Roy Boy Legends – 1970 – 1996

As a tiny five year-old I watched my first Fitzroy game at the Junction Oval against St Kilda in Round two 1970, and was also there for the club’s final Melbourne game against Richmond in Round 21, 1996.

In between, there were some fantastic players, particularly during the era of success from 1978-86 when the club made the finals five times in eight years, won a night premiership in 1978, had a Brownlow Medal winner (Superboot Bernie Quinlan) plus two top three Brownlow finishers (Paul Roos and Garry Wilson), and a Coleman Medal winner (Bernie Quinlan). Naturally, many of the top players of that era make up the backbone of my combined team.

I mostly excluded great players such as Kevin Murray, Russell Crow and Norm Brown who had arguably played their best footy by 1970. Others were unlucky to miss out including Allan Thompson, John Blakey (who is already in my North Melbourne legends team), Tim Pekin, Scott Clayton, Paul Broderick, Stephen Paxman and Les Parish. Some would make a case for Darren Wheildon, Bernie Harris or Alex Ruscuklic due to their significant if brief impact.


The Team:


Backs:                      Ross Thornton          Gary Pert                 Harvey Merrigan

Half Backs:             Grant Lawrie             Paul Roos                 Laurie Serafini

Centres:                  Graeme Allan           John Murphy             Leon Harris

Half Forwards:       Richard Osborne      Alistair Lynch            David McMahon

Forwards:                Michael Conlan       Bernie Quinlan         Bob Beecroft

Rucks/Rovers:        Matthew Rendell   Warwick Irwin   Garry Wilson

Interchange:           Chris Smith, Ron Alexander, Doug Barwick, Ross Lyon

Emergencies:          Bill Lokan, Barry Padley, Matthew Armstrong


Coach: Robert Walls


About Philip Mendes

Philip Mendes is an academic who follows AFL, soccer, tennis and cricket. He supported Fitzroy Football Club from 1970-1996, and on their death he adopted the North Melbourne Kangaroos as his new team. In his spare time, he occasionally writes about his current and past football teams.


  1. A thing of gold!

    Would argue for Pekin or even Brett Stephens, but what a team! Sob!

  2. Philip Mendes says

    Matt – both good players – Pekin was an excellent tagger, and Stephens started as an impressive full forward in 1987 and then became a jack of all trades – but I thought not quite in the top echelon.

  3. What, no Alex Ruscuklic ?!? Me old mate renato Serafini, and John Duckworth might add something to the bench.


  4. Neil Anderson says

    What a great lineup! Those names from forty years ago still sound so familiar. A lot of players from the western district of Victoria where Fitzroy’s recruiting zone was of course.
    Bernie Harris has been in the news down here as he looks like becoming a Moyne Shire Councillor after someone else has been elected to the State Legislative Council.
    He still lives and farms at ‘The Sisters’ between Terang and Mortlake where he was recruited from all those years ago.
    Alan Thompson has coached the under 18’s in Warrnambool for many years.
    What was Footscray thinking when they let Bernie Quinlan go to Fitzroy?

  5. Philip Mendes says

    Glen – Ruscuklic just missed out, he was certainly the closest Fitzroy had to a high flying forward in the 1968-72 period, but only played a handful of games after mid 1972 due to injury. Renato also had some good seasons, but never quite made the difference.
    Neil – I reckon Bernie was a big under-achiever at Footscray, and they may have thought he had fired his best shot by 1978. Who would have thought he would become such a champion from 1978-86 and particularly in the 1981-85 period?
    Bernie Harris was a big loss to Fitzroy when he left for Brisbane in 1987 as was Dean Turner to West Coast, and obviously Super boot’s retirement.

  6. Good call Philip. I’m a passionate Hawthorn supporter (thank you) but have always considered Fitzroy my ‘second team’. Having re-located to Brisbane some years back, the Lions sort of hold that place now though its not quite the same. I reckon Warwick Irwin is one of the most under-rated players of the last Century. Cheers

  7. Impressive Phil. One noticeable absence: D. Kappler. I was always a huge Darren Kappler fan, he of the wing and booming left boot. B&F in 1988. Believe he would have been recognised as a dead set ‘gun’ if playing for one of the bigger teams. Will never forgive Dipper for wiping him out at the MCG with a very questionable hip & shoulder.
    And then there’s Lynchy. Where to put him!? Actually reckon he was a better fullback at Fitzroy. We all know how erratic he could be taking shots at goal, a trait he maintained until around 2000. Recall a 1-10 return one day at PP!

  8. Philip Mendes says

    Sasha – Irwin was a real classy player who would have had a much bigger profile if he had played for a bigger club. Pity he left for Collingwood in 1981 although he did return briefly in 1983.
    Adam – I thought about Kappler, he was outstanding in 1988 and I think polled top ten in the Brownlow, but left soon after for Sydney and later Hawthorn and didn’t do a lot at those clubs.
    Good question about Lynchy. I considered Sidebottom for centre half forward. He was dominant in 1983, but only played two and a half seasons for the Roys. And then where would Lynch fit – couldn’t play full back ahead of Pert, Merrigan and Serafini. He was magnificent in his last season as a forward in 1993 – nearly got us over the line single handedly in that Round 9 game against Essendon. I reckon if we had won that match we would have played finals, and Essendon may have missed out on that premiership.

  9. Roos and Pert – traitors…the club was not necessarily doomed.
    Subsequent pathways have highlighted their “character”

  10. Crio, both Roosey and Perty gave their all for the Roys. Both had their loyalty tested numerous times over the years. It’s a wonder they stuck with the club as long as they did. Perty was basically offered up to the Pies as a way of wiping off some debts ; Roosey had played over 250 games with the club and watched gun after gun leave. After 13 seasons he owed no one at Fitzroy anything and was more than entitled to try his luck in stable, secure surrounds. Neither can ever be seriously considered as ‘traitors’ to the Fitzroy cause.

  11. Brenton Klaebe says

    Cant believe I’m not in there.. Malcolm Ashwood.. LOL..!!!!!!!!!!
    Thought Super Coach Robert Shaw might have been coach too.. DOUBLE LOL..!!!!!!!!

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Klaebes I thought those , 7 amazing dominating games for the Roy’s would have made you a certainty ( 1 more VFL Afl game than , G Cornes ! ) but now now re , Shaw no 1 should have to suffer that fate !

  13. I liked Brett Stephens. He came over to East Perth in 1985 was the leading goalscorer (69) and won the fairest and best award. When he returned to Victoria in 1987 he was primed and ready to go.
    And I’d whack Ian McCulloch in there for a bit more of the Royals and a bit of brawn. And Dean Turner.

    It’s a very appealing team.

  14. I’d have to have john Blakey in the team, and agree about kapler, would have been a great team if they all played at the same time

  15. Philip Mendes says

    QLD pies: Good player John Blakey, but interesting to see the picture of Daicos in your email. Daicos chopped up Blakey really badly at Princes Park in 1991 – kicked seven on him from memory, and got Collingwood home in a close finish.

  16. Would have liked to see some room for Leon Harris a true champion Royboy and perhaps Kevin O’ Keffe who had a football career cut short by tragedy at the western oval

  17. Sorry … Missed Leon Harris on the wing !!!!! a great rep team of Fitzroy at its best
    I always say the AFL lost a part of its soul when the Royboys departed the competition

  18. Philip Mendes says

    Terry – hard to forget the last minute of that 1986 Elimination Final – Leon Harris giving off that brilliant handball to Mick Conlan for the winning goal against Essendon.

  19. A good looking team, although I only jumped on the Roy bandwagon in ’76 so only know the likes of Murphy by reputation. Would love to see my fave player Les Parish squeeze into the 22. Age has caught up with me and the memory is fading, but who was that flashy CHF from WA who also spent some time with Woodville in the SANFL? Laurie someone???

  20. Philip Mendes says

    Nose – Parish was close. I think people forget how good he was as a ruck rover in 1983 – dominated all season and turned the Round 22 clash against Richmond around in the last quarter when they were threatening in Bartlett’s 400th game to deny us the double chance. For some reason he lost form in 1984, and was cleared in 1985 to Melbourne.
    I assume you are thinking of Laurie Richards who played for the Roys from 1971-74.

  21. Goodness me Laurie Richards. I’d forgotten him. A contemporary of other forgotten Roy Boys like Graeme Renwick, John Duckworth, Phil Shanahan, etc.


  22. As I recall the Saints beat Fitzroy in the Roy Boys’ first home at the Junction Oval.

    Many of the St Kilda players had grown up playing “down at the Junction”.

    Rossie Smith, Stewie, Cowboy, Bob Murray, Big Carl, Daryl Griffiths et al had played more games at the Junction than any of the Roy Boys – and duly won.

    Pretty good team Phillip.

    Salty Parish on the half back flank would add more steel to the defence.

  23. Philip Mendes says

    Dr Rocket – yes they slaughtered us by 110 points. It was my first ever live VFL game. A bit tragic. My dad was an ex-St Kilda supporter who gave them up when they moved to Moorabbin cos he was aligned with the Cricket Club. They didn’t win many more after that at the Junction – although I remember star full forward George Young just getting them home in 1978, and ex-Don Max Crow starred for the then bottom Saints in 1983 a bad loss which probably cost us top spot that year. We belted them in our final home game there in 1984 to secure fifth spot and Super Boot kicked his 100th for the season.

  24. Fitzroy certainly had an interesting start to 1970. First up they beat the reigning premiers, Richmond, at the MCG, a game watched by Queen Liz and Phil the Greek. Next up was the debut drubbing at the Junction Oval. They played Geelong at VFL Park in Round 3, the first ever game there. A ten goal victory to the Cats. A low scoring victory over North in w et, slippery conditions followed. The score line an intriguing 5-24-54 to 7-7-49 followed. Yes, the Roy Boys did not have a dull start to the 70’s.


  25. Thanks Phil. And Glen!

    Saw my first-ever League game at the Junction in 1963 Round 15. The Sainters rolled eventual premier, Geelong. Ditterich v Farmer, Ross Smith v Goggin, Stewart v A. Lord, Walker v Baldock, Verdun Howell v Doug Wade, Redda Synman v Freddy Wooller, Jimmy Guyatt v John Sharrock – Brownlows, premiership medals, legends galore. Polly and the Doc – none better in the history of the game!

    Also saw the Saints beat Geelong at their last game at the Junction in 1964. Cost the Cats the double chance and tilt at the flag.

    Must have been a bitter battle between the Cricket Club and the Football Club.

  26. Peter Fuller says

    A very interesting thread, Philip. I’m tempted to ask if you have too much time on your hands during the Uni vacation? Fitzroy certainly had some outstanding players in that era.
    I was intrigued by Glen’s reference to the Fitzroy-North match in 1970, as the score mentioned jogged my memory. I recall seeing a reference in one of the newspapers that Peter Steward who was full-back that day for the Roos, was exhausted by the task of kicking in 24 times with a heavy ball. It was suggested that late in the game he avoided being the nearest player to a ball that was sailing out on the full, so that he wouldn’t be tasked with another kick.
    The memories also resonate for me as my late mother was a seriously committed Lions supporter. She was there for two of the key games Philip has referred to – the inaugural VFL Park match and the tragic final MCG defeat by Richmond. She missed the game with royal patronagein 1970 due to her other loyalty. I was playing a practice match against Sandhurst on the QE Oval in Bendigo. A sense of family obligation, and perhaps her understated republican inclinations meant that my match took precedence.

  27. Wayne Oates says

    I would have thought there was a place in the 25 for Scott Clayton and Darren Kappler. Some other good players were Kevin Higgins Max Richardson Peter Francis Len Thompson John Cassin Terry O’Neill and John Ironmonger. I think David Parkin should have been coach given his mighty achievements in 1986.

  28. Wayne – agree, some good players in your list there. But can only fit 22 into 22. Parkin was very good in 86, but not so good in 87 or 88 despite still having Roos, Pert and Osborne plus an emerging Alistair Lynch. In contrast, Walls took the Roys to 3 finals series in 4 years.

  29. Brendan “Billy” McCormack was arguably possessed of more skill than many of those players but only managed 44 games in his four years with The Roys & could never be classed as a legend. Racked up 44 disposals in a game against Adelaide at Princes Park in 1992, literally had the ‘ball on a string’. What a could-have-been!

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