My First Game: August, 1963

August 1963 – I was a six-year old attending his first match with my grandpa, dad and sister.

Menzies was PM and John F Kennedy had but three months to live.

Australians were just starting to read about a country called Vietnam in the papers.

We were standing at the Geelong Road end among the 27,000 gathered to watch us take on the reigning premiers Essendon*

All I could see was a mass of gaberdine overcoats and the fog of tobacco smoke that arose at each lull in the action.

The result was one that became familiar over the years – a 56 point loss.

Grandpa, who lived behind his milkbar in Empress Avenue West Footscray, was the mildest and most cheerful of men all week but turned into a raving fanatic watching the Dogs.

He and his brother Ted did not drink, which was unusual for the sons of Irish immigrants in those days, so Saturday at the footy was when they could let loose.

I felt their disappointment at the loss but enjoyed the sharing of the experience with family.

I was not to know that within seven years both dad and grandpa would be dead, and supporting their team would assume even greater importance for me.

Dad felt that the suburban grounds of the ‘60s were too dangerous for kids to attend, so the only other matches I attended were at MCG where we saw Victoria play SA in 1965 and another crushing disappointment when Melbourne came back from a huge deficit to overrun us on Queen’s Birthday Monday in 1969.

Come on ‘Dogs- please win a flag before I die so I can raise a celebratory glass to Dad, Grandpa and all the little folk like them.

*Despite their win Essendon ultimately missed the finals


  1. John Sandy says

    Thanks for sharing your story Chris, I love hearing about the stories of families and suburban links to footy clubs

  2. Neil Anderson says

    While you were peering through the smoke and dwarfed by the gaberdine coats,
    I was over at another ground at the start of the ’63 season. I was at the Junction Oval in StKilda watching StKilda V Melbourne. I’d only strayed from my beloved Western Oval to watch that match as a favour for a new school-friend.
    I vaguely remember a young St Kilda giant running amok with a Beatlesk mop of blond hair, but I was more interested in the ‘let’s go round the grounds Tommy’ call from Harry Beitzel and keeping an eye on the Bulldog’s score than assessing the new recruit. It was only reading the paper on Monday that there were pictures of Carl Ditterich splashed over the the front and back. Note how back in the olden days I had to wait til Monday to read all about it. Note also all you youngsters, that crossing to the other matches mean’t crossing to the other five suburban grounds in Melbourne for scores. No Sunday matches to come and no interstate matches.
    Enjoyed your story from the Heartland Chris. Even your mention of Empress Ave and milkbars nearly brought a tear to my eye.
    And Yvette, if I’ve got some of the StKilda facts wrong, please correct me.

  3. ‘TWAS a great year, 1963.
    Cats won the flag, beating: Tra-la …. The Squawks.

    I was a student at the Aust. School of Pacific Admin. At Sydney’s Middle Head. We watched the grannie on a grainy old black and white TeeV at a mate’s Manly flat.

    But, Chris, 1954 was great for the Doggies. Cats ( or were they the Povotonians then??) finished couple of games clear on top of the ladder.
    A Final Four then. Doggies with Peter Box in the middle, Teddy a young gun and Jack Collins at FF beat us in the second semi.
    I was a just-teenager, watching sorrowfully from the old Southern Stand.

    Next week the Dees beat us in the prelim. So we went out in straight sets — although the term hadn’t been coined back then — and Doggies clinched their one and only flag.
    Joined the VFL from the then VFA in 1925. Long time between drinks, and even longer one right now.

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