‘Barrie Beattie’s sporting journey………..’ by KB Hill

 

He was a typical boy from the bush, thrust into the hurly-burly of city life when he moved down to combine his education with pursuing employment opportunities.

 

Having settled into lodgings at Flemington, he entertained thoughts of finding a club nearby, which might cater for his twin sporting passions.

 

That was how, on a mid-February day in 1964, he found his way to the Western Oval, headquarters of the Footscray Football and Cricket Clubs………..

 

***

 

Barrie Beattie was toiling away on the family farm at Thoona when the Wangaratta Rovers were first alerted to his footy talents.

 

Aged 16, he was playing for his local team, Glenrowan-Thoona. A Taminick ‘cockie’, Duncan McLean, Hawk star Neale’s dad, saw him play in the club’s only win for the season, against Dookie College, and liked the look of the raw, well-developed kid with the handy ‘pair of mitts’.

 

The Rovers lured him the following season, and found work for him at the Wangaratta Abattoirs.

 

“It wasn’t the greatest job. I was a sort of jack-of-all-trades, but didn’t mind it at all, and I was loving playing footy under Bob Rose,” Barrie recalls.

 

In between four fleeting senior appearances, he was one of a crop of youngsters who took the Hawks to a Reserves flag in 1962.

 

Wang. Rovers Reserves, Premiers 1962 (Barrie Beattie is fourth from left, back row)

 

 

He and several of his team-mates had improved rapidly, and formed the core of a senior line-up which Rose’s successor, Ken Boyd, began to mould the following season.

 

Beattie ‘snagged’ 48 goals (including a season-high of nine against North Albury) to win the Club goal-kicking. He seemed to play ‘taller’ than his bulky 6’2”, 83kg frame, and opponents found him difficult to outmanoeuvre in the air.

 

He had also made a considerable impression in local cricket as an accurate fast-medium bowler and solid middle-order batsman.

 

His 9/17 in a North-East Colts match drew plaudits, as did some strong performances at Bendigo and Melbourne Country Weeks.

 

 

Wangaratta’s 1964 Bendigo Country Week Premiers. (Four members of the side moved on to play District cricket.)

 

 

‘Here’s a fellah who could be at the forefront of local footy and cricket for years to come’, the wise judges predicted…………..

 

***

 

But it wasn’t to be.

 

“Bill Woods, the Council Meat Inspector, pulled me aside at the Abattoirs one day, and said: ‘Look son, you don’t want to be hanging around here for the rest of your life’,“ Barrie recalls.

 

“I did a bit of research, and found out that, if I started a Meat Inspector’s Course in Melbourne, and passed everything, I could qualify in 12 months. So I landed a job as a clerk at William. Angliss Meats and organised to do the Course on Monday nights and Saturday mornings.”

 

He represented Wangaratta at Country Week in February ‘64, then moved down permanently to the ‘big smoke’ the week after.

 

“It was my good fortune to meet Bill Mobbs, the City of Footscray’s Meat Inspector……A terrific bloke….He became my mentor….He also happened to be the Chairman of Selectors at Footscray.”

 

“Bill said: ‘Why don’t you come down and have a run with us.’”

 

“He was also connected, unofficially, with the Cricket Club. He added: ‘…..And, if you’re gonna play footy here, you might as well play cricket with Footscray.”

 

Four senior games in three years hardly constitutes a momentous VFL career. but fate can sometimes intervene…….and it certainly did in Barrie’s case.

 

He was selected to play his first senior game against Hawthorn in Round 11, 1964.

 

“It’d been raining all week, and continued during the game. Glenferrie Oval was a mud-heap. I was 20th man, and finally got onto the ground with about two minutes to go…..It was the most inauspicious debut you could imagine.”

 

His next opportunity was meant to be in the 1965 season-opener against Geelong, at Kardinia Park. But a meat-worker who wasn’t concentrating, sliced a tendon in Barrie’s finger. His arm was in plaster for three weeks whilst the wound healed.

 

He finally got his chance when he was named at full forward against Richmond a few rounds later, on Queen’s Birthday Monday.

 

Barrie Beattie receives his Footscray guernsey from coach Ted Whitten, prior to his VFL debut

 

“I was up at 6am, worked ‘til mid-day, then knocked off and headed to the Western Oval. It was really the fruition of a dream, running onto the ground in front of a crowd of 28 or 29,000 including a few old Rovers team-mates, and my girl-friend (now wife), who’d come up by train from Geelong.”

 

“After the game I took Erica to watch a movie at the Brooklyn Drive-In, then dropped her back to Geelong. On the way home I’ve dozed off, ran off the road at Werribee and had an accident. That put me out of action for quite a while, although I recovered in time to play in the Reserves Finals.”

 

He managed two more senior games, in mid-1966 – the last of them a solid two-goal performance in the ‘Dogs’ 21-point win over Melbourne – but felt he struggled to regain full confidence after his accident.

 

“I think (Teddy) Whitten lost a bit of faith in me after that. It was decided that I probably didn’t cut the mustard as a League footballer,” Barrie says………….

 

***

 

He spent eight years with the Footscray Cricket Club, occasionally coming on first-change in a formidable attack, which included Test players Ron ‘Pappy’ Gaunt and Alan Hurst, veteran left-armer Arthur Day and the slippery Tony Lee.

 

“They were a great club….really friendly. When you consider we also numbered the Joslin boys (Les and Graeme), left-hander Ken Eastwood, old all-rounder Arthur Dean and a handy tweaker, Tommy Seal, among our ranks, it was a handy side.”

 

“I loved my cricket, and one of the highlights of my time there was captaining the Second XI to a flag around ‘70-‘71.”

 

***

 

After being delisted by the ‘Dogs, Barrie continued his footy career with VFA club Yarraville, and spent a couple of seasons at Tongala, as an ex-Radius player.

 

Opting to play closer to home, he followed a few mates to Parkside, in the Footscray District League, in 1970.

 

And when the incumbent coach relinquished the job at the last minute, he was asked to step into the breach.

 

In his first season as coach he took out the FDFL Medal and Club B & F. The Parkside Magpies were within a whisker of snatching an unlikely flag the following year, when club legend Lindsay Murphy lined up for a shot at goal 50-55 metres out, after the siren.

 

“It was against Spotswood, our arch rivals. Lindsay didn’t quite make the distance……We went down by three points.”

 

“I coached for five years and played on for one more. They were a great Club. I returned there many years later, and took on the Presidency.”

 

After moving on to play with Aberfeldie for two and a bit years, he hung up his boots mid-way through 1975, aged 31………

 

***

 

Barrie spent more than five years working for the Commonwealth Government, taking on the responsibility for Meat Inspections at prominent exporters such as Angliss, Borthwicks and Gilbertson’s.

 

“My old mentor Bill Mobbs suggested to me one day: ‘Barrie, you don’t want to be a Meat Inspector for the rest of your working life. Have you thought about doing something else ?’ “

 

“I’m not sure, Mr. Mobbs,” I replied.

 

“He said: ‘If you like, I’ll arrange a meeting for you with the Town Clerk of Footscray, Bill Swaby’.”

 

“I didn’t even have my Leaving Certificate, so I had to study some subjects to obtain my Matriculation. That would enable me to enrol to do a Diploma of Education (Local Government) Certificate at RMIT.”

 

Barrie started at the Essendon Council as a clerk, and qualified as a Town Clerk in 1972. He won a Scholarship to study Local Government, which took him to the USA, Canada and the UK. Ultimately, in 1979, he was appointed Essendon Council’s Manager/Town Clerk.

 

He spent 17 years at the Council before taking a job with the State Government, then moving on to become Executive Director of the City Manager’s Association, a professional development group…………..

 

***

 

After leaving the Essendon City Council Barrie resumed his active involvement with the Bulldogs.

 

“I’d followed them from afar, but didn’t want to be accused of a conflict of interest whilst I was working at Essendon.”

 

He was asked to join the Board in 1986, and served through possibly the most turbulent period in the history of the Footscray Football Club…….. To put it bluntly, he says, it was a matter of just trying to exist.

 

He was the Club’s VFL Director for three years, and accepted the ‘poison chalice’ of the Presidency in early 1988. To illustrate how highly-charged were the emotions of the supporters at the time, he recalls a meeting that was held at the Footscray Town Hall:

 

“Our Ground needed major improvements, but we had no money……..And we were advised by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade that the John Gent Grandstand was a Fire-trap……It wasn’t feasible to keep playing matches at the Western Oval……. I was doing my best to try to explain the reasoning behind transferring our home games to Princes Park……..”

 

“The supporters were cranky……. I reckon I’d have been lynched, only that Simon Beasley (who was still playing) stood up and defended the Board’s decision….Gee it was tough…….We just couldn’t get the message across ……….”

 

“Nick Columb took over from me in early-1989, and was in charge when all the amalgamation stuff with Fitzroy was happening. I remained as the Club’s VFL Director until 1990.”

 

The winds of change, of course, swept through in late-1989, when the ‘Save The Dogs’ campaign re-activated the Club and ensured its long-term survival as a separate entity.

 

Barrie Beattie regards his role during this tumultuous time as an ‘unforgettable experience’. He remains a keen Bulldog member and still gets to as many games as he can.

 

What an eventful journey it’s been for the boy from Thoona……………

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. As always, an illuminating piece about a good sportsman with a great perspective on life.
    I remember seeing Barrie Beattie play for Tonny as an ex-radius player in the GVL. Good player

  2. Terrific profile of a bloke who has had a diverse and interesting sporting and professional life. Thanks KB.

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