ANZAC Eve: Tigers and Dees



My name is Chris, I’m a lifelong Richmond supporter and member of nine years. This story is in support of a Melbourne v Richmond ANZAC eve clash.



My grandmother Gwen was born in 1919. Her mother Madeline (Madge) and father Sidney already had a little boy Jack. Not long after Nana’s birth her father died of The Spanish Flu, leaving Madge alone with two baby children.




At the end of WWI Madge met and married George. George was a veteran of the campaigns at Gallipoli and The Somme. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery at Ypres. George and Madge had four more children Val, Lionel, Bernice and Murray.




George was a school teacher and was shifted all around the state. Jack was a champion tennis player, coached by Harry Hopman, until illness took his young life at age 21.




All three daughters were nurses. Val and Gwen were Melbourne supporters like their Mum. After the death of her fiancée Val never married. Her loves were a great tribe of nieces, nephews and their offspring, the Dees and her job as a theatre nurse at Cabrini where she worked alongside Weary Dunlop.




One of George’s teaching postings took him to Grasmere just outside of Warrnambool. Wanting to be near her family Gwen followed and nursed at the local base hospital. During this time she met a young bloke just home from WW2. His family had farmed the land around the district since white settlement. Jack had served with the AIF Provost Corp in New Guinea and the South Pacific. Beforethe war he’d won a Senior Best and Fairest aged 16, and on his return had booted a lazy 13 goals one afternoon playing for Grasmere.




Jack and Gwen married and had three kids; Lynette, Jeanette and John. Like their mother, grandmother and aunty, Jeanette and John are for the Dees (to keep up the Western District quota Lynette is a Cat!).




Jeanette met my father Dennis in Arnhem Land in 1972. Dennis the second of nine kids (Michael, Dennis, Christine, Brenda, Billy, Paddy, Mark, Peter, Anne) all as mad for the Tigers as she for the Dees.




Dennis’s father Brendan (Joe) had spent the war in the militia and then the RAN. He served on the HMAS Nizam and was in Tokyo Bay on the day of the Japanese surrender. During the war he married a girl from Nhill called Tressie Bruce a tiger as well. Pop was born in to a Collingwood family, they lived not far from Victoria Park in Abbotsford. Full of independence as a little boy Pop and a mate had wandered down Hoddle St to Punt Rd and slid under the fence to see the Tigers. Once he laid eyes on George Rudolph terrorising the opposition Pop was sold. Pop told me that Grandma barracked for the Tiges because before meeting him she was in love with the Nhill Tigers centre half forward. Dunno if that’s true but it adds to the story.




From a family of five Pop’s two brothers also served. Jack fought in Palestine before being captured in Java and submitted to the horrors of the Thai Burma railway. He was one of Weary’s men. Bill lies in the Karrakatta War Cemetery; dead at 21. His sisters Pat and Anne served in other ways.




And so the years roll on and the generations expand. I’m a Tiger like my Dad, my sisters Michelle and Lauren are Demons like our Mum. Our brother Paul, born into televised games and cheap air travel is for the Eagles! But that’s for a psychotherapist to work out.




Michelle lives in Washington and stays up late to watch the Dees on her iPad. Her two kids Aussie/Korean/Yanky Dees. She’s having another baby this week who, despite the best efforts of its uncle and Pop, will also be a Dee. A couple of weeks after the baby is born its father Lt. Col. Jerry Pionk (US Army) will leave for another year long tour Afghanistan.




And so here we are the descendants of Republican Irish and Ulster Scots, Richmond/Melbourne, Catholic/Protestant, Urban/Rural, Labor/Liberal all tied together within ourselves.  Bound by love for one another, the trauma of war and the love of a game called footy.

Twelve years ago today, Anzac Eve 2002, Gwen passed away.

Richmond V Melbourne ANZAC you bet.


Post script. One of George and Madge’s other great-grandsons is Richmond defender David Astbury. I don’t know David but I reckon he’d have his own story as to why this game makes sense.

First published on Chris Daley’s blog Read more of Chris’s stories there.

About Chris Daley

Tiger fan Chris Daley works in Community Nursing, which has taken him to Perth, Broome and now Dandenong. Being tall, he used to get a game in the ruck playing bush footy outside of Warrnambool.


  1. Skip of Skipton says

    Comedy Festival Eve would be a better date for a Richmond vs. Melbourne game.

    If it was on tonight, Outback Truckers would be shunted off 7 Mate because of it.

    David Astbury is from Tatyoon, just up the road from me. They’re always thereabouts in the Mininera League. He’s in my Supercoach squad and doing well for a cheapie. Hardwick rates him.

  2. Top yarn Chris. The common threads of family, footy, war and hardship run through so many families.
    Lest we Forget. (Maybe that could be the Tigers new slogan.)

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Great read Chris. You get my vote!

  4. Chris Daley says

    My sister’s new baby was born overnight, on Anzac Eve, baby girl Esme

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