Hugh Mitchell – Essendon great: Train reflections

Hugh Mitchell - 1958 Atlantic Picture Pageant - Source: Australian Rules Football Cards - Reproduced with the permission of Esso AustraliaHugh Mitchell – 1958 Atlantic Picture Pageant


As a kid, Essendon great, Hugh Mitchell was one of my footy heroes. 


A ruck-rover of repute, he was a prolific ball getter who was always in the game, whether at the foot of a pack, taking a mark or kicking a goal, he was there. Mr Reliable.


Hugh was an integral part of Essendon sides for many years, and played in 224 games for the Bombers including the 1962 and 1965 premiership teams.


With pride, I wore his number on my footy guernsey, number 31, the number I had painfully, and with the care and the diligence any seamstress would be proud of, I’d stitched  onto my jumper all by myself. I didn’t trust anyone except myself to do it! It was too special. Though mum did give me a quick impromptu sewing lesson, which did hold me in good stead. I only just managed to fit the number on my small jumper to fit my small frame but everyone could see that it was number 31 I was wearing,  Hughie Mitchell’s number.


So, it was great thrill for me to notice that sitting behind my grandson on the train returning to Geelong after the footy, dressed in black and wearing an Essendon tie was my childhood footy hero, Hugh Mitchell.


He was deep in conversation with the person next to him discussing a reunion of the Bomber 1962 and 1965 premiership sides  he’d attended, and I think the Essendon Hall of Fame was also in the discussion but I wasn’t sure. 


The carriage contained mainly jubilant, chattering Essendon supporters so as one can expect, the noise level was high, and obviously Hugh was speaking in a raised voice to converse and to be heard.


One doesn’t deliberately eavesdrop in such situations but in crowded carriages it’s difficult not to overhear other people’s conversations.


He was so close, and yet, he was so far away. 


I contemplated saying hello and telling him my story but I didn’t think it was the proper place to do so, others may have. Maybe when he gets off the train in Geelong when it’s more private might be an ideal opportunity to chat with him I considered but it didn’t eventuate as he got off a couple of stops before mine.


Oh well, you win some, and you lose some, so I sat there, a benign smile on my face as I relived past memories of a great champion until it was my turn to alight from the train, and to tell my grandson the story about the great man who had been sitting behind him as we drove home to Colac.


Go Bombers!


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About Colin Ritchie

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


  1. Peter Fuller says

    I love your account of the non-encounter, and I admire your restraint.
    Several years ago, I was riding a city bound train from the eastern suburbs on a Saturday morning and was engrossed in my newspaper. I moved my long legs barely conscious of a bloke looking for the seat opposite. When I looked up it was Francis Bourke. I said to him that had I realised that I was in the presence of football royalty, I would have stood up to allow him to cross to his seat. He modestly dismissed that remark with a smile. I was heading to an umpiring commitment as a VAFA club umpire and Francis was headed to the MCG for a lunch prior to a Tigers game. We conversed for the ten minutes or so as the train progressed from Camberwell to Richmond. He was particularly amused by my recounting the observation of a Richmond-supporting friend who happens to be a psychologist. JM had proposed that barracking for Richmopnd was a significant risk factor for depression (this was of course prior to their glorious 2017).

  2. Paul hutcheson says

    Hi I have that exact football card or Hugh Mitchell just wondering what it is worth?

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