Almanac Flashback – 70s Footy: Prospect Hill to Windy Hill


During the footy season, I’d meet up with my mates  pre-game at the Prospect Hill Hotel in Kew before heading off to watch our favourite team, the mighty Bombers play.


Arriving at the pub around eleven, we’d fight our way through the crowded bar to buy a beer before settling down into our favourite spot by the pool table. Almost at once, a lively and intense discussion of the day’s match would be initiated. With everyone trying to get their two bob’s worth in it wasn’t long before it felt like we’d descended into a mad house.


Team selection tended to create the most angst amongst us. Had the right selections been made? Why was such and such dropped? Quite possibly, we’d be there all day arguing the point if we didn’t have a game to go to! How we could  win the game was another contentious point for debate. We were just as passionate about our debating as we were  about our team.


As diehard supporters we were forever optimists. In those lowly days we believed our team would win; we were the mighty Bombers after all! Our position on the ladder was of no importance; we believed we had the team to win. A quick look at the clock, a last beer, anticipation rising and off to the game we’d go.


Throughout the seventies, our hardcore group of five followed Essendon with a passion. We’d aim to arrive around half-time during the reserves match. Parking wasn’t a problem at that time of the match. A leisurely stroll to the ground we’d psyche ourselves up with playful banter about the game.


Membership cards clipped, a crush through the turnstiles, and finally into the ground. That first wave of emotion and excitement of finally being at the game would wash over us. It never failed. It was always there. A great feeling. At the bar we’d buy the first of many cans for the day, perhaps grab a bite to eat from the hot dog or pie stand. Then it was up the slope to claim our usual position between the half forward flank and forward pocket on the Raleigh St side of the ground. We always stood there. It was our ‘possie’.


We enjoyed watching the seconds. Our eyes sought out the up and coming players, the players who’d been dropped or those returning from injury, discussing if they were up to playing in the ‘firsts’ or not. Bobby Greenwood was a favourite of mine and I could never understand why he didn’t play more senior games than he did for the Bombers. He had too much talent to be playing in the seconds was my opinion. My mates did not always agree with me as they had their own personal favourites to support and promote. Many opinions were hotly debated week after week. We saw ourselves as the Lou, Jack and Bob of ‘Footy Teams’ discussing the various merits of our players and team.


Three quarter time usually meant a quick visit to those stinky old dykes behind the goals at the school end. Always took a deep breath before entering!  The old toilets were typical of the conveniences at suburban grounds in that era, horrible! Another can, maybe a pie or bag of chips then back to the game.


The outer was standing room only for punters like us, and could be quite crowded and tightly packed in depending upon who we were playing. Empty cans were vital ingredients for the vertically challenged like myself. They quickly added valuable inches to your height. If a large crowd was in and taller supporters hindered my view those cans were the difference between an uninterrupted view or not. Fortunately, my mates looked after me and before long I had gained those extra inches in height I required to watch the play without too many obstructions. That is unless you fell off the cans as often happened later in the match!


Familiar faces were acknowledged with a nod, a “good-day” or “how do you think we will go this week?” while opposition supporters were sized up and down and commented upon. “Looks like a loud-mouth, might have to watch him if things get nasty” but most times they didn’t. Tension would build as the reserves game finished and our attention would focus towards the main game. Then the real theatre of the game would emerge.


Cheer squads chanted, run-throughs were raised and lowered and raised again. Some smart quips about the banners were made, floggers would flog, the cheering increased in fervour, until the moment we had all waited for: through the banner and onto the ground the mighty Dons would run. We cheered and cheered, and yelled and yelled.


All week we’d waited for this moment. This outlet for pent up feelings and emotions held over since the last match gushed out to join the ever-increasing crescendo of noise arising around the ground. Would Nifty Nev have a good one? What about Johnny Cassin? Would he be up to it? Can Kenny Roberts kick a bag of goals? Thoughts raced through our minds as we psyched ourselves up for the bounce of the ball. “What’s his number what’s his name number seven Charlie Payne”. Chants and more chants. The thrill of the game was about to start. The excitement, the buzz, the roar of the crowd, and seeing our heroes in action was what it was all about.


And then, through the crowd, as he did week after week with his huge hessian bag slung over his shoulder, the peanut seller’s cry of, “peanuts, peanuts, shilling a bag” resounded breaking the footy spell momentarily. Hands quickly plunged into pockets searching for that ‘shilling’ to buy a bag of peanuts. He never missed a match in all the time I went to Windy Hill and I often wonder what became of him. You don’t see characters like that anymore at football matches. Peanuts were shelled, a sip of beer then our thoughts quickly returned to the game. (Here’s a link to a story about the ‘peanut man’)


More often than not we lost more games than we won in those days. No matter how hard we barracked and cajoled our team to rise up and lift themselves onwards to victory unfortunately had minimal effect.


Left exhausted and devastated by the end of the match we’d ponder our diminishing hopes of making the final four as we trudged dejectedly back to the car, and eventually back to the Prospect Hill Hotel. There the game would be reviewed, discussed, dissected and analysed around the table with a few beers before finally heading home to wives, girlfriends and family and the night ahead.


I moved to the country in 1981 to follow my career. Gradually over time regular contact with my footy mates diminished though we did meet up on special occasions. Two of them, sadly have since passed away, both in their fifties and far too young to die. Now that I have retired I have returned to following football but it’s not quite like the old days. Sure it’s far more comfortable. The grounds, the amenities and facilities are first class but somehow it lacks that atmosphere of a bygone past.


To stand shoulder to shoulder with your mates in wind, rain, and hail; sometimes even  brilliant sunshine, swaying with the crowd, following the flight of the ball as we once did is not quite the same experience as sitting in the comfort of our modern stadiums of today. Sometimes, I think,  it would be nice to go back in time and relive those magic days once again.


More from Col HERE


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About Colin Ritchie

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


  1. Love this piece Colin. Everything about your words seems familiar when evoking the atmosphere of the era and of the place. From the very late 70’s I lived on a neighbouring street in which the cars (probably one of yours) parked for the day, blocking driveways and choking up the streets. It never was a problem, it was just the way it was.

    The constant stream of fans walking past our place, the sound of the crowds barracking and the shrill of the sirens filling the neighbourhood air are some of the things that that gave our Melbourne suburbs much in the way of character and personality. And, they gave Saturdays such a distinctive flavour. Saturdays felt, and was different to a Sunday…whereas, now you can’t really tell them apart. A Saturday is like a Sunday and a Sunday is like a Saturday.



  2. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks Kate. I can’t remember the street we’d park in but I think it had a median strip down the middle and with my mini we could always squeeze a park. Yes, those suburban grounds on a Saturday afternoon conveyed so much atmosphere and feeling.It was fabulous being apart of it; everyone a true fan and supporter of their club. Today I wonder who goes to the footy, some I think go because it’s a ‘done thing’ and are not like the supporters of old. Who’d stand in the pouring rain, beer carton over their head oblivious to the fact as you cheered your team on? You could jump up and down, do a little jig for a goal, and you generally were closer to the play; not today. Fond memories but time moves on. Cheers, Col.

  3. roger lowrey says

    Well captured Col.

    Whilst I also took in as many games at Kardinia Park as I could, it was Princes Park where I probably saw more footy. Living in nearby Carlton as a perennially impecunious student in the early to mid 1970’s, I would jump on the number 19 or 20 tram up Royal Parade on a Saturday arvo and wait until they opened the gates at three quarter time for free admittance.

    Sometimes I would pay to see a whole game if there was a half decent one fixtured. Many folk think I am pulling their legs when I recount seeing such celebrities as Bob Santamaria and Graeme Blundell along with an interesting collection of other Carlton based poets, actors, writers, academics, politicians and assorted miscellaneous bohemians all standing in the outer barracking for the Blues, drinking cans and eating pies. I used to find it strangely reassuring – of what I am still not quite sure!

    I remember visiting Windy Hill to see the Cats play just once. Without intending any direct or implied offence Col, I left the ground in no hurry at all to return for a repeat experience.

  4. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks Roger. Yes certain grounds always left a certain feeling or specific taste in the mouth. I hated going to Collingwood, saw the Bombers get flogged by more than 20 goals, hustle crowd. I saw Jezza kick a dozen I think at Princes Park, not a nice feeling. And Moorabbin could a horrible, hostile ground you couldn’t wait to leave such as the day Carman head butted the boundary umpire. Each ground I suppose you could say had a particular character of its own.

  5. roger lowrey says

    Particular character (sic)?

    Your understatement is masterful comrade!

  6. Stainless says

    Col – I didn’t get to Windy Hill that often but I’ll cover my reminiscences of the ground in my 1981 series. I think you’ve captured the vibe superbly!

  7. Daryl Schramm says

    As an outsider only experienced the suburban VFL scene a handful of times. Metro Adelaide from 1969 onwards was my scene, and too young to drink at that point. Can remember huge crowds at Unley, Norwood, Glenelg, Alberton and Prospect in the 70s. As an aside Colin, when you mention Charlie Payne and ‘a shilling a bag’ I immediately think of the 60s.

  8. Good stuff Col.

    When you ask about who goes to the footy now; i don’t. Stadiums, razza-matazz, the whole standardisation of this part of the entertainment industry lost me back in the late 90’s It’s a package built for TV, which is how i now view it.

    John Cassin, dressing gown over his head throwing cut lunches in the big Essendon v Richmond donnybrook of 1974. You won’t see that again.

    Geoff Blethyn kicking 11 out of 14 in a losing team. You won’t see that again.

    A character like ‘Johnno’, the peanut man. You won’t see that again.


  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Col. My first ever game was in 1988, my Dad took me to see the Pies at Kardinia Park. Your story of standing on beer cans relates, stood on my old man’s beer cans in the outer to be able to see. Good strong tin cans back then!

  10. They were ‘tinnies’ in the old days luke.

    A short arse like me found them good to stand on.

    That match @ Kardinia park pretty much brought Geelongs’ season undone. This was part of a 6 match losing streak, ending John Devine’s three years at the helm.



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