Tasmania in interstate matches and in NNFC club awards.

In his first season with the Eagles (as New Norfolk is known), he steered the club into the finals. However, the quest for a premiership flag was thwarted by North Hobart’s hard running and skilful ‘mosquito fleet.’ New Norfolk fell short by 16 points that day but, as shown in the results below, Arthur played a sterling game and was listed the best player for New Norfolk.

 

Source: ‘The Mercury’ September 17th 1951, Page 20

Note:  New Norfolk FC had to wait until 1969 to finally ‘break the drought’ and win a premiership. Darrell Baldock (St Kilda), Peter Hudson (Hawthorn) and Noel Clarke (Melbourne) were illustrious VFL footballers who also played with New Norfolk at some time in their careers.

Arthur coached New Norfolk for three seasons and became an ‘Apple Isle’ celebrity. There are ample newspaper articles that indicate that he was a much admired and popular figure in the local community.

The photograph below says a great deal about Arthur’s time in Tasmania. He was not only a leading player but was ever-willing to promote football and encourage youngsters to join in the fun of football and ‘club life.

 

ANXIOUS TO  LEARN: Coach Arthur Olliver (right) instructs new Australian Tony Hazi during New Norfolk Football Club training. Hazi is one of the few migrants who have taken up the Australian game. He played with New Norfolk seconds last season, and is anxious to make the first team this year. Source: ‘The Mercury’ March 23rd 1953, Page 20

 

Caption: “Reaching high TFL captain Arthur Olliver fails to gather the ball…”
Source: ‘The Mercury’ August 29th 1951, Page 16

 

THE LONG WAIT IS OVER – A PREMIERSHIP AT WEST PERTH  

It is hard to track what happened after Arthur Olliver retired from playing football; and that period of his time in Tasmania was difficult to uncover. However, in 1960 Arthur suddenly ‘popped back’ into the news when it was reported that he was appointed to coach West Perth in the WAFL.

 

Arthur Olliver doing what he loved best at West Perth FC. Caption:  “Arthur Olliver talks tactics with Rovers Peter Medhurst and Joe Franchie. Source: ‘Heartbeat’- Newsletter of the West Perth FC. Issue 8 May 2020

Arthur was 41 years of age when he arrived at West Perth (then known as the Cardinals) but his expertise and experience shone through; and he led West Perth to a famous victory over East Perth in the 1960 WAFL Grand Final at the Subiaco Oval. The scores were:  West Perth 17.13 (115) defeated East Perth 12.11(83) Note: East Perth was coached by the legendary Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer that season. Polly played 176 games for East Perth (1953 -1961); and in 1962 he played with Geelong. He later coached West Perth from 1968 until 1971.

The photo below shows Arthur Olliver on that memorable day. He is sitting on the West Perth ‘bench’ wearing a wide-brimmed hat and is flanked on either side by enthralled club officials.  Judging by the smiles, on the faces of those next to Arthur, this photograph was probably taken during the ‘time on’ period when West Perth had complete control of the ‘situation’ and victory was imminent.

As the excitement builds Arthur Olliver and other West Perth officials are waiting for the final siren. Arthur, who can be seen wearing in the wide brimmed hat, watches intently as the time clock ticks down and his mission, for 1960, is accomplished. Source: ‘Heartbeat’ -Newsletter of the West Perth FC. Issue 8 May 2020

 

A long and patient wait is over. Arthur Olliver leaps for joy as the siren sounds to mark the end of the game; and time to celebrate a well-deserved victory for Arthur and the West Perth Football Club. A crowd of 42,850 witnessed the 1960 WAFL Grand Final at the Subiaco Oval.  Source: ‘Heartbeat’-Newsletter of the West Perth FC. Issue 8 May 2020

It was a magnificent day for the Cardinals’ supporters and, of course, for Arthur Olliver who had dedicated his life to the game of football. Most would agree that Arthur deserved his success after such a long and patient wait.

 

The 1960 West Perth premiership team. Arthur is front and centre in the photograph.
Source: ‘Heartbeat’ –Newsletter of the West Perth FC. Issue 8 May 2020

The WAFL’s living-legend, Mel Whinnen (MBE), who made his debut in WAFL football in the above Grand Final, wrote the following comments about Arthur Olliver’s shrewd coaching methods at West Perth in 1960:

“At the beginning of the season I had never expected to be training with my idols let alone playing alongside them in a Grand Final. Arthur Olliver was a towering commanding man. I learned a lot from him. On Thursday nights at training, he would often send me off early. He’d say “you’ve done enough tonight, off you go”.

The problem was I didn’t want to go off! I thought Arthur was a clever coach…we had a team of champions and so the challenge for him was getting the team to play together as a champion team. He was able to do that in 1960 …”. Source ‘Heartbeat’ Issue 8, May 2020

Arthur coached West Perth until 1963 and tasted a modicum of success when the club finished third in 1962. In 1964, Clive Lewington was appointed to the role; and the following season another well-known Footscray identity, Bob Spargo, took over the job at West Perth.   Bob’s father (Bob Senior) was a member of the Footscray teams on the day that Arthur Olliver made his debut against Fitzroy in Round: 3 at the Western Oval in 1935.

It is true what Chief Seattle once uttered about life: “All things are bound together …all things connect

According to sports journalist, Matt Burgan, Arthur returned to Victoria in 1969. Arthur passed away on the 31st of May, 1988.

ARTHUR OLLIVER AND THE SPIRIT OF SPORT.

It an appropriate juncture to end this story but an overriding concern is:   Has this article really done justice to Arthur Olliver’s contribution to Australian football?  For most people, football is a game but to Arthur is seemed to be a way of life. He ‘lived and loved’ the game and played it with all his heart and every ounce of energy that he could muster.

Arthur’s earnest endeavours as a player and coach were recognised when he was inducted in to the AFL Hall of Fame in 2003.  Arthur is also a member of the Footscray Hall of Fame and was named in the Bulldogs’ Team of the Century. Hopefully, such recognition may encourage future generations to pause and learn more about Arthur Olliver and his enduring legacy to the game of football and the spirit of sport…

“Olliver is, in the main, Footscray. When Olliver was playing well, Footscray was playing well. Not only has he been a mainstay of Footscray, winning many games almost entirely by own outstanding efforts, but he been responsible for captaining and coaching the team.”   Hec de Lacey as published in ‘Sons of the ‘Scray’ by Mark Buttler & Steven Milne. 

 

This above photograph of Arthur was taken from the video clip that was part   of a celebratory occasion and his induction into the Western Bulldogs/ Footscray FC Hall of Fame in 2010. It shows the famous Number: 3 players’ locker (suitably inscribed) at the Western Oval. As can be seen, the name of Ted Whitten sits below that of his hero, Arthur Olliver…another quirk in life! (Note: The incorrect spelling of Olliver on the locker door).

 

This story is dedicated to

The Gordon Family

in

Memory of Nick. 

‘Nick was another champ with the Bulldog Spirit.’

 

Written for ‘Footy Almanac’ by Roger Spaull in June 2022

 

 

 

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