Mick Malthouse: 715 and counting

by Mic Rees


I couldn’t let Friday night’s momentous occasion pass without looking back at Michael Malthouse’s first crack at the coaching caper. Here’s a six pack of Malthouse moments from his Dog Day Afternoons of the mid to late 80’s. All games involve his past, and what would be future, employers.

So it begins (Game 1)

Rd 1 1984 – Footscray 18.14-122 defeated Richmond 11.17-83 (Attendance 25,270)

The Malthouse era kicks off in the best possible manner. Footscray lead from go to whoa and start the season with a win for the first time in a decade. Simon Beasley (11 goals) dominates and Allan “Butch” Edwards took his first bow in Red, White and Blue nine years after bursting onto footballs biggest stage. The “debutant dash” featuring John Riley and Michael Pickering is underwhelming, “Pickers” showing the recently arrived star SA recruit/nuclear physicist/rocket scientist/clever bloke a clean pair of heels during a contest on the members wing. It’s a rare victory for the Yellow & Black horde on an otherwise disappointing day.

1984 – Played 22, Won 11, Lost 11 – 93.8%. (7th place)  Malthouse led his men into Victoria Park on the last day of the home and away season knowing a win would secure a top five finish. Little separated the sides over the first three quarters, but a superior Collingwood outfit pulled clear over the final thirty minutes of the match to consign Mickey’s men to mothballs. The vital signs were encouraging. The Dogs were coming!

How sweet it is (Game 43)

Rd 21 1985 – Collingwood 9.10-64 lost to Footscray 15.19-109 (Attendance 21,724)

A five- goals-to-one final quarter blitz saw the Bullies wrap up a precious double chance for the upcoming post season – the clubs first finals foray since 1976 – and snap a 13 year drought at Victoria Park in the process. Tony Buhagiar (24 touches and 2 goals) was wonderful for the winners. Never a happy hunting ground for the Tri-Colours (10 wins from 54 starts lifetime) their previous win in front of the maniacal Magpie mob was engineered by the greatest Woodsman of all time, Bob Rose. Rose was Malthouse’s direct opponent that August ’85 afternoon following his return to the Collingwood coaches box after John Cahill’s departure the previous October. The win completed a rare Abbotsford double, the Bullies outlasted Abbotsford co-tenant Fitzroy for a five point win a fortnight earlier.

1985 – Played 22, Won 16, Lost 6 – 120.9% (3rd place at the completion of the finals). When Hawthorn belted them senseless on the opening weekend of the finals it appeared certain the Scraggers September soiree would cease in straight sets. Sayonara Scray.  Deep breaths were taken and a solid win over North Melbourne seven days later set-up a re-match with the Hawks. Leigh Matthews, unsighted all day, proved unstoppable during the last quarter of the Preliminary Final, and single handedly denied the Dogs a date with destiny. Sadly, Cinderella had fallen two goals short of an invitation to the end-of-year ball.



Mud, mud, glorious mud (Game 56)

Rd 9 1986 – Footscray 7.8-50 defeated Carlton 4.12-36 (Attendance 21,478)

The legendary Brent Crosswell once quipped “Give me 100,000 people at the MCG and I was Hercules, give me a grey day at the Western Oval and I wasn’t worth a cracker.”  The great Carlton teams of the 70’s and 80’s endured many a putrid afternoon at the Kennel and this was another odious effort. Trailing for all but the final ten minutes of the contest, the locals eventually caught then passed the highly rated Blues outfit to salute in a sea of slop. Surprisingly Simon Beasley’s three goals proved decisive – who said he couldn’t play in the wet?  The return clash at League headquarters will forever be remembered for the “Jumpergate” incident that resulted in Brownlow Brad bidding bye bye to Barkly Street. I doubt Hardie will receive an invitation to this Friday nights festivities.

1986 – Played 22, Won 11, Lost 11 – 97.7%. (8th place)  Injuries to Bamblett, Sewell, Hawkins and Brian Cordy, the departure of captain Edmond & Buhagiar’s retirement put the kybosh on any fanciful thoughts the Dogs harboured of going one better than the previous campaign. Tony McGuiness was a welcome addition.

The return of the Hawk (Game 80)

Rd 11 1987 – Footscray 18.13-121 defeated West Coast 15.9-99 (Attendance 15,089)

The Eagles first trip to the Western Oval was an entertaining affair. Five goals adrift at quarter time the league newbies mounted a brave fight back to go to the final break level with their hosts. Footscray steadied and eventually took the points as a heavy afternoon fog descended on Melbourne’s west. In his first game in almost a year following a knee reconstruction Doug Hawkins (15 possessions) was inspirational in getting the locals over the line. Brian Royal was adjudged best afield and Steve Macpherson (six goals) was sensational.

1987 – Played 22, Won 11, Lost 10, 1 Drew 1 – 95.7%. (7th place)  Three weeks into the season the Dogs were winless, the loses coming at an average in excess of 14 goals, their percentage a woeful 41.6%. Unsurprisingly the club was anchored to the bottom of the competition ladder. Trying times indeed. Somehow Mick and his crew managed to quell the haemorrhaging. It all came down to the Round 22 home clash with Melbourne. No need to remind the Doggie diehards how it ended. Malthouse rates his efforts across the ’87 season amongst his finest achievements.

I feel the earth move (Game 102)

Rd 11 1988 – St Kilda 7.9-51 lost to Footscray 11.12-78 (Attendance 24,149)*

When reigning Brownlow Medallist Tony Lockett crashed to the ground early in this otherwise forgettable, totally predictable cold day in the (VFL) park the reverberations could be felt throughout Melbourne’s sprawling eastern suburbs. Further aftershocks were felt two days later when Network Ten sports reporter Eddie McGuire tried to get a few words from the introverted “Plugger” as the St Kilda star endeavoured to enter hospital. Lockett came to grief and the future host of Who (else) wants to be a Millionaire came within inches of being impaled by a maverick mobility aid. Broadmeadows favourite son can thank his lucky stars that Lockett didn’t possess the same uncanny accuracy with the aforementioned crutch as he did with a Sherrin.

*Please note – I chose this game/ incident to link Malthouse and Lockett to highlight a number of similarities they share. Both were recruited to St Kilda via North Ballarat, both wore the number 37 on debut for the Saints, their respective relationships with the media have been at times prickly, and by the end of the weekend both will hold records that will in all likelihood never be matched.

1988 – Played 22, Won 11, Lost 11 – 104.3%. (8th place) The Bulldogs required a hefty 10 goal victory over West Coast on the last afternoon of the home and away fixture to advance to the business end of the competition. John Todd’s men were on a mission and posted a solid four goal win in hostile territory to qualify for the clubs first crack at the serious stuff.

Right back to where we started from (Game 133) 

Rd 20 1989 – Footscray 15.17-107 defeated Richmond 3.11-29 (Attendance 8,673)

Malthouse’s last game in charge of Footscray at the Western Oval had a number of parallels to his first on March 31 1984. Richmond provided the opposition, a comfortable victory followed, and Doug Hawkins starred. That’s where the similarities ended. By the end of the eighties the Dogs were struggling on and off the park. I attended this exercise in futility and I seriously doubt that the actual number of attendees was anywhere near the official number listed above. Hawkins, Brian Royal and Steve Wallis were the survivors from “Malthouse Game 1”, Michael Pickering the only Tiger.

1989 – Played 22, Won 6, Lost 15, drew 1 – 87.0%. (13th place) The Scray were top of the table after the first round of fixtures as a result of a ten goal hammering it inflicted on Carlton. Twas a false dawn and within weeks of completing its playing commitments the Footscray Football Club, as we knew it, came close to extinction.

Hearty congratulations Mick. I doubt the record you set this weekend will ever be broken. The Footscray teams of your era weren’t aesthetically appealing, and a success rate slightly in excess of 50% (67 wins & 2 draws from 135 contests) is, at best, solid. We did get a good run for our money, and I for one couldn’t ask for more.


  1. Outstanding, as always, Mic. Thanks.
    Who did Mick beat initially for the top job in Barkly St?
    Why was the coach’s tower built on the Hawkins wing?..was that Mick?

  2. Love the reminders of players and places long forgotten in your detailed pieces Mic. Was it really 30 years ago? Can I be that old?
    “Gone to the dogs” seems an appropriate epitaph for both Mick and Plugger.

  3. Marty Gleason says

    Very interesting, the suburban hoodoos and quirks were another world.

    What do you think 1985 was about? How did they get so good and how were they not able to see it through after that?

  4. cowshedend says

    Wonderful piece again Mic.
    That crowd against Richmond was about 5k i reckon, we walked up and back along the Hawkins wing depending on which way the Dogs were kicking, we were actually counting Richmond supporters and reckon there was only about 200 in the ground.
    Thanks to WA for 85, Purser, Sewell,Beasley,Ian Williams,Buhagia.

  5. DBalassone says

    Great stuff Mic! You took me right back to that vintage mid-to-late-80s period. I was actually at quite a few of those games you mention. My best mate was a fanatical Doggies man – and I used to tag along to a few of the games with him and his old man – if I couldn’t get to see the Pies. Funnily enough his name was Scott Rees, and his old man was Rob Rees – any relation?

  6. Mic Rees says

    Thank you very much for your feedback gentlemen, as always it’s greatly appreciated.

    Crio: Mick arrived at the Western Oval in early ’84 replacing Ian Hampshire after
    “Bluey” pulled the pin in January. Malthouse was, to the best of my knowledge, the first coach to utilise the box on the Gordon Street Wing. Sat in it once for a District cricket match – great view.

    Peter: 31years ago actually. Sadly, we’re ALL getting older, some of us (me) quicker than others.

    Marty: Here’s a link to what (in my opinion) were the reasons why the Dogs couldn’t replicate the form of ’85 over the next few seasons. Hope you like it.

    CSE: You’re a generous soul, I reckon the crowd was well below 5,000. Not a lot of Tigers fans made the journey that day and very few of ours bothered to turn up. Having endured that game I can’t say I blame either group of supporters.

    DBalassone: I look back fondly at the 80’s despite the lack of success enjoyed by the FFC. No relation to Scott or Rob, I would’ve been more likely to have been related to them if they’d followed the Pies, most of the (Rees) relatives were from the Collingwood/Abbotsford area.


  7. Michael you continue your high standard of work. a few Q’s though. In the first game of 1984 was S Pirrie on S Beasley ? Did J Riley play again. I saw Geelong knock youse off in R2 at VFL park but can’t recall Riley being in your line up.
    The last match of 1984 at Vic Park didn’t a few of your key players go off injured ,and it was a close contest entering the final term?
    1987 was a horror start for you chaps. Did the Blue-baggers have a big win over youse in R3, before you started your wining run beating Hawthorn?
    Keep up the good work !


  8. Mic Rees says

    Hello Glen, thanks for your kind words.

    Rd1 1984 – I’m pretty sure Steve Pirrie was the unfortunate soul to get the job on Simon Beasley. Riley never made it to the Rd 2 game against the Cats, returning to SA immediately after his clearance was disputed by North. I believe legal action was threatened.
    Rd 22 1984 – Footscray trailed by just a couple of kicks entering the final term, but they ran out of players in the end. Ricky Kennedy was forced to stay on the ground during the last quarter despite having a broken bone in his arm.
    Rd 3 1987 Carlton crushed the Dogs by just under 15 goals for the Blues first win at the Western Oval in 5 seasons. Footscray lost Rd 1 to Essendon by 10 goals and then copped a 20 goal + smashing by the Swans in Sydney the following week

    Thanks again Glen, happy punting.


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