Footscray and Collingwood: now that takes me back

On Sunday the reigning premier Collingwood take on the artist formerly known as Footscray, the “twilight” game bringing down the curtain on the Sixth Round of AFL for Season 2011. For me clashes between these two teams have always been special.

My father, Thomas William Kevin Rees, split his childhood years between the one time working class but now gentrified suburbs of Abbotsford and Port Melbourne. He had a passion for the Black & White. Despite futile attempts to persuade me to follow in his footsteps, even offering me a reserved seat at Victoria Park as a sweetener, I decided to throw my lot in with the Red White and Blue. TWK’s Saturday morning work at Redbook Carpets often hampered his attempts to get to see the Magpies, let alone afford him the opportunity to take me to a Footscray game. All that changed on June 18 1971, two days prior to Tom’s 56th birthday. The Bulldogs were drawn to meet Collingwood at the Western Oval and I was about to “endure” my first FFC game.

Grandstand seats were purchased earlier in the week from the Footscray Council offices in Napier Street. Appropriately father and son found themselves sitting in the John Gent stand, named after the man who had served the local municipality for many years as the town clerk. Our 1970 crème coloured Kingswood, KLJ-955, was left outside the family home in Moore Street with taxis being the preferred mode of transport to and from the game.

Hopefully the ‘Scraggers would put up a better effort than that of eleven weeks earlier. In Round 1 Collingwood belted the ‘Scray by 83 points at Victoria Park, the final scores 25.10-160 to 11.11-77. Desmond Vincent Tuddenham’s best-on-ground nine-goal effort a standout performance for a team determined to start afresh following the debacle of the previous season’s finale. Ted Whitten commenced what would be his final season as coach of Footscray in the worst way possible.

The teams, selected on the Thursday night, would line up something like this:


B: Casey, Darcy, McGhie

HB: Simmons, Rippon, Sandilands

C: Shaw, Thorpe, Power

HF: Mannix, Quinlan, Dell

F: Round, Merrington, Austin

FOLL: Dempsey, Keast

ROV: Bissett

19th/20th: Godridge, Skreja


B: O’Callaghan, Clifton, Dunne

HB: Potter, Eakins, McKenzie

C: Greening, Price, Atkinson

HF: Tuddenham, Dean, Tredrea

F: Thompson, McKenna, Wearmouth

FOLL: Jenkin, Rose

ROV: W Richardson

19th/20th: Pettigrew, Delahunty

Saturday 18 June 1971

You always remember your first time. Truth is that there isn’t a lot I remember about the first time I saw my heroes in the flesh. Alf Brown’s preview of the game in the previous evening’s Melbourne Herald gave the men from the West little chance of reversing the Round 1 drubbing, the headline Dogs tails won’t wag leaving the reader with little doubt as to who the doyen of football writers believed would prevail the following afternoon. In front of a crowd of 19,343 in conditions I would become accustomed to over 27 years of watching footy at the Western Oval, wet, windy and miserable, the combatants took the field. Field umpire Bill Deller, officiating his 50th senior VFL game, held the ball aloft in the centre of the Western Oval to commence proceedings.

First Quarter

Despite getting plenty of the ball early the Dogs weren’t able to make the most of it, going deep into their forward line on three occasions for no score. Footscray’s first year player Colin Shaw, recruited from FDFL club Albion, notched the Dogs first six pointer of the afternoon. David Darcy was on top of Peter McKenna early, and Collingwood’s best chance of the first half hour’s play fell to back pocket Denis O’Callaghan. Alas for the Pies the shot that followed his dashing run would miss everything going out on the full. Hardly surprising considering the 22 year old defender had yet to register his first goal for Collingwood, this being his 60th senior game in the black and white. The game becomes an arm wrestle in the trying conditions, and at quarter time Shaw’s goal is the difference giving the locals a slender lead 1.1-7 to 0.2-2.

Australia in 1971

The national census, the first in which Indigenous Australians were included in the official number after the repealing of section 127 of the Australian Constitution in 1967, was conducted over two nights on April 25 and 26 with the nation’s population totaling 12,755,638.  Appropriately Neville Bonner became the first Indigenous Australian to sit as a member in the Australian Parliament later that year. Billy McMahon became the 20th Prime Minister of Australia replacing John Gorton on March 10. His wife Sonia’s appearance at the White House later that year was probably the most memorable moment of McMahon’s 22 month stint as leader of the nation.

Second Quarter

Barry Round and Bernie Quinlan added minor scores for the Dogs early in the second period. Georgie Bissett, one of six players to take advantage of the short lived 10 year rule in late 1972, goaled on the run to stretch the Dogs lead to two and a bit goals. The Dogs dominance across the ground continued, but they could add only three more points. Precipitation aplenty preceded Merrington’s first goal of the afternoon. Wayne Richardson, clearly the best for the visitors thus far, brought up his team’s first goal for the afternoon 23 minutes into the second quarter to give Rose’s men a lift, but Merrington would respond with his second goal for the quarter almost immediately after. Collingwood’s task would be made even tougher after Gary Tredrea, father of Warren, had to be replaced by 19th man Pettigrew after dislocating his shoulder. Robert Dean got the Maggies second goal for the afternoon just on half time. At the long break the Bulldogs held a comfortable 15 point lead 4.6-30 to 2.3-15.

The Wide World of Sport in ‘71

Anti-apartheid protests disrupted the controversial tour of Australia by South Africa’s Rugby Union team. On June 17 Gary Player was heckled over South Africa’s racial policies during the opening round of the US Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Yvonne Goologong defeated Margaret Court 6-4, 6-1 to win the women’s singles final at Wimbledon. Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 (aet) in the FA Cup Final and in doing so became the first team in a decade to achieve the League Championship/Cup double. The UK Sun described him as “Probably the most exciting bowler to be produced by any country in the last five years, who out of a whirl of arms and legs bowls leg-breaks, top spinners and googlies at a killer pace” – the young cricketer in question was 21 year old Kerry O’Keefe.

Third Quarter

Merrington’s third, and Footscray’s fifth for the afternoon, stretched the lead to just under four goals. Collingwood’s task was becoming nigh on impossible taking into consideration the deteriorating conditions, and the game was as good as over when a Quinlan bomb from long range put the  home team 27 points ahead. Graeme Jenkin got a much needed goal, the Maggies third for the day not long after, but with Gary Dempsey dominating across the back line (18 marks to ¾ time), the teams would turn for home with Footscray holding a commanding 17 point lead 6.8-44 to 3.9-27.

That’s Entertainment

In June 1971 a 25 inch Black and White TV could be purchased for $180. Friday night TV favorites included This Day Tonight at 7.30pm on ABC and “The Best of Homicide” on HSV7 at 8.00. Daddy Cool spent 10 weeks on top of the Australian singles charts with “Eagle Rock”. If you fancied taking in a movie Hoyts Drive-Ins were screening James Garner in A Man called Sledge – “Savage, ornery, beautiful – when he hits town, it stays hit”. Whilst on the subject of film, the re-birth of the Australian Film Industry could be viewed as Good, due to the success of the adaptation of  Kenneth Cook’s novel Wake in FrightSad as Aussie film icon Chips Rafferty, who played local cop Jock Crawford in the aforementioned flick, passed away at the age of 62 in April prior to its release in Australia cinemas a month later and Ugly when The Nickel Queen starring Googie Withers and an emerging talented thespian by the name of John Laws opened to a less than enthusiastic audience in April.

Final Quarter

Robert McGhie was replaced by Harry Skreja at ¾ time. It would be the eighteenth and final appearance in VFL football for Gippsland recruit Skreja who had debuted two seasons earlier. 19th man Bill Godridge replaced Graeme Austin in this term as coach Whitten emptied the bench. Wayne Richardson was in everything for Collingwood, even venturing down back to assist a Collingwood defence constantly under threat from a fanatical Footscray team. Richardson’s outstanding work was in vain as Gary Merrington scored his fourth goal for the afternoon, and when the brilliant David Thorpe followed that with the Dogs final goal for the day, the lead had ballooned to more than five goals. McKenna got his first for the game, and despite Tuddenham and Ronnie Wearmouth adding some respectability to the Collingwood total with goals late in the quarter, the result was never in doubt with Footscray eventually running out winners by 17 points.

Final score – Footscray 8.15-63 defeated Collingwood 6.10-46.

Best for the home team was Gary Dempsey, his 19 mark effort superb considering the conditions. David Darcy marshalled the Dogs defence and came within minutes of becoming the first player in almost four seasons to hold McKenna goalless in a game. Bernie Quinlan was terrific up forward. Wayne Richardson was tireless all afternoon for the disappointing Magpies. A knock over the left eye that would later require stiches wasn’t enough to stop him picking up almost 40 touches for the afternoon in a sensational effort. Twiggy Dunne tried hard and Barry Price took the honours over David Thorpe in the battle of champion centre men.

What happened next

Footscray finished 1971 in eighth position with an 11 win 11 loss record. It would be the final year of Ted Whitten’s 21 season player/coach career at the Western Oval. Collingwood finished the home & away season in fourth position with 14 wins and a draw from their 22 games. They were soundly beaten by Richmond in the First Semi Final. Neil Mann would replace Bob Rose as senior coach not long after the Pies  playing commitments ended, with Rose taking up an offer to coach Footscray. His four year coaching stint at the Western Oval would include the Bulldogs first finals appearance in over a decade in 1974 – ironically they were crushed by Collingwood in the Elimination Final. Bob Rose wasn’t alone in departing Victoria Park at the end of 1971, with Des Tuddenham accepting the role of Captain Coach at Essendon. Tuddenham’s first game in charge of the Dons was on Easter Monday 1972 at the Western Oval against his former mentor. The Bombers recorded an easy 61 point victory. Tuddenham took the ‘Dons to back to back finals appearances in 1972 and 1973. Both men would return to Victoria Park later in their career, Tuddenham in 1976 as a player, Rose as coach for the 1985 season. He would step down as senior coach of Collingwood three rounds into the 1986 season, making way for Leigh Matthews to take charge.


  1. John Butler says

    Mic, fantastic as usual.

    Love so many of the references here.

    The John Laws film just sounds like a stinker. :)

  2. Dave Nadel says

    Great article, Mic. I had forgotten the match which, on the whole, I am glad I missed. I had also forgotten The Nickel Queen, which I am even more glad that I missed. I haven’t forgotten Billy McMahon and his wife’s dress or the best badge that the Labor Party ever released (before the 1972 election) It read “Stop laughing at Billy”

  3. John #1 & Dave #2 – Many thanks.

    John – I believe “Nickel Queen” is avaialable on DVD. Under no circumstances should you contemplate purchasing it.

    Dave – It must have been difficult NOT to laugh at Billy. I’m sure you’d remember the “Chicko Roll in Puckle Street” meet-and-greet during his ill fated campaign.

  4. johnharms says

    Mic, we must be a simialr vintage. Those names are so familiar. I recall going to Vic Park a few times (with Shepparton friends) but not to the Western Oval. I especially remember some brilliant footy played by Coll and Fitzroy one day.

    Terrific piece and love the social-historical context you have established.

  5. John #4 – Some of those names will be familiar to you. This game was played a fortnight after the Dogs & Cats game you attended at Waverley (5/6/71) – Billy Goggin had a goal disallowed, you were far from happy.

    Shame you didn’t get out to the WO – was a HHG for Geelong 89-95, Cats only lost once, in 1994. This was the first time Malcolm Blight had lost to Footscray as either a player or coach.

  6. John Butler says

    Mic, watched the Blues struggle to figure out the wind in those Western Oval pockets many a time.

    It rarely seemed easy, and it was often wet.

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Enjoyed the piece Mic,

    I was there the day a bloke called Bruce Duperouzel played a blinder, Gubby Allen kicked across goal and Beasley nailed it on the siren, amidst scenes of wild euphoria in the outer. Tremendous atmosphere that day for Doggies fans.

  8. John # 6 – Two words – Mark Arceri (spellcheck please)

    Phil # 7 – The game you’re referring to was in 1984. Our first win against the Pies since late 1976, Collingwood had won 14 in a row.

  9. Tremendous article as per usual Mic,

    First off, as a lifelong North fan, dead on the money with the attempt at “Mark Arceri”.
    And as a consistent reader of your columns, very happy to see the requisite mention of David Thorpe!

    What’s worse, “Nickel Queen” or Lawsy’s albums of Trucking Songs? (which aren’t a patch on TISM’s by the way…)

  10. Leigh # 9 – Many thanks. Yeah, still love Thorpie after all those years.

    I think the album from the man with the golden microphone to which you refer may have been titled “You’ve never been trucked like this before” or something similar. I’ll keep an eye out for a copy.

  11. Mic, the crap you retain in that legend brain of yours is unsurpassed. I was 12 yrs old in ’71 but have many fond memories of my father, god bless him, taking me out to the WO as a young tacker. I don’t think I ever saw blue sky on my annual visits out there.

  12. Hilly #11 – Thank you for your kind words.

    The WO clash between Dogs & Pies in ’77 was a particularly horrid day (same day Blight missed everything with his kick after the siren v Hawks). Fabulous Phil was starring early then changed into clean gear at half time. Can’t remember him getting near it in the second half. Pies won easily (surprise, surprise)

  13. Good stuff Mic.
    My most vivid dogs v Pies moment is Stevie Kolyniuk turning Graham Wright inside out at the ‘G.
    Regarding weather conditions at the Western Oval, how fitting was it on that final game ever – v. West Coast

  14. Great Article Mic
    Being FFC member since 1968 I’ve seen even more losses to the dreaded black & white at Western Oval, Vic Park. Waverly, the ‘G. My Dad worked as a barman at the Rising Sun Hotel for over 35 years so many pots of CUB were consumed over the years. A loss was made to look better after a few sherbets and a win was made to seem like a final after many more sherbets. One thing that hasn’t changed in 43 years is that the umps don’t miss any of their frees in front of goal, Wake in Fright is easily one of the best Aussie films ever, John Laws is easily the worst actor Australia has ever produced (with apologies to Gavin Wood) and Footscray should go back to playing games at the Western Oval pronto (those were the days).

  15. Mic Rees says

    Crio #13 – August 23 1997 – One of my fondest memories of the last hurrah at the WO was the fact the beer sellers had run out of full strenth beer mid-way through the second quarter, but were offering a brew (forgot name) that had an alcohol content of 5.2% – great days, fortunately I don’t drink.

    Shano #14 – Worst Oz thespian – how much time do you have on your hands ? JM “Hollywood” Howson gets my vote for his cameo in Houseboat Horror – out acted/performed by G Wood, B Mannix & Animal from “Hey Hey”. That film smells.

  16. Andrew Fithall says

    Crio (#13) – the year of that incident was of course 1990. It clouded the umpires’ judgement and Graeme Wright didn’t get the BOG he deserved, which meant he also didn’t get the Brownlow he deserved (if you are reading this JB you may be see a common thread).

    If you want another example of JM Howson bad acting, you could put up the film “Felicity”. Not that I have seen it because that would be inappropriate. But, someone who may have seen it might have told me his excellent acting skills come through in his role is as a fitter in a lingerie shop. He hasn’t done any good work since Clown in Adventure Island, which essentially means he hasn’t done any good work.

  17. johnharms says

    JM Howson’s performance as Clown in ADventure Island surely helps build his average?

  18. Mic Rees says

    Andrew #16 – I looked up “Felicity” – oh dear. Preceded the glut of 10BA’s that flooded the market by almost a decade.

    John #17 – JM Howson – VERY average


  19. Great article Michael. John Keast, there’s a name from a long time ago. I imagine Tad Joniec, and Max Parker were in the maggoos. That day Steve Hoffman kicked two goals in the first term when South Melbourne plalyed Melbourne at VFL Park, their only two goals of the day. Geelong and North Melbourne didn’t do much better, both only managing three goals for the day. glen !

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