Old (Woollen) Footy Jumpers: The Many Jumpers of Keiran

My first woollen jumper was a Melbourne Demons one, in the early 60’s towards the end of their golden era. Trouble was I barracked for the South Melbourne Swans like my two older brothers and my father. The photo below shows me in our front yard in Ringwood East out front (“The titch”) with my older brothers in the Demons and Hawks jumpers. Mum and Dad are in the middle and we are flanked by two uncles, an aunt and cousins. The story goes that Mum refused to buy Swans jumpers for us because being mostly white they would be dirty and in the wash the whole time. She did not really get the concept of supporting a team. Even though we lived in Ringwood East we were Port Melbourne and South Melbourne followers because that’s where Dad grew up.


My first opportunity to play competitive footy, other than scratch matches in the school yard or kick to kick with my brothers and the kids around our street, was in 1967 at St Francis De Sales in Ringwood East. The outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne had a strong formal competition between the Catholic Primary schools of the area with games played on a Saturday morning.
As a kid I’d eat a footy, or a cricket ball in summer. I was keen. So it was with some enthusiasm that I tackled my first game having been selected as a Grade 4 boy in with the older lads. Our school only went up to Grade 5 so we were somewhat disadvantaged playing the other schools that had Grade 6 kids as part of the team.
We played our home games on an oddly sloping ground at Grey Reserve on Mount Dandenong Road, where the Maroondah Hospital now stands. If you could work the ball up the slope on the eastern side you could attack the goals kicking downhill.
Our coach was a wonderful man called Harry Day, who was the father of four girls who attended our school. It was generally understood that Harry had played for Collingwood. Though I have checked and the records reveal no Day having played with the Magpies. Perhaps he played in the seconds or thirds. Nevertheless, Harry was a lovely bloke and very fair. He insisted on all boys getting a game and even the best players were rotated out to achieve this aim. I recall Harry saying to me once that I could make a good footballer because I kicked proficiently on both feet.
We played in a plain red jumper with a blue collar. The jumpers were provided by the school, so before each game a box of jumpers appeared and we all dove in to grab one that fitted and had one of your favourite numbers.
For my first game I grabbed number 3. Being a South Melbourne fan that number was worn by the Swans Ken Phillips a speedy winger, which is what I aspired to be. Phillips had forced his way into the famous ‘P’ centre line displacing Pedrotti and joining with Papley and Pasquale. A check of the records reveals that Kevin Pedrotti and Clive Pasquale played 2 and 3 games respectively for South that season. It just seemed like they were famous to a keen 10 year old. At least they were multi-cultural. Of course Max Papley was a gun centre man, however he controversially left to captain coach Williamstown in the VFA the following year.
Kenny Phillips had a fair year playing 18 games and kicking 14 goals for South. For me I reckon I had a good year too. I got a bit of the ball and can recall kicking a number of goals off the wing or half forward. I clearly remember the first goal I ever kicked grabbing a loose ball just outside the goal square, blind turning the oncoming defender and drilling it on my non preferred right foot. I remember those two years playing footy at St Francis fondly.
For Grade 6 we went to Our Lady’s at Ringwood. They had the gun team of the district including two boys who went on to play with Essendon. Terry Cahill was the dominant player. He later had a brief career in the VFL cruelled by a serious ankle injury. The other standout was a high leaping rangy kid with flowing blond hair, Paul van der Haar. The coach here had a different philosophy to Harry at St Francis, only ever picking what he thought was the best team. After a few scratch matches, I was picked as 19th man in a more formal practice match against another school. Unfortunately it was at the start of the holiday break and our family were heading off to my Grandma’s place in the country. I missed the game and was never picked again.
Nevertheless I had fun playing scratch matches on the gravel school yard that year. I have a recollection of Vander taking a spectacular hanger, a knee in one kids head and the other foot balancing on the adjacent kids shoulder. Even at 12 years old it was clear he was a star and fortunately an era of VFL followers witnessed his aerial abilities for over 200 games from the late 70’s to the early 90’s.
For secondary school in the early 70’s I headed to Aquinas College in Ringwood. They had a unique jumper, a grass green body with a red V just like the Swans and a black collar. I recently found my old jumper in the wardrobe at Mum’s along with old photos and school reports. I won’t waste any time describing my career at Aquinas. Despite ending up as Captain of the Seconds in Form 6 (Year 12), it was pretty ordinary. I had not really grown up yet at around 5’6” and 8 stone in the old measures. More importantly I had no appetite to go and get my own ball and limited footy nous in knowing where to go to get an easy kick. That’s where my footy career ended. However a lack of any senior career has not stopped me from being a highly opinionated commentator on the big league.
My sporting involvement has been directed to cricket over the years. I still play Vets cricket and am a hack golfer. Of course I have remained an avid Swans supporter.
After the Swans 2006 Grand Final defeat, me and a mate went to Albert Park to greet our courageous defeated team on the Sunday morning. We noticed a bloke in the crowd wearing a newish old style South Melbourne woollen jumper. On inquiry we were advised that a store holder at South Melbourne Market would make you one on order. So off we went and duly made the purchase. So, after nearly 50 years I had my Swans woollen jumper. And yes Mum red wine stains can be difficult to remove from white wool.
Here I am in my Swans jumper at my 50th birthday with my cousin Rosie and Elvis.

almanac 2

About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.


  1. Jim Johnson says

    The first footy jumper that I owned was my first and last one. I still have it. The Croydon Football Club gave it to me because I played in their premiership team of 1960. The jumpers I wore and didn’t own were the Mount Evelyn first eighteen jumper at age 15 years in 1949, followed by the Ringwood 1st Eighteen and the Melbourne High 1st Eighteen School team in 1950, followed by The South Belgrave 1st Eighteen 1954/58 including the Mountain District Intercompertition Team jumper. My last team was Croydon. As a kid I was, and still am, a normal one eye’d Collingwood supporter. Ringwood’s Colours were Collingwood’s and I enjoyed playing in their jumpers for the four seasons 1950/53. My first pair of football boots were hand me downs given to me at age ten years. The first day of school after receiving these boots I insisted, against my mothers instruction, in wearing them to school. Sounds easy but it entailed walking four miles to and from school. I can still hear the clunking sound of the stops on the school wooden flour. I did not wear them to school again. My Father at the start of the 1949 football season purchased my first real football. I immediately turned the stab kick into my stab punt. Thorold Merrett was three weeks younger than I at this time and was practicing kicking a stab kick through a car tire hanging from a tree. Yes I was a little ahead of my time. Come to think of it I still am. Yes I invented a kick in Australian Rules Football at the age of fifteen years.
    See on Google: “Things Past Newsletter 44 October 2011 Mount Evelyn History
    James Johnson. Melbourne High School 1st Eighteen Football Colours and 1st Eleven Cricket Team 1950.Group Inc”, Page 3).
    Stab Punt Jim Johnson

  2. Jim Johnson says

    Correction in last five lines of above.
    See on Google: “Things Past Newsletter 44 October 2011 Mount Evelyn History Group Inc”, Page 3
    James Johnson. Melbourne High School 1st Eighteen Football Colours and 1st Eleven Cricket Team 1950.3).
    Stab Punt Jim Johnson
    Just in reference to your sporting days in the Ringwood District. I played open age cricket for Mooroolbark 1st Eleven from age 12 to 15 years. I played three seasons of open age 1st Eighteen for Ringwood Football club 1950-53 and played for the Ringwood Cricket team for 10 seasons winning the bowling average on three occasions and club champion on one. I played in four Ringwood Cricked Premiership Teams. End of short history.

  3. craig dodson says

    Top yarn Keiran, upon your recommendation a few years back I went to the guy at the South Melbourne Markets. He advised due to the closure of his preferred Wool Mil he could only get the jumpers made in orders of 50. I just now need to find 49 other South supporters!

  4. Jim Johnson says

    Seeing Van Der Haah who played for Ringwood and your interest in South Melbourne reminded me that when I was sixteen years of age, 5 ft 5 inches tall and nine stone I was first rover for the Ringwood 1st Eighteen Captained and Coached by the Brownlow Medalist (which he shared with the great Des Fothergill of Collingwood) Herbie Matthews of South Melbourne. I won a cup which I still have for being The Most Improved Player for the Ringwood ist 18 in 1950. Yes I was Herbie’s 1st rover and he played in the centre for Ringwood at this time. I was invited to Box Hill at the end of season 1950 but was not interested. I was a Collingwood one eyed kid and Ringwood’s cjumpers were black and white and why would I change that jumper. Stab Punt Jim.

  5. I had a cheap imitation long sleeve Tigers that I wore goalkeeping for years in Sydney. Then I gave it to our dear American poet friend Michele Serros when she came to visit in 2005, it not fitting me as well any more. She sadly died earlier this year but I haven’t the heart to ask for it back.

    my dream is to find a real nice Tassie jumper long sleeve XL or XXL. No idea where to start?

Leave a Comment