‘Essendon Football Club Best and Fairest Players from VFL days….told through Footy cards’ – Book Review


What a great concept this is!


Neil Cole and Graeme Dickenson have produced a wonderful book of VFL footy history, Essendon Football Club Best and Fairest Players from VFL days…..told through Footy cards. This book will appeal to not only Essendon supporters but to  all footy supporters, especially if you have an interest in the history of the game, and in particular,  history as told through footy cards and memorabilia.


It’s a glossy, alluring and well produced publication with the cards very much the stars of the book  providing a wonderful insight to many of the legends of the Essendon Football Club.


As the title suggests, the history is told and represented through the magic of  footy cards, an integral part of football life during the era  the book covers. The quality and the clarity of the images reproduced in the book are to be commended considering the age and condition many of the original cards must have been in, and the wear and tear obviously impacted on them over time. The difficulty in overcoming any issues to reproduce these cards with a resolution of such an acceptable and  satisfactory standard   is a credit to both Neil and Graeme, and their publisher.


One can only imagine the mammoth task the authors  committed themselves  to in  assembling this array of VFL cards from 1901 until 1989 but undoubtably it was a labour of love for them both and proudly rewarded with the publication of this fabulous book.


Interestingly, Cole and Dickenson enlighten readers with the fact  cigarette footy cards were originally developed  to provide a cardboard support  inside the soft packaging of cigarette packets to prevent them from crumpling and crushing, something I was unaware of.


The success of the cigarette cards led the way in footy memorabilia,  encouraging other companies to develop and produce their own cards  promoting their specific products such as breakfast cereals, confectionary, and oil products.




So it was a great delight to me when I first flipped through the book it opened  to the middle pages  featuring John Birt, the 1961 B & F.  The  images of  the three stickers from Mobil, Shell and Ampol  displayed on the pages immediately brought a smile to my face as memories associated with them flooded back to me.



During the 60s like most footy mad kids where I lived, I rode my bike on the endless circuit  to the many garages around town, hassling and begging  for the footy transfers normally handed out to  customers when purchasing fuel.  I wanted the transfers to stick onto my bike’s mudguard. Garages weren’t always receptive to footy mad fanatics  approaching them.  Making sure my bike was always clean, especially the mudguards,  I hoped the garage owners would take notice and be impressed with my care of my bike therefore a deserving recipient for one of their stickers. A back mudguard adorned with footy stickers such as those illustrated gave one a great sense of pride. I can still visualise them lovingly and carefully transferred onto my clean, white mudguard!



It was fabulous to discover and relive these images in the book and bringing back so many memories for me. And I’m certain the appeal will be  just as forthcoming for other readers of the book.


The year 1950 attracted me for many reasons, it was one of the first pages I went to. It was the year I was born, the great John Coleman kicked 120 goals in his second season, and the Bombers won the premiership, a great year indeed! The pages featuring  John Coleman include many images I had not seen before, and this is one of the delightful aspects  of this marvellous book. There is a surprise awaiting on every page. Generally, in other publications, reports and stories it’s only the well known images that tend to be used.






And of course the greatest of all Bombers, King Richard, Dick Reynolds is featured extensively, though not by many footy cards. As the authors point out, in 1934 cigarette companies decided it was too expensive to continue producing cards leading to a reduction of cards available in the marketplace. However, Reynolds is still allocated 6 pages to accommodate his inspiring and incredible record.  322 games, 3 Brownlow Medals, 7 Best & Fairest awards, and 4 premierships. And the S in R S Reynolds? Sylvannus! How many fans knew that? I didn’t.



From the 50s onwards the Bombers represented are generally well known to me but with some of the pre 50s players I was surprised how little I knew about them, Wally Buttsworth is one. 3 time Best & Fairest player, 2 premierships and rated number 12 in the 25 Legends of Essendon. Now that’s quite an impressive achievement for someone I knew little about. This is one of the beauties of this book, the many surprises that awaits with each turn of the page.





Of all the players featured in the book my favourite is Graham Moss, the champion who went home far, far too early, and one wonders what he may have become had he stayed on. In 4  short years he played 89 games, won a Brownlow Medal, and was Best & Fairest in 3 of those 4 years, quite an amazing feat over a short time.





Essendon Football Club Best and Fairest Players from VFL days…..told through Footy cards by Neil Cole and Graeme Dickenson is a book any fan of Australian football, both young and old, will enjoy immensely, and a valuable addition  to any footy collection. The authors are to be congratulated for producing such a worthy historical account of great footballers told through the images of the eras.


To purchase the book, details follow.




Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Judi Booth says

    Great review Col.

  2. Roger Lowrey says

    Good article Col. This information will go straight to the pool room of all my Bomber friends!


  3. Tony Forbes says

    Well done Col, great review!

  4. Bruce Hay says

    Good read Col. Takes me back a bit.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I hope Wally May gets a mention somewhere Col

  6. 6 per cent says

    great idea

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Looks great Col. Does it come in black & white?

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