Round 1 1962 – Footscray v Hawthorn: An angry lady, Teddy Whitten and my first game!

 

 

In this time of coronavirus, and self-isolation, one has plenty of time to contemplate and reflect upon many things. Many memories, thoughts and images forever meandering around one’s mind, waiting for that moment of retrieval, to spring back into life is one of the side-effects in this new, and ever-changing world.

 

So there I was, stretched out on my favourite comfy chair, lounging in that dreamy space between drowsiness and napping as many images flickered and flashed before me. 

 

An image jumped out, startling the living daylights out of me, snapping me out of my peaceful slumber and back into the land of the living. 

 

Playing on my mind movie screen, a little old lady was swinging her umbrella at my dad, trying to hit him, and abusing him! 

 

What the hell was going on there?  This was completely incomprehensible!

 

Why was someone trying to hit my dad with a brolly, and a little old lady to boot! 

 

I racked my brain.  Why?

 

Slowly events began to crystallise as my foggy brain cleared.

 

Earlier that morning I’d read a review of a book written by John Devaney posted on The Footy Almanac site. Immediately, an interest was sparked and I was curious to ascertain further information about the man who wrote the book. 

 

What I uncovered was something quite remarkable; John Devaney was a font of knowledge, a footy historian,  a chronicler of every fact and figures about footy you could ever want to know, and all this information is located in the one place, a wonderful website:  https://australianfootball.com.  The owners of this website had bought and taken over John Devaney’s original website and incorporated it into their own, making it an outstanding resource for footy researchers.

 

It was all coming back to me. Realising  this amazing information was at my fingertips had me delving into my mind about the significant games I had attended in over nearly 60 years of watching VFL/AFL footy.  I could refresh my memory about specific games as I desired. I realised,  every detail was at hand on this particular website.

 

Which significant game did  I want to recall? That was a no-brainer, of course, the most significant game is always your the first one you attended I believe, and mine was Round 1 Footscray v Hawthorn played at the Western Oval on April 21, 1962.

 

So to https://australianfootball.com I turned for the details of my first VFL match, and the following link provides the  match details: https://australianfootball.com/game/view/6395. 

 

The Website tells me, on that day, Footscray had a convincing 33 point win over the 1961 premiers Hawthorn in their Round 1 1962 Grand Final replay.

 

Looking at the webpage with all its stats and player details of the game, many memories buried deep in the mists of time flooded back to me.

 

Dad must have decided on the spur of the moment to attend that game. He was a huge Bulldogs fan, not a fanatic, and having been born and bred in the area, naturally, he loved his footy, especially those Doggies. 

 

He constantly regaled me with tales of being squashed up against a cyclone dividing fence at the MCG watching Footscray win their first-ever premiership in 1954, a time of absolute euphoria for dad.  Unfortunately, he passed away months before the Doggies could add a second premiership cup to their trophy cabinet in 2016. Dad was buried in his autographed Bulldog guernsey with Teddy Whitten’s  number 3 on his back.  He would have been immensely proud of his Bulldogs in 2016.

 

As usual on the weekend, I was playing footy with some mates at the playground down by the lake when Dad pulled up. Tooting the horn and calling out to me in an enthusiastic voice “we’re going to the footy son, jump in”  didn’t take too much convincing on my behalf.  Into the car I hopped, grubby knees and all I assume! 

 

Our car was an EK Holden station wagon much the same as pictured except our colour was sky blue with a white strip. It had the spats and the rear Venetian blinds as illustrated, and the seats were covered with a thick plastic covering, not suitable for short wearing boys whose legs would stick to the seat! Dad was proud of his Holden.

 

 

 

On our way, time was spent by me applying ‘the good old hanky and spit trick’ to clean up my 12 yo dirty knees. Dad just smiled as I made an effort to become more presentable.

 

At the time we lived in Colac, a good  two and a half hour drive to Melbourne, and in those days the Princes Highway was a single lane road, and not the best road to drive on. 

 

We must have been late for the game as Dad was frustrated by not finding a park close to the ground when we arrived. If you know the Western Oval you will appreciate how difficult that was at the best of times. 

 

After driving around longer than he hoped Dad eventually found a park. Bounding from the car and off at a quick trot,  we joined the throng in a long queue at the ticket box and entrance. It seemed to take an eternity to get into the ground. I was wondering whether it was worth all this effort! But the increasingly louder noise coming from inside the ground soon altered any uneasiness I was having. 

 

Checking the stats for that day, incredibly it stated a crowd of 30,762 was in attendance at the match; where and how everyone fitted in I haven’t the foggiest idea! But I do know it was a tight and rather squashed affair in front of the grandstand, and it was no place for a small boy to watch the footy from, let alone even see! 

 

I remember Dad edging his way through the crowd with me clinging tightly to his coat, afraid of being lost in the biggest crowd I’d ever seen or been in for that matter. Certainly beat the Kanyana Parade down Murray Street!

 

Around this time that clearest memories of the day evolved for me. 

 

A little old lady abused Dad profusely. Shaking her umbrella at Dad, and threatening to hit him with it, clearly indicated she was not a happy lady! For whatever  reason she wanted to perpetrate this act of violence on my Dad I have no idea. But it was obvious to me it was extremely crowded, with a lot of pushing and bumping either accidental or not, and everyone was precious about protecting their small, hard-fought space they’d won to watch the game from. Whether we had encroached on her position or not is debatable but she certainly gave Dad a good serve with both barrels. I could only look on in complete bewilderment.

 

Now this was rather perplexing for a young, innocent country boy to get his head around, this sort of thing didn’t happen back home, everyone was civilised there, and this was very overwhelming for me. Bodies crushed together, and people pushing one another it was no wonder some of them got upset. Looking back, I wonder how many pockets were picked that day? We moved away from our angry antagonist eventually finding a spot on the flank on the Colac side of the Geelong Road end.

 

Whether I asked Dad sometime during the match, or later back home, why the lady wanted to hit him is contentious if I did or not, but most likely I’d remember his response to this significant event if he had. And I don’t have any memory of a response from Dad. Deep down I have a feeling it was something Dad didn’t want to discuss, so it was left at that.

 

I don’t remember a great deal about the actual game itself except for the noise and the barracking of crowd, the pronounced sound of slapping bodies against one another during tackling, and the three players that stood out for me. 

 

Ian Law, the tough tenacious Hawthorn rover with excellent ball getting and handling skills had the ball on a string that day and was everywhere. His endurance highlighted his fitness, and his ability to be where the ball was raised my awareness of what was required to be a League footballer. He just kept on running, and running, and running!

 

John Jillard was the second footballer who caught my attention probably because we were positioned nearby to where he was positioned on the half-back flank. He was a terrific exponent of the drop kick, and I was surprised by how far he could kick the ball. And he had the ball many times during the game.

 

 

And of course there was Mr. Football himself, Teddy Whitten. 

 

Teddy was Dad’s favourite player, and I think that was all Dad talked about on the trip to Melbourne. “Look out for number 3 in the red, white and blue son, he’s a champion!” I think you get the drift, I was getting an earful from Dad! Dad was continually trying to convert me from my Bombers to the Bulldogs! And, Dad would have been excited about attending his first game since we’d moved to Colac in 1957.

 

 

 

I remember Teddy marking strongly in front of us at one stage and sending a long drop kick forward together with a few rough house tactics  employed on his opponent after he took the mark. It was real showy stuff by Ted. Holding the ball aloft, he let his opponent know in no uncertain terms, that he’d been outpointed by the best! A lot of niggling, slapping of arms, and dare I say it, a few sneaky little taps and punches to the body. All part of the game Dad explained.

 

I can’t remember much else about the game or the trip home – I have a feeling I probably snoozed – but it became the first of many games Dad and I attended over a 20  year period, and I think, helped to cement that special bond the develops between a father and son especially if there is a common interest involved. 

 

So thanks Theresa Moffitt, your review of John Devaney’s book posted on the Footy Almanac website was an impetus for some fond memories  of my very first VFL/AFL footy match with my dad.

 

So why did the old lady try to hit my Dad? It’s question I still ponder to this day but one that will never be answered!

 

Read Col’s story about his first Test Match at the MCG HERE

 

 

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About Colin Ritchie

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

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Wowsa Col, you even got to see a young David Parkin and half of Baz and Pilko.

    It was Easter Saturday by the way.

  2. LAURIE LAFFAN says

    John Jillard was my Captain Coach at Ainslie Football Club from 1973 to1975.A very good player, fantastic mark and accurate kick.He was totally courageous and a really nice person.John Captained the ACT Superules in 1981.Vice Captain was Sid Jackson.I was the the inaugural Zone Director and ruckman.John passed away some years ago.Too young.

  3. Thanks Col.

    That’s some story. And I love the photo of the EK Holden with Venetian blinds. I’d forgotten about this trend. I imagine these were quite the symbol of luxury, if not glamour. I reckon my first car, a HR Holden, had blinds in the rear window and much to Dad’s disbelief I took them out minutes after buying the car.

    My first SANFL game was a ripper: the 1976 grand final between Port and Sturt.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful Col, fantastic memories!

  5. Good stuff Col. I’ve vague memories of John Jillard. He was on a Colvan chips footy card circa 1969, 1970 if my memory is still working. I recall i had a card with him on it.

    Col, my mother had a somewhat similar tale to your father’s. She arrived in Melbourne in 1954 to do her midwifery @ Western General Hospital. Being in Footscray she chose to barrack for them. Though she didn’t go to the match she was in town for the premiership. She died in early 2016 just missing the second flag.

    I’ve got some fond memories of the Western Oval attending both football and cricket matches were there. Those sort of grounds were a heart of the local community, as people felt a sense of ownership, am organic link to them. Etihad, or whatever its current incarnation is, bears no comparison. A little old lady would have no use to carry an umbrella in a ‘stadium’ with a closed roof and fake turf.

    Thanks for sharing those memories.

    Glen!

  6. Thanks Col.

    Really enjoyed the piece. So evocative of the time. The car is a ripper.

    The obvious question: why were you never persuaded to become a Bulldog? What kept you at the Dons?

  7. LAURIE LAFFAN says

    John Jillard told me a story about Ted Whitten.JJ had rolled up for his first training run with Footscray and was running out onto the oval alongside EJ when he suffered a severe blow to his solar plexus.
    When JJ had picked himself up EJ advised him to “never let your guard down son”. A lesson he never forgot!
    JJ won two B&F trophies playing for Latrobe after he left Footscray.He then arrived at Ainslie at 1973 as Captain Coach until 1975 missing a premiership by one point. I lived in 33 Margaret St Moonee Ponds until we moved to the wild North West of Glenroy when I was seven and then on to Canberra aged 12. Been here ever since.I could hear the roar off the crowd from Windy Hill and often went to matches there with Dad and Grand Uncle Bill Murphy, the Moonee Ponds wood, brickettes and ice man.He and Phene were a fanatical Essendon supporters.I did see John Coleman play at Windy Hill.

  8. Great stuff, Col.

    FUN FACT: This match is the most recent Round 1 meeting of the Dogs and the Hawks.

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