General Footy Writing: More attention should be given to footy’s dams as well as sires

By Bob Utber

If footballers where racehorses we would always know their sire and dam, wouldn’t we?

Pakenham is probably the best-known racing town outside metropolitan Melbourne. It’s the home of that great racing family, the Bourkes, one of whom,  incidentally, is married to the caretaker North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker.

So why is it that the dams of so many league players seem to have come from that racing-crazy town but don’t get any recognition?

I know of two current AFL footballers who are third-generation AFL players on their mother’s side, but I doubt that too many others would, and of course the sports media have also failed to go in depth with their research.

If I said Jenny and Bernadette Russo, some of you might twig, but the ordinary football Joe Blow would not have a clue. Jenny Russo married Ray Ball (12 games Richmond, 43 South Melbourne) and their sons Luke (St Kilda) and Matt (former Hawk, 17 games) have both played AFL football. Bernadette married John Kennedy Jnr and their son Josh is now establishing himself at Hawthorn.

The three generations?  The girls’ brother Peter played at both Hawthorn and St Kilda (162 Hawthorn including 2 premierships, 33 St Kilda) and their father Felix played 14 games with St Kilda.

In my own little paddock the names Janette Utber, Wendy Gargan and Jenny Vanina would not mean anything to anybody; I bet pounds to peanuts that none of you would know them. Neither should you, given the media hype for the male of the AFL species. Just how important have these three been in the development of AFL footballers?

They all came through the Koo Wee Rup Secondary School, excelled at sport, and then produced sons who are all destined to play many games for their respective AFL teams.

I won’t reveal their names. Perhaps you can research that for yourself.

About Bob Utber

At 84 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he has always done since growing up on a small farm at Lang Lang. Talking, watching and writing sport and in recent years writing books. He lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny) and a groodle named 'Chloe on Flinders' and can be found at Deakin 27 every day.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Pertinent point Bob. They say Mrs Ablett had good speed/ sporting talent.

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